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Alcohol Intolerance | Drink Responsibly
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Apr 2018

Alcohol Intolerance

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Has it ever happened to you that you are few sips down the glass of alcohol and you sense that annoying feeling of being hungover setting in earlier than it usually should? Even though hangover is quite common after alcohol consumption, it differs significantly from alcohol intolerance. The latter is characterized by the sudden onset of unpleasant and discomforting reactions such as nausea, vomiting, sinus congestion, shortly after consuming even one alcoholic drink.

Dear alcohol lovers, take heart, this reality check is certainly not the Nature toying around with its whimsical ways! Alcohol intolerance is as real as it sounds, moreover, it can happen to anyone. Thus, without leaving you with the guesswork, let’s brace up and dig deeper to learn further about what alcohol intolerance implies.

Understanding Alcohol Intolerance and What Causes It?

Are you wondering why would your body fight against alcohol? Here’s why…

You can blame it on your genes, quite literally! Intolerance to alcohol is a genetic condition in which the body becomes incapable of breaking down toxins in alcohol effectively. To explain it further, the alcohol we so gladly consume contains ethanol which gets metabolized by the liver to a chemical named acetaldehyde (a known carcinogen). Alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) and Aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) are the primary two liver enzymes responsible for flushing out toxins from the body. When the liver ineffectively becomes unable to break down the ethanol, it leads to unpleasant reactions.

As per the various studies conducted, it is known that alcohol intolerance is more prevalent as genetic Asian predisposition. The gene anomaly dates back to 10,000 years ago which was developed in Southern China and according to a study more than 36% of East Asians, which includes Japanese, Koreans and Chinese suffer from this characteristic condition.

In some cases, intolerance to alcohol and allergic reactions get triggered by the presence of certain ingredients found in alcoholic beverages, such as wheat, rye, barley, chemicals, sulfites (preservatives and antioxidants), histamine (due to processes such as fermentation and brewing), etc. Although excessive histamine levels in the body cause allergy-like symptoms, it isn’t an allergy but an intolerance to histamine found in fermented or brewed alcoholic beverages. The sensitivity to sulfites leads to allergy-like reactions and may also trigger an asthmatic attack.

What Are The Symptoms?

– Flushed face or redness of face

– Hives (Warm and red itchy bumps on the skin)

– Sinus congestion (Stuffy or a runny nose)

– Headaches

– Stomach pain, nausea, and vomiting

– Low blood pressure

– Diarrhea

– Difficulty in breathing

– Heart palpitations

Is It Different from Alcohol Allergy?

Let’s clarify in no specific terms that being allergic to alcohol and being intolerant to alcohol are two different things. Alcohol intolerance may cause prompt, irritant and obnoxious reactions once you’re guilty of sipping even small amounts of that drink. In contrast to intolerance to alcohol, alcohol allergy is quite uncommon. The symptoms of the two often overlap, however, in alcohol allergy symptoms get aggravated and often accompanied by acute aches and pains.

A sudden onset of symptoms may be due to newly developed intolerance to alcohol. If the symptoms persist or get aggravated, it is advisable to consult a medical practitioner. If left untreated, some allergic reactions have the potential to turn fatal.

Risk Factors and Complications

– Genetic Asian predisposition

– Allergic rhinitis or asthma

– Allergy to certain food ingredients found in alcoholic beverages (Grapes, wheat, rye, barley, hops,
yeast, etc.)

-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (In rare and severe cases)

Besides the above-mentioned risk factors, complications to alcohol intolerance may include migraines and in rare cases, it leads to severe allergic reactions which may turn potentially life-threatening and require urgent medical help.The troublesome reactions of alcohol intolerance can be avoided by abstaining from consuming alcohol altogether. Alternatively, labels on alcoholic beverages should be carefully read to find about any such additives which one may be allergic to. And needless to say, that in case of aggravated symptoms, one must seek immediate medical assistance. Alcohol is not your enemy unless you make it to be by abusing it. Drinking responsibly endorses drinking in moderation. However, caution must be observed in case of certain medical conditions in which avoiding alcohol is advisable.

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