Do you experience negative symptoms from drinking alcohol? You may have a condition called "alcohol flush."
This condition has a few different names but they all refer to the same situation, where you feel uncomfortable side effects after drinking alcohol. Common names include:
- alcohol flushing
- alcohol flush reaction
- alcohol flush syndrome
- alcohol flushing response
What is alcohol flush?
Alcohol flush is a negative reaction to alcohol, often felt immediately after drinking. While many of alcohol flushing symptoms mirror those you might have when you're hungover, the main difference is that these symptoms show up while drinking rather than the next day.
Having said that, hangovers for those with alcohol flush are pretty severe, too.
Alcohol flushing is caused by the body's inability to metabolise alcohol properly. Once alcohol enters the body, it's broken down into a chemical called acetaldehyde. In a normal situation, acetaldehyde is broken down further until it is eventually eliminated from the body completely.
However, for those with alcohol flush, the body has a hard time breaking down acetaldehyde. It begins to accumulate in the body while you continue to drink alcohol.
It's this harmful chemical acetaldehyde that causes flushing after drinking alcohol and the other associated symptoms.
For an in-depth look into acetaldehyde, check out our article: Expert's Guide To Breaking Down Acetaldehyde
Common alcohol flush symptoms include:
- Facial flushing where your skin looks red and flushed. Flushing can also appear on the neck, shoulders and upper chest, but is most commonly seen on the face
- Feeling hot and sweaty, often made worse by red flushing
- A stuffy nose or nasal congestion
- Headaches, or migraines in more severe situations
- Dizziness or experiencing "the spins" even when you haven't drank that much alcohol
- Nausea or an upset stomach
- Itchy or bloodshot eyes, even after a low amount of alcohol intake
- In more serious case, you might also experience hives
Am I allergic to alcohol?
Many people who experience these types of symptoms from alcohol believe they must be allergic to alcohol. However, a true alcohol allergy is extremely rare (although not completely impossible). While these symptoms mimic those of an allergic reaction, these are two very different conditions.
Confused about alcohol allergies? Check out our article: Am I allergic to alcohol?
Can I test if I have alcohol flush?
Some at-home health kits have an option to test for alcohol flush, often referred to as an "ALDH2 deficiency." If you want to try a test, at-home health kits like the 23andMe will test for an ALDH2 deficiency and whether you're likely to suffer from alcohol flush. However, this can be a costly way to discover if you have alcohol flush.
For most people, simply experiencing negative symptoms from drinking alcohol, (especially facial flushing) is a good indicator that they're dealing with alcohol flushing.
How can I stop alcohol flush?
Unfortunately, if you have an ALDH2 deficiency that's causing alcohol flushing, there's no treatment available to stop this condition. The only true way to stop alcohol flush is to avoid drinking alcohol.
However, not everyone is happy to cut out alcohol completely from their lives. While there is no cure for alcohol flushing, there are a few steps you can take to help minimise your symptoms.
While drinking water on a night out isn't very exciting, it really does help lessen the impact of alcohol flushing. Staying hydrated also helps minimise hangover symptoms, too. It's typically a good rule to have one glass of water for every alcoholic drink.
Avoid big triggers like red wine
Many people who suffer from alcohol flush find that certain types of drinks make their symptoms much more noticeable than others. Common alcohol flush triggers are drinks like red wine, which has added ingredients that can make flushing even more prominent.
More and more people are turning towards supplements for helping with alcohol flushing, and it's obvious why. Supplements that can help metabolise alcohol quickly can greatly reduce alcohol flush symptoms. Products like Sunset Alcohol Flush (also known as the asian flush pill) work with the body to break down toxic acetaldehyde as quickly as possible. This means that the harmful chemical is in your body for less time, taking away its ability to wreck havoc and cause the negative symptoms associated with alcohol flush.
While supplements are not a cure, they can certainly help reduce alcohol flush symptoms.
Those with alcohol flush have a hard time breaking down alcohol. So when you drink quickly, the body becomes overwhelmed with toxic acetaldehyde, which causes the negative symptoms in the first place.
By drinking slowly, you can give your body a bit more time to process the alcohol already in your system, before you add to it.
Pick cold drinks
A good way to help force yourself to drink slower is to pick cold drinks. For most people, sipping on an ice-cold beer takes longer to finish than a room-temperature glass of red wine. By choosing cold drinks on purpose, you'll naturally drink more slowly.
Choose alcohol strategically
There are a few drink choices that can help reduce your alcohol flushing symptoms. Mixed drinks like mojitos are a great option as they typically have low alcohol content, are ice-cold and combined with non-alcohol mixer.
While using makeup won't solve any of your internal symptoms, it can greatly help conceal the redness associated from alcohol flushing. Products that are green-tinted, like foundation or concealer, can work wonders on minimising redness from alcohol.