Alcohol Intolerance

What is Alcohol Intolerance?

Ethanol or alcohol allergy is extremely rare but if you have an intolerance (defined by YorkTest as a food-specific IgG reaction) to alcoholic drinks, your body may be producing an inflammatory response to proteins present in the fruit or other ingredients in the drink. This can be the grapes in wine or hops in beer. The yeast which ferments the alcohol can also be a cause of alcohol intolerance symptoms

In addition to the problems which could be caused by the ingredients, ethanol also opens up blood vessels which can exacerbate symptoms such as asthma, urticaria or rhinitis. Alcohol can also increase gut permeability which can increase the likelihood of an intolerance forming.

Can you be intolerant to alcohol?

We’re a country built on our love of trips to the pub and work drinks on a Friday night. But for some, that small sip of beer or wine may come with severe consequences – and we’re not just talking about a bad hangover.

Luckily an ethanol or alcohol allergy is extremely rare. That flushed face you have is not a result of an alcohol allergy rash, and you don’t need alcohol allergy rash treatment. Instead you may have an alcohol intolerance, where uncomfortable but non-life-threatening symptoms are presented because the body cannot breakdown a component within the alcohol.

Factors that appear to increase the likelihood of an alcohol sensitivity include being asthmatic, having a diagnosis of Hodgkin’s lymphoma or a damaged liver, or being of Asian descent. Other causes may include enzyme deficiency, an intolerance to histamine, or sensitivity to sulphites.

In fact, there can be many reasons why people are intolerant to alcohol, and some may not have anything to do with the ethanol itself.

alcohol intolerance

So, what does alcohol intolerance mean?

Having an alcohol intolerance (defined by YorkTest as a food-specific IgG reaction) can also occur from intolerances to the ingredients within alcohol drinks. Gluten, grapes, wheat, and hops are all common triggers of inflammation. Certain people may find that they are in fact not able to comfortably consume such things as seafood proteins, egg protein, or barley found in many of their favourite alcoholic beverages.

An alcohol intolerance occurs when an element of alcohol causes the production of inflammation in the body, as a reaction to proteins from either the ingredients or the ethanol within.

How do you know if you are alcohol intolerant?

If you’re intolerant to alcohol, you might experience certain signs and symptoms that occur after drinking. Alcohol intolerance does not mean you will become intoxicated faster than others, simply that you will have a negative reaction to alcohol.

Unless severe it is unlikely you will need an alcohol liver test. We suggest taking an alcohol intolerance test in order to define whether you have an alcohol sensitivity.

What are signs and symptoms of alcohol intolerance?

The most experienced signs and symptoms of alcohol intolerance include a runny nose, caused by inflammation in your sinuses or from the histamines within alcohol, and having flushed cheeks or a red face, which occurs when acetaldehyde cannot be broken down by the body.

Other common symptoms include facial swelling, flushing on other parts of the body, nausea, an increase in your heartbeat, headache, affected breathing, light-headedness, an outbreak of hives, diarrhea, and low blood pressure. It is not a good idea to continue to consume alcohol if you have a food intolerance and are asthmatic as the alcohol can increase the severity of your asthma.

What does alcohol intolerance feel like?

cocktail

Unfortunately, living in a culture which celebrates drinking alcohol makes living without it more difficult than expected. For the sufferer, it can feel like one of the hardest intolerance to contend with. Despite this, we advise steering clear of chronic inflammation by trading alcohol drinks for those that do not cause bodily upset.

How long does it take for alcohol intolerance to show?

Some sufferers may experience alcohol intolerance symptoms shortly after consuming alcohol – roughly 20 or 30 minutes – with some finding the runny nose and flushed face occurring first.
Respiratory reactions also tend to happen quickly, including shortness of breath and quickening of your heart rate. The signs and symptoms depend on how much alcohol has been drank and individual tolerances.

How long do alcohol intolerance symptoms last?

If the intolerance is severe, major headaches or migraines can occur that can carry on for one or two hours. Every person, situation, and severity are different, and not everyone will experience intolerances the same way.

The most effective way to stop alcohol intolerance happening is by halting or restricting consumption of alcohol – non-alcoholic drinks can be useful in social situations.

Intolerance tests can help you to understand what it is that you’re intolerant to, as it may be that it is ingredients within certain drinks that are causing you discomfort and other beverages may be okay for you to consume. If you suffer from what you think might be an alcohol intolerance, it is important to understand which ingredient of the drink is causing you issues (is it the gluten? Or the fruit?). With this knowledge, you can choose alternatives to help you avoid the symptoms of alcohol intolerance.

If you have found out that you are intolerant to alcohol, changing your diet need not be daunting. YorkTest Nutritional Therapists are here to help you understand how to optimise your food and drink choices.

For more information please call our friendly team on 0800 074 6185. 

Information provided above regarding Food Intolerance (defined by YorkTest as a food specific IgG reaction) is intended to provide nutritional advice for dietary optimisation. YorkTest recommend that you discuss any medical concerns you have with a GP before undertaking a YorkTest programme.

Where to look?

It is generally fairly easy, if sometimes frustrating, to avoid alcohol if you suffer from alcohol intolerance. However, it is still important to be aware of the various ingredients in alcoholic drinks which could cause you to experience alcohol intolerance symptoms. These include:

  • Brewer’s yeast
  • Fruits in alcohol (grapes, apples, berries, coconuts or oranges)
  • Flavours (hops)
  • Grains (wheat or barley)

Advice for alternatives

It is widely known and understood that over consumption of alcohol is generally bad for your health. However, most of us enjoy a drink in moderation.

If you suffer from alcohol intolerance, it is important to understand which ingredient of the drink causes a problem for you (such as wheat, the gluten in the wheat, fruit or yeast). With this knowledge, you can choose alternatives to help you avoid the symptoms of alcohol intolerance

If you have found out that you are intolerant to alcohol, changing your diet need not be daunting. YorkTest Nutritional Therapists are here to help you understand how to optimise your food choices.

For more information please call our friendly team on 0800 074 6185.  

Information provided above regarding Food Intolerance (defined by YorkTest as a food specific IgG reaction) is intended to provide nutritional advice for dietary optimisation. YorkTest recommend that you discuss any medical concerns you have with a GP before undertaking a YorkTest programme.

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