As a nation, we’ve been drinking more than ever before…
A recent poll of UK wine drinkers by Wine Intelligence suggests more consumers are choosing to spend on wine at home with a meal rather than spend on a night out and sales in premium quality wines increased by 22% last year. However, interestingly the number saying they drink wine most days or every day continues to fall; 12% now compared to 17% in 2007.
We were intrigued to see a new study from the University of Mainz in Germany that has tried to determine how many people actually have reactions to wine or wine allergy. The study surveyed people for typical symptoms such as:
- shortness of breath
- stomach cramps
- swelling in the mouth
- runny nose
- racing heartbeat
They also found that 24% reported allergy and intolerance-like symptoms after drinking wine. Interestingly red wine seemed to produce more symptoms than white wine. The study didn’t, however, take into account many of the longer term symptoms of intolerances* such as frequent headaches, eczema, chronic fatigue, low mood and IBS. If these were added up as well, we would expect we would see a much higher percentage of sufferers.
How common is wine allergy?
Well there are many different ingredients and chemicals in wine that we can react to. True allergy to the alcohol in the wine itself is extremely rare, although a few cases of skin rash reactions have been recorded. More commonly, symptoms are caused by an intolerance or long term immune reaction to the food ingredients in the wine, such as yeast or the specific grape varieties, or reactions to chemicals in wine such as histamine or sulphites.
How common is alcohol intolerance?
Another survey, from online market researchers www.OnePoll.com, of 2,000 people aged between 18 and 65 looked at their symptoms after drinking alcoholic drinks (not just wine). According to this survey four out of 10 people complained of stomach cramps, bloating or diarrhoea, eight out of 10 complained of headaches, seven in 10 tiredness and four in 10 feel nauseous; all also common symptoms of allergy and intolerance reactions. The survey found that one in 10 people believe they’ve had an allergic reaction to an alcoholic beverage but just one in six admit they had checked out what ingredients were present in their drink. Remember that intolerance to a particular drink will not always show immediately, often taking a few hours to a few days to show up.
Intolerances often start with mild gut damage, such as that caused by a gastro-intestinal infection, or taking antibiotics (which kill off all the good bacteria). Alcohol also increases the permeability of the gut, which allows larger food molecules into the body which can trigger an immune reaction. This may explain the reactions of mildly food sensitive individuals who may not react to the wine ingredients alone but only when it is combined with alcohol. Most of us put symptoms after drinking down to a hangover, but often this doesn’t always reflect a true picture as intolerance to ingredients in drinks such as wine can cause similar, but often longer term symptoms. This recent research has shown that wine intolerance and wine allergy can affect a significant proportion of us. Maybe it’s time to find out exactly what you are reacting to, and/or change your tipple?