It is usual in some cases, to have allergic symptoms after consumption of alcohol. People who get these symptoms are said to have true alcohol allergy. This happens due to some kind of wine or a specific type of alcohol. True allergy happens when the body makes unwanted antibodies accidentally after the intake of alcohol. This causes the allergy to grow due to reaction to the consumption of the specific substance. This is because of the lack of enzymes in our body required to break down alcohol to make it fully absorbable. When there is a deficiency of the enzyme, our body may react to a certain food causing allergy like symptoms.
What Causes it?
Alcohol intolerance is thus the deficiency of the enzyme Aldehyde Dehydrogenase (ALDH) produced in our kidney to break down alcohol completely. Until alcohol is broken down into acetic acid by ALDH it is just a toxin in our body that causes allergy like symptoms to show in our body in the form of rashes, feeling wheezy, headache or skin flushes.
Alcohol intolerance is more commonly caused by the specific foods on which the drink is made from. Grapes for wine, grains for malt whisky, or any other substance in a drink when not completely digested by the enzyme, it starts showing unusual symptoms. Although it seems fun consuming alcohol for some people, there are some groups of people who may suffer from problems such as headache and nausea. Alcohol intolerance can be identified in some people by the nasal congestion and skin flushing. Though we refer it as an allergy, alcohol intolerance is purely genetic in nature and prevents the body from producing more ALDH to digest alcohol. People suffering from alcohol intolerance are recommended to avoid alcohol at all cost. There are very rare cases found where alcohol causes serious allergic health problems.
If you have consumed some alcohol and are wondering about it duration in the body, then check out this article: how long does alcohol stay in your system, or if you are in severe pain due to alcohol intolerance, then it maybe better to call your local medical services.
How Common is Alcohol Intolerance?
A question based cross sectional study was conducted to find out the prevalence of alcohol Intolerance. 4000 adults of a wine country were randomly chosen and questioned about the experience they had after drinking wine and any intolerance reaction, or if they experienced any allergy like symptoms. The answers that were received were mainly minimal. 948 people answered of which 68 of them experienced allergy like symptoms after intake of wine. Wine intolerance was more prevalent in women than in men. They also happened to report that they experienced the same problem after drinking other alcoholic beverages and beer but most common was red wine. Symptoms reported were skin flush, itching, nasal congestion, diarrhea, rhinorrhea, tachycardia and stomach cramp. Although a small proportion of people had experienced a form of allergy to alcohol, the data were very convincing and was more than that was expected.
In another study, the National institute on alcohol abuse and alcoholism published an article on April 1995 about alcohol intolerance. They clearly mentioned about the after effects of bodily function and behavior after consumption of alcohol. Nearly every person within the research group had experienced some type of tolerance after consumption of alcohol. Tolerance is really useful for physicians to identify their patient’s risk of developing alcohol related allergies. Young boys or people who started drinking at an early age, and can tolerate alcohol really well are people whose rate of drinking is higher, but they then develop higher risks for having medical problems in the future and even become heavy addicts. People who are mildly tolerant to alcohol may face serious impairment when in an unfamiliar situation than their routine life.
Approximately 50 % of the Chinese, Japanese and Koreans are said to be deficient of ALDH, and thus the government in these countries takes protection against alcohol consumption. There are certain antibiotic and antifungal medications that cause less production of ALDH, and show symptoms of the oriental flushing syndrome. An Oriental flushing syndrome is a symptom that occurs after consumption of alcohol marked by flushing, increased heart rate and reduced blood pressure. There can even be vasodilatory effect in the stomach due to alcohol that increases the absorption of food materials and can cause allergy to certain food. Some wines are rich in histamines. Alcohol tends to release more histamine when it doesn’t break down completely causing allergic symptoms. And it is said that alcohol is the most common substance that triggers vasomotor rhinitis. Some people who already are suffering from Asthma are recommended to avoid alcohol or consume very less amount as alcohol also triggers asthma in some people causing breathing problems.
These studies suggest that although alcohol intolerance is very rare, it can be serious for those who have this problem. Women are more prone to have this intolerance issue than men, which may also be due to the hormonal differences, and the rate of metabolism. And in some cases, medications could also increase the intolerance to alcohol even further. So, the best advice would be to completely avoid alcoholic beverages when showing symptoms of intolerance.
Also checkout this article about: how alcohol affects your body from the inside.
Prevalence of Wine Intolerance – 2012 – Deutsches Arzteblatt International – by Petra Wigand, Maria Blettner, Prof. Joachim Saloga, Prof. Dr. Heinz Decker
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism – 1995