Everything You Need to Know About Alcohol Intolerance

Highest Standards, Nationally Recognized:

man looking at drink and bottle

Imagine this scenario.

You’re at a club, and you’ve only had one or two drinks so far. You plan to drink more, but then you begin feeling strange. Your face becomes flushed, you experience warm, red, itchy bumps on your skin, your asthma is acting up more than ever, and your nose is becoming stuffy. What is happening? You were just feeling fine 30 minutes ago.

Alcohol intolerance is real, and it can cause severely unpleasant reactions almost immediately after you drink alcohol. Additional symptoms from the ones listed above may include low pressure, headache, nausea/vomiting, and diarrhea. If you experience alcohol intolerance, you may not need to see a doctor right away but rather refrain from drinking alcohol, limit the amount you are drinking or avoid certain types of alcohol altogether. However, if symptoms persist or become more severe, or are causing unnecessary pain, consult a physician immediately just to be safe.

The enzyme in the body that digests alcohol, called aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH2), is shown up as a variant in other people’s genes, causing them to produce less active ALDH2. When this happens, it prevents the body from digesting the alcohol properly. A variety of ingredients within the alcohol beverage may cause the intolerance, including:

  • Sulfites or other preservatives
  • Histamine, a by-product of fermentation and brewing of alcohol
  • Chemicals, grains, or other ingredients

It’s important to note the difference between an alcohol intolerance and an alcohol allergy; intolerance refers to the uncomfortable feelings experienced shortly after drinking certain types (or all types) of alcohol, whereas an allergy causes the body to immediately fight against the alcohol, provoking severe rashes or stomach cramps. Allergies to alcohol are very rare, and Bustle notes that the reactions caused by an allergy are more painful and achy than those caused by an intolerance.

The only way to prevent alcohol intolerance, if you experience it, is to avoid drinking alcohol. Stay cautious as to which drinks are causing you harsh reactions and avoid them in the future. Mayo Clinic states that for a minor reaction, over-the-counter antihistamines may help reduce some of the symptoms.





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