Alcohol can help you unwind after a long day at work, complement a yummy meal, and even reduce social anxiety and boost your mood. However, drinking alcohol can quickly lead to intoxication and unpleasant affects – especially if you’re intolerant to alcohol. If you’ve noticed that you often feel a rush of heat and redness after drinking wine, or your nose gets a bit stuffy, then you may have alcohol intolerance. Today we’re going to explore what alcohol intolerance is, how it can make you feel, what puts you at risk of alcohol intolerance, and how you can tell if you have alcohol intolerance or an alcohol allergy. Let’s begin.
Alcohol intolerance is an unpleasant or uncomfortable reaction that happens after you drink alcohol. It is considered an ‘inherited metabolic disorder’ because it is often caused by a gene mutation from your parents that affects the way that you break down alcohol. If you don’t break down alcohol properly, it builds up in your body and causes adverse symptoms. Even drinking a small amount of alcohol can cause these symptoms if you have alcohol intolerance.
The two most common symptoms of alcohol intolerance are a blocked or runny nose, and facial flushing. The flushing happens when your face, neck, or chest become red and warm after drinking alcohol.
Other symptoms of alcohol intolerance include:
You may also have an intolerance to alcohol if your body is reacting to other ingredients in the alcohol, such as:
Your risk of having alcohol intolerance is increased if:
Sometimes an alcohol intolerance is confused for an alcohol allergy. However, these are two very different reactions to alcohol.
We’ve learnt that an alcohol intolerance is caused by an issue with breaking down the alcohol. Alcohol is by its very nature a poison, so it needs to be metabolised by the ALDH2 enzyme in the liver in order to make it inactive and no longer toxic. If the ALDH2 enzyme is not working properly, or you don’t have enough of it, then the toxic alcohol builds up in your blood and tissues and causes the symptoms of alcohol intolerance. The symptoms can be mild or moderate, and come on immediately after drinking.
An allergy to alcohol is caused by an immune reaction to one of the ingredients in alcohol. You may be allergic to the grains used to make the alcohol, or to a chemical or preservative in the alcohol. The symptoms of alcohol allergy are often more uncomfortable and severe than an alcohol intolerance. Although rare, an alcohol allergy can even be life-threatening if left untreated.
The symptoms of alcohol allergy include:
If you have symptoms of alcohol allergy, seek immediate medical attention.
Having an intolerance to alcohol may be less severe than an alcohol allergy. However, the symptoms can be incredibly unpleasant and challenging to live with. If you’re unsure whether or not you have alcohol intolerance, then the only way to find out is to test for it. You can do this by ordering our intolerance test online HERE. The test looks at over 500 food and other intolerances and can provide you with results within 3 days of us receiving your sample. This is a quick and non-invasive way of finding out if you are intolerant to alcohol.
To summarise, today we’ve looked at alcohol intolerance and how it may be affecting you. We explored a range of things that can lead to alcohol intolerance, as well as various factors that can increase your risk of developing an intolerance to alcohol. We then compared alcohol intolerance to having an alcohol allergy and learnt that the causes and symptoms of these two reactions are very different. Lastly, we looked at how you can test for alcohol intolerance using our easy test, which you can order online HERE.