5 facts you should know about alcohol intolerance

Do you start to feel queasy or sick after consuming even the most insignificant quantities of alcohol? Do you feel unusually warm or notice that your skin tone changes? These might be signs that you have alcohol intolerance.

What Is Alcohol Intolerance? 

Alcohol intolerance or alcohol sensitivity is a metabolic disorder. It affects the way your body breaks down alcohol. It’s commonly passed down genetically. And can affect you even if it doesn’t affect your parents or grandparents.

A person with this condition might think that they get drunk too quickly. But in reality, their bodies are unable to break down alcohol in the same way a person without the condition would.


If you have alcohol intolerance and consume alcohol, the most rapid symptom you might notice is your skin going flush and feeling warm.

Other symptoms of this condition include:

  • A stuffy nose  
  • Diarrhea
  • Rapid heartbeat 
  • Fatigue 
  • Headache
  • Low blood pressure 

Diagnosis of alcohol intolerance

This condition is often confused with being allergic to alcohol. While being intolerant is a metabolic disorder passed down in your genes, an alcohol allergy has more to do with how your immune system reacts to certain ingredients in alcohol.

People who are allergic to alcohol are rarely allergic to the main ingredient used in making alcoholic beverages – ethanol. They are typically allergic to other ingredients like barley, yeast, sulfates, hops, wheat, and histamines. Symptoms of an allergic reaction to alcohol include nausea, hives, and cramps. 

An alcohol patch test can also be used to diagnose this condition. This is done by putting a bit of alcohol on a cotton pad and taping it to your arm. The pad is left on for some minutes. When it’s removed, your skin will be checked for signs of swelling, hives, or redness.

Its Causes

It’s a little unclear what exactly causes alcohol intolerance. However, research shows that aldehyde dehydrogenase 2 (ALDH2), an enzyme that helps break down alcohol, may be inactive or less active in people with alcohol intolerance.


There is currently no cure for this condition. The most effective treatment is to avoid alcohol and alcohol-based foods altogether.

If you’ve consumed an alcoholic beverage and notice mild intolerance symptoms, you might be prescribed an antihistamine to help you clear up symptoms such as a stuffy nose or redness. It’s important to remember that antihistamines don’t treat the symptoms, and you should not continue drinking if you have alcohol intolerance. 


Leave A Reply