The Inside Dope on Alcohol Allergies

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Allergic reactions to alcohol ingestion are a real concern for people suffering from a deficiency in ALDH, the enzyme Aldehyde Dehydrogenase, which is necessary to metabolize alcohol into acetic acid. Alcohol in its un-metabolized state is a toxic substance and causes an immediate immune system response which present allergenic symptoms. People who are prone to alcohol allergies have undergone a polymorphism alteration to the ALDH gene which renders the ALDH enzyme ineffective and makes their digestive tract unable to metabolize alcohol into acetic acid.

Alcohol provides the body with histamines and/or helps the body produce histamines. Histamines are amines that are produced and released by the cells in the immune system and cause allergic reaction. Amines are actually organic derivatives of Ammonia that are formed when hydrogen is replaced by one or more alkyl groups. Histamines require an active ALDH enzyme to be metabolized or oxidized in the body’s cells. The symptoms of an alcohol allergy is the same as the symptoms of a histamine allergy-severe nasal congestion, palpitation or tachycardia(fluttering of the heart), flushing of the skin accompanied by the sensation of heat, increased heart rate, headaches, lowered blood pressure and a sense of abdominal discomfort. In a person truly allergic to alcohol all these symptoms will appear within a matter of minutes after alcohol ingestion.

Allergic reactions to alcohol itself are rare. Alcohol allergies may not be true alcohol allergies but some other food allergy. Alcoholic beverages contain a wide variety of other food products that may be the true cause of the allergic reaction, food products such as grape, yeast, hop, barley, wheat-derived substances, etc.

Alcohol allergies are particularly dangerous for people suffering from asthma. The sulphites contained in alcoholic beverage, especially in wines, can precipitate severe asthma attacks. Over a third of the people with asthma taking part in a medical study reported that the ingestion of alcohol brought on severe attacks.

Although true alcohol allergies are rare studies have shown that the regular consumption of alcohol by women does increase their chances of developing allergies to other substances. Studies have shown a direct connection between the daily consumption of alcoholic beverages and perennial allergic rhinitis. Another study conducted over a nine year period showed that drinking just two glasses of wine a day doubled a woman’s chances of developing perennial allergic rhinitis. Still another study conducted at a university in Spain concluded that ingesting even a small amount of alcohol can increase the risk of allergic reactions.

Since alcohol is full of histamines one of the most effective treatments for this allergy is antihistamine but since true alcohol allergies are rare there really is no simple way to determine what other component(s) in an alcoholic beverage is the actual cause of the allergy. The best way to treat an alcohol allergy then is to avoid alcohol all together.

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Jerry Walch

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