Alcohol intolerance

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It is not unusual for some individuals to experience allergy-like symptoms after ingestion of alcohol. The reaction can be specific such as to a certain type of wine or triggered by different types of alcohol.

Actual allergy to alcohol

It is important to note that an actual allergy is triggered once the body erroneously produces antibodies against a particular substance which instigates a reaction once the individual is exposed to the substance in the future.

An actual allergy to alcohol is rare but cases of skin reactions have occurred. In most cases, the alcohol molecule aggravates underlying conditions such as urticaria, asthma and rhinitis since it open ups the blood vessels. Individuals who are allergic might experience skin flushes and headaches.

A close look on alcohol intolerance

Generally, the symptoms are triggered by intolerance to alcohol or to the food on which the beverage is based or to another substance present in the beverage. Intolerance occurs once the body lacks an enzyme that is required to properly digest and eliminate a food or substance. In case the alcohol molecule could not be dealt with by the body effectively, it can trigger unusual symptoms.

Alcohol intolerance
In most cases, the alcohol molecule aggravates underlying conditions such as urticaria, asthma and rhinitis since it open ups the blood vessels.

Remember that alcohol can increase the permeability of the gut which allows more food molecules into the body. This is why the reactions of individuals who are mildly sensitive might not react to the food alone but only once combined with alcohol.

Red wine appears to cause most issues, followed by whisky, beer and certain types of wine. In most circumstances, the possible cause of a reaction is not the alcohol but the congeners. These are chemicals that provide the beverage its flavor, body and aroma.

Common causes of alcohol intolerance


Histamine is present in several alcoholic beverages, especially red wine. It can trigger flushing, headaches, asthma or nasal and gut symptoms. Some individuals are highly intolerant to histamine due to the deficiency in the breakdown as well as elimination of histamine from the body.


There are certain additives present in alcoholic beverages that can trigger symptoms. The common additives such as sodium benzoate and tartrazine can instigate asthma and urticaria.


The presence of yeast in alcoholic beverages can be considered as a possible cause of an actual allergic reaction. Nevertheless, based on studies conducted, it revealed that there are low levels of yeast allergens present in alcoholic beverages.

Plant-derived allergens

The flavor, grain or fruit in which the beverage is made might be responsible for causing an actual allergic reaction. Nevertheless, fruit and other plant-derived allergens are usually destroyed during the processing.

Sulphites/Sulphur dioxide

Take note that sulphur dioxide is quite common in home brewed-beers and wines in the form of sodium metabisulphite. This has been utilized in cleaning equipment but stays in elevated amounts in the resulting brew.

Remember that avoidance is the only effective way to manage the symptoms that arise from alcohol intolerance or allergy to alcoholic beverages. Once an individual experiences a reaction, you have to take note of the type of beverage and whether or not the individual engaged in exercise. In case all alcoholic beverages cause a reaction, it might be an exaggerated response to the alcohol itself or an aggravating effect on an underlying condition.

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