Alcohol Intolerance

Alcohol intolerance is actually a metabolic disorder in which consumption of even moderate amounts of alcohol causes allergy and unpleasant reactions in the body due to the unavailability of the enzyme that breakdown and metabolizes alcohol. It is very commonly seen in Asian descents. Alcohol intolerance shouldn’t be confused with other alcohol allergies which can be due to the preservatives present in the alcohol.


It is caused due to a genetic deficiency of the two enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase and aldehyde dehydrogenase which breaks down the toxic byproducts of alcohol by which the metabolism of alcohol gets affected which results in the accumulation of the toxic by-product of alcohol known as acetaldehyde. The toxic acetaldehyde continues to build up in the body and causes painful symptoms while drinking alcohol.


  • Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Certain medications such as antifungal and antibiotics
  • Asian descents
  • Already existing alcohol allergy
  • Hay fever
  • Asthma


  • Skin flushing
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Stuffy nose
  • Worsening of already existing asthma and low blood pressure
  • Headaches
  • Increased heartbeat
  • Running nose
  • Itchy eyes
  • Dizziness
  • Swelling around the eyes
  • Red flushing on the neck, chest or arms.


  • The doctor will ask about unpleasant reactions or symptoms that occur after drinking.
  • Ethanol patch test
  • One of the most important sign is flushing after drinking a moderate amount of alcohol.


  • The first important step is to restrict or complete abstinence from alcohol.
  • Stop taking medications such as antibiotics and antifungal with alcohol.
  • To stop the symptoms of alcohol intolerance, antihistamines and antacids is the best option for allergic unpleasant reactions.
  • Hydration is important to limit the amount of alcohol to give your body a break in between alcoholic drinks to reduce the overall alcohol consumption.

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