You've blamed your flushed skin and runny nose on bad shellfish, seasonal allergies, or too much jalapeno in your quesadilla. But the real culprit may be lurking in your wine glass, finds a new German study.
Researchers at Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz sent out questionnaires to thousands of people living in a wine-producing region of western Germany. Of the roughly 950 people who completed the questionnaire, 225 drinkers--or almost 25 percent of the group--reported some mild signs of alcohol intolerance, says study author Heinz Decker, Ph.D. The most common symptoms included flushed or itchy skin, a runny nose, diarrhea, and a rapid heartbeat, Decker explains.
Wine contains proteins from grapes, bacteria, and yeast, as well as sulfites and other organic compounds, Decker says. Any one of those may cause an allergic-like reaction, and may also be found in your favorite beer, the study explains. A specific type of protein allergen called "LTP" is found in the skins of grapes, which makes red wine more likely than other types of booze to cause a reaction, Decker adds. Meanwhile, white wine is fermented without the grape skins. (Going hiking? Drink the 5 Best Portable Wines on your next outdoor adventure.)
So are you allergic to alcohol? If you experience any of the symptoms mentioned above, as well as vomiting, shortness of breath, or swelling of the lips, mouth, or throat, the answer could be yes. You may also be suffering from alcohol intolerance, which produces symptoms similar to an allergic reaction. The ethanol in your favorite drink may cause blood vessels to expand, which makes absorption of irritating agents a lot more likely, Decker says.
But relax, you don't have to give up booze any time soon--as long as your symptoms are mild, Decker says. If red wine triggers one or several of the symptoms of alcohol intolerance, try switching to white. The same goes for beer and liquor: If you don't react well to one type, try another, Decker advises. But if your symptoms are severe--like if you have problems breathing or you become seriously ill--leave your liquor on the shelf and notify your doctor ASAP, he says. (In the clear? Then tip back your favorite brews--and lose up to 32 pounds in the process! Discover the gut-shrinking secret in Drink This, Not That!).