Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Is there Such a Thing As Alcohol Allergies?

Over the last year or so, I have been having an internal debate over whether to continue drinking alcohol or not.  Let me make one thing clear.  This is not a post about drinking too much or being addicted to alcohol.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  No, if I do drink, it’s socially.  I enjoy a glass of good wine on occasion or a cold beer at a bbq. 

Growing up, my parents were social drinkers.  Well, that’s maybe an understatement.  They were partiers.  When they were with their friends, they drank…a lot.  In fact, I “bartended” for my parents and their friends as a preteen and was their designated driver once I earned my license.  Alcohol was just part of my life – never something I was dying to try, but it wasn’t a taboo either.  When I went away to college I drank socially as well.  Sometimes I partied and drank a lot, but never to the point where it was a problem. 

As a grown up, like mentioned above, I’ll drink when going out with friends – maybe once or twice a month, maybe not at all in a month.  Over the last year or so however, I’ve noticed that I don’t really like the way alcohol makes me feel.  I do not mean in a hangover kind of way.  I can’t remember the last time I had a hangover.  No, I dislike the way alcohol makes me feel within minutes after drinking it.  I have come to the realization that it raises my body temperature and turns my face bright pink.  When I drink, the back of my neck and brow sweat, and even though I can tell the temperature around me is normal, I feel like I’ve entered a sauna.  It’s an awful feeling really.  I think it’s always made me feel this way, but I’ve just recently made the connection between the two.

The last time this happened was on my birthday back in September.  Good friends came over and we made martinis.  I spent most of the night freezing from the air conditioning, but with a face that was burning up.  It was then that got me thinking I might be allergic to alcohol.  Maybe it’s not a real allergy, but it makes me feel bad.  Shortly after that night, I made a decision to stop drinking for the time being and see what happened. 

Since my family is a drinking family, the holidays were a little bit frustrating.  Every time we went out or visited someone’s house I heard a lot of, “Oh, come on, just have one.” Sometimes I had to even give an emphatic “NO!” to get them off my back; especially to my wine-drinking mother.  Although my friends have been respectful when I decline a drink, they do joke a lot saying, “Well, just drink naked and you’ll stay plenty cool.”  I tell you, if I were struggling with an alcohol addiction, these people would be no help at all. :)  But seriously, since I have stopped having drinks, I’ve been perfectly comfortable and have stayed a nice, normal temperature.

So I decided to test my theory.  Just this past week, some friends and I attended a city block party event that took place on Thursday night.  None of us had been before and thought we’d check it out since we didn’t have to work the next day.  A cute little wine bar/tasting room recently opened up on the street so we stopped in to check it out.  They had a wine flight that sounded fantastic.  So I decided to take part, just to try the wines, and planned to pass the rest of the glass to my friends to finish off each tasting.  For the first few sips I was fine.  After that, I could feel the heat beginning to rise from my neck.  By the time the wine flight was over, I was a hot mess again.  Before we left, I checked my face in the bathroom mirror, and it was pink, even my ears were pink.  Which, I think, proved my theory.  I’m allergic to alcohol.  


  1. I'm somewhat the same. When I had alcohol in the past I would be sick long before I felt anything from the alcohol. Which I'm glad about as I've seen precisely what that nasty little sugar can do to people it grips by the throat.
    If this is a very new thing with you, you might be in a pre-type2 holding pattern and this is pushing you over a threshold. But there are a few other things it might be also. Fructose can be a nasty little bastard for some, and nowadays industrial alcohol is made with corn or cane, than concocted into industrial beers and cheap and semi-cheap wines. Also you have lactic acid, something I believe is the reason the Irish haven't taken over the world entirely. The Japanese and most other nor steppe peoples have that difficulty also.

  2. Oh, you might go traditional with good single malts. It not for nothing that it's called the healthy water [Uisce beatha] in the Language.

  3. Sounds like some kind of allergy to me. I don't drink hard stuff 'cause of IBS, it just rips my insides up. I have a glass of wine every so often, however, since the majority of our friends don't drink we don't drink either. Now Ice Tea, that's my downfall.

  4. I think you have to be like me and drink tons and then you'll build up a tolerance!
    And no, I am not a guest speaker for AA.
    Look, if it makes you feel bad, then knock it off! That's why God invented water.
    Bottoms up!

  5. @vince - actually, I think it's pretty much always been this way. I've just more recently decided that it's not worth it anymore. Single malt eh? I think that would do a number on me in a different way! :)

    @banker chick - not being able to drink a glass of really good wine makes me kind of sad.

  6. A bit like that with me on the time thing too. But I knew something was very wrong when 2 can of coke/a bottle of wine/a few cans of beer made me one as ill as the other. But a pint of milk would near kill me so bad would the allergic shock seize my chest and made me feel far far higher.
    But in truth it was never much fun for me going to the pub for I had to watch myself so closely.

  7. @vince - a dairy allergy? I've heard that's a tough one, especially when determined as an adult. Giving up alcohol, whatever. Giving up cheese? That would make me cry! But I guess that beats the alternative.

  8. It could be an ALDH deficiency.

    I had this friend who mother was Korean, and he could only drink one beer before he would get bright red in the face and get hot.

    I mention his mother's background because he told me this "allergy" common in(but not necessarily limited to)people with Asian heritage.

  9. @hula - I have a work colleague with the same issue who is Asian. I'm told it's called Asian flush. I guess for me it would just be flush. :)

  10. That is the worst news ever. I so love a drunk Pumpkin!

  11. Maybe you can get a prescription for medicinal marijuana?

    Then you can go over to your family's place and lit up a joint and then tell everyone, "Go one, just one! It won't hurt you!"

    Also J-Lo's comment made me think of that popular halloween picture of the jack-o-latern that looks like it threw up a bunch of seeds

  12. @Jlo - I know, that girl's a pretty good time. Sorry! I'm still pretty fun without it though! :)

    @Hula - That is a great photo

    As for the pot...I don't think that would do much good. Didn't I ever write the post called "My Mom, the Drug Mule"? ;)

  13. Ummmm.... No, I don't think I ever read post like that... My curiousity makes me want to ask exactly where/how she hid the drugs...

  14. @Hula - Ewwwww, no! It was in the trunk of her car. She has some kooky friends in HI that have a med marijuana business and they've given out "samples" to some of her neighbors (or so she says). She's been the go between. I might be a little bit horrified if it weren't for the fact that they're all in their 60s and 70s - that makes me giggle. :) Did you ever see the movie "Saving Grace" with Brenda Blethyn and Craig Ferguson? That's the picture I have in my head when she tells me the stories.

  15. Not so much the cheese for me as I'd very few fav's. Roquefort I would eat for sweets, but the rest meah, whatever.
    Butter though, when used as a cooking medium for meats. Aaaaaagh, think a rare steak cooked in and basted with beurre noisette. Then with a spray of tarragon tossed in, then lid on 30sec before removal from the heat. Or the number of sauces I cannot use, I want to throttle someone blast it.

  16. @vince - not for nothing, but that tarragon dish sounds fab!

  17. I have seen Saving Grace, but I cannot remember anything about it!

    There was this 80 something year old woman here who was recently busted for being a major pot dealer! LOL

    @Vince - that is some awfully fancy eating for someone who lives in Ireland. All of my friends from Ireland eat are boiled vegetables with the vegetable water for dessert.

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