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Alcohol Intolerance

Alcohol Intolerance - How common is alcohol intolerance?

For as long as you could remember, you had always felt sick and flushed whenever you drank alcohol. While initially you believed this was a normal reaction, you quickly noticed your friends did not have the same symptoms. Your doctor recently diagnosed you with a mild histamine intolerance. They explained that it is why you had been experiencing mild digestive symptoms whenever you drank alcohol. After recommending you not to drink alcohol anymore, he suggested taking antihistamine medications if you do consume histamine.

According to a survey done in 2021, the average person in Ohio drank 689 drinks a year. To someone with an alcohol intolerance, that number would feel too high. They may have felt sick thinking about drinking that much. SUN Behavioral Health Columbus is partnered with Janus Pharmacy, specializing in medication management throughout your journey to a healthier life. Today, we are going to discuss alcohol intolerance and why you may experience symptoms.

What Is Alcohol Intolerance?

Alcohol intolerance occurs when your body is unable to break down alcohol. In turn, people will often have uncomfortable signs and symptoms. These can include a stuffy nose or hives. This condition is often genetic, and the best way to prevent symptoms is not to drink alcohol.

Alcohol Allergy vs Intolerance

If you are experiencing mild symptoms that impact your digestive system when you drink alcohol, more than likely, you are experiencing an alcohol intolerance. An alcohol intolerance is not typically life-threatening. Symptoms associated with alcohol intolerance include a flushed face, a fast heartbeat, and diarrhea.

An alcohol allergy impacts your immune system and may cause severe and life-threatening symptoms depending on the severity of your allergy. Often, you are not allergic to the alcohol itself but an ingredient in alcohol. This allergy could be grain, a preservative, or a chemical. Symptoms associated with alcohol allergies are trouble breathing, anaphylaxis, and collapsing. If you have an allergy, your doctor will most likely have tests done to confirm you are allergic to an ingredient found in alcohol.

Symptoms for both can be similar as they both include rashes, stomach cramps, and nausea. However, the most significant indicator is that an allergy will often be more painful and uncomfortable than alcohol intolerance. If you experience painful symptoms when you drink, discussing your symptoms with your doctor can allow you to get more accurate answers to your symptoms.

What Causes Alcohol Intolerance?

There are several reasons why someone might have an alcohol intolerance. The most common reason someone might have an alcohol intolerance is that they lack certain enzymes that break down alcohol. These enzymes might include alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) or aldehyde dehydrogenase 2 (ALDH2). ADH metabolizes alcohol, which your liver turns into acetaldehyde. ALDH2 converts acetaldehyde to acetic acid, which your body can more easily digest. However, if you lack ALDH2, your body may start to have symptoms as acetaldehyde builds up in your body. This type of intolerance is often found in people of Asian descent, but other ethnicities can also lack these enzymes.

You may also have an alcohol intolerance because you have an intolerance to an ingredient found in alcohol. These ingredients might include preservatives, chemicals, grain, or histamine. In rare cases, a disorder known as Hodgkin’s lymphoma may result in symptoms of intolerance after drinking alcohol.

Alcohol Intolerance

How Common Is Alcohol Intolerance?

One study found that 7.2% of the respondents reported intolerance to wine. Just because you have one risk factor does not mean you will have an alcohol intolerance. It only increases your chances. More than likely, you will be born with an alcohol intolerance. While someone might develop it later in life, it is not as common as having an alcohol intolerance since birth.

Risk Factors

Several risk factors can increase someone’s chances of having an intolerance to alcohol. For example, the most common factor in someone having an alcohol intolerance is that they are of Asian descent. People of Asian descent are more likely to have an alcohol intolerance because they have a higher chance of inheriting an enzyme problem that results in an alcohol intolerance. However, anyone can have an enzyme concern and alcohol intolerance because of it.

Other risk factors include asthma or hay fever. If you have an intolerance or allergy to grains or other ingredients found in alcohol, you might be more likely to have an intolerance to alcohol. Rarely, conditions such as Hodgkin’s lymphoma may also result in the development of an alcohol intolerance. Having more than one of these factors increases your chances of being intolerant to alcohol, but it doesn’t mean you will be.

Symptoms And Complications

For the most part, an alcohol intolerance is not life-threatening. It typically only includes mild, uncomfortable symptoms that do not require a visit to a doctor. These might include:

  • Your face turning red
  • Hives
  • A runny nose
  • Worsening symptoms of asthma
  • Low blood pressure
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Migraines

However, sometimes, it can happen that you are not intolerant to alcohol but allergic. An allergy can be an emergency, life-threatening circumstance. If you are having severe symptoms when you drink alcohol, discuss your symptoms with your doctor. They might test you for an allergy to common ingredients found in alcohol.

Alcohol Intolerance

Can I Continue To Drink Alcohol If I Have Alcohol Intolerance?

You should not continue to drink alcohol if you have an alcohol intolerance. While it is not necessarily life-threatening to continue to drink alcohol with an alcohol intolerance, it can be very uncomfortable and painful. The best way to avoid experiencing symptoms associated with alcohol intolerance is to avoid drinking alcohol.

Getting Help For Alcohol Intolerance

The only way not to have symptoms regarding alcohol intolerance is not to drink alcohol. Most of the time, people with an alcohol intolerance will not want to drink alcohol because of their symptoms. Because of the symptoms they experience, they will more than likely not have an alcohol use disorder.

However, suppose you do have an alcohol use disorder despite your alcohol intolerance. In that case, you might feel alcohol has control over your life even though you have symptoms that make drinking alcohol painful. The best thing to do in this case is to undergo alcohol detox. By receiving alcohol use disorder treatment, you will be able to free yourself from the symptoms associated with alcohol intolerance.

SUN Behavioral Columbus Is Here to Help You

Located in Columbus, OH, SUN Behavioral Health Columbus solves unmet needs in our community. We offer 24/7 crisis care that allows people to get the help they need when the crisis arrives. For more information or to get started on treatment today, call us at 614-706-2786.

614-706-2786

FAQs About Alcohol Intolerance

Why is my body rejecting alcohol all of a sudden?

The most likely reason for an alcohol intolerance is genetic. This condition results in a lack of an enzyme necessary to break down alcohol. However, there are other reasons someone has developed an alcohol intolerance, such as allergies or intolerances to ingredients in alcohol or Hodgkin’s lymphoma. 

How can you fix alcohol intolerance?

The best way to avoid experiencing symptoms associated with alcohol intolerance is not to drink alcohol. 

What is the best drink for alcohol intolerance? 

The best drink to drink if you have alcohol intolerance is a non-alcoholic one. If you have an intolerance to a specific ingredient, you can look for drinks that do not have that ingredient.

Get Help Today!

614-706-2786
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