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alcohol intolerance drink

Alcohol Intolerance

If you have an alcohol 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, ethanol 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.

Ethanol contained in alcohol also opens up blood vessels and can exacerbate symptoms such as asthma, urticaria or rhinitis. Alcohol as an ingredient can also increase gut permeability, allowing toxins and bacteria to pass into the bloodstream, which can increase the likelihood of an intolerance forming. This is known as leaky gut.


Can you be intolerant to alcohol?

Yes, you can be intolerant to alcohol. Although we’re a country built on our love of trips to the pub and work drinks on a Friday night, unfortunately for some, a small sip of beer or wine may come with severe consequences – and we’re not just talking about a bad hangover.

That flushed face you have isn’t necessarily because you’ve had a few drinks, however, it could mean you have an alcohol intolerance. This is when uncomfortable but non-life-threatening symptoms are presented as the body cannot breakdown a component within the alcohol, such as ethanol.

There can be many reasons why people are intolerant to 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.

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Easy to use home-to-laboratory test kit

Take our most comprehensive food and drink intolerance* test to find out whether you have an intolerance to over 200 food and drink ingredients. Simply take a finger-prick blood sample and return by post for testing. Receive your results within 7 days! No social interaction required.

Optimise your lifestyle with our support, knowing which foods you’re reacting to.

  • Discuss your results with a nutritional therapist. One 30-minute consultation included
  • Measures all four subtypes of food-specific IgG
  • Simple finger-prick blood test
  • Receive expert, accurate analysis from our fully-accredited laboratory technicians
  • Results listed in easy-to-read traffic light values: high, borderline, and normal reactivity
  • Track your progress with a food and drinks diary
  • This test is not available to customers who are pregnant or breastfeeding

Symptoms of alcohol intolerance

The most experienced signs and symptoms of alcohol intolerance include:

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Runny nose

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Flushed cheeks
Red face
Facial swelling

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Increase in your heartbeat
Low blood pressure

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Affected breathing

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Flushing on the body

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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.

How is alcohol intolerance caused?

Alcohol intolerance is caused (as defined by yorktest as a food-specific IgG reaction) by a reaction 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.

Do I have an alcohol intolerance?

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.

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, symptoms like major headaches 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.

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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What does alcohol intolerance feel like?

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.

Yeast in Alcohol

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.


intolerance test

Phoebe Turner BSC, MBIOL (HONS)




How it Works

4 Simple Steps to a Healthier You


Receive your test.

Order online and we’ll post your kit directly to your home.


Take the easy fingerprick blood test.

Pop 2-3 drops of blood into the lancet and post your sample to our laboratory.


Receive your results online within 5 days.

Review your reactivity levels and book your appointment with one of our qualified nutritional therapists.


Ongoing support.

Receive free nutritional therapist advice, with ongoing support from our customer care team by your side.

Other Intolerances