If you’ve experienced negative symptoms while drinking alcohol, including a bright red face, you might have turned to the internet to understand your symptoms. Often times, this negative reaction to alcohol is called Asian Flush. But what if you experience this symptoms as a Caucasian?
While this condition is typically called Asian Flush because it impacts a large portion of Asians, especially East Asians, it can actually happen to anyone.
Common names for this condition include:
- Asian Flush
- Asian Glow
- Alcohol Flush Reaction
- Alcohol Flushing
- Alcohol Intolerance
Even though the name might indicate that this flushing response only happens to Asians, it actually occurs based on ineffective metabolizing alcohol by an enzyme deficiency. It’s also common for the condition to be passed down through generations, so if one of your parents has it, you’re much more likely to have it as well.
While Asians have an increased risk of this condition, it can still impact anyone. The medical community has turned towards calling this condition Alcohol Flush Reaction to indicate that anyone can experience this, not just Asians.
One test of 200 healthy Caucasians found that 50% of the females experienced alcohol flushing whereas 8% of the males experienced this condition.
Common symptoms of Asian Flush
Asian Flush, or alcohol flush reaction, can come with a variety of symptoms depending on a number of factors, such as the rate of alcohol consumption, the amount of alcohol consumed, what type of alcohol and the size, age and gender of the individual.
Most commonly, symptoms of Asian Flush include:
- Red face
- Increased heart rate
- Hives, most commonly on the neck and upper chest
- Stuffy nose or congestion
- Headaches, or migraines in extreme cases
While some of these symptoms sound like those symptoms of a hangover, Asian Flush symptoms are often felt while drinking. In extreme cases, the individual may begin to feel these symptoms after just a few sips of alcohol.
It’s extremely important to note that a real alcohol allergy is rare, but could also show these symptoms in higher severity. If you experience these types of symptoms but to an extreme degree, it’s important to visit your doctor before drinking again.
Why do I get a red face when drinking alcohol as a Caucasian?
We all know that there are no health benefits to excessively drinking alcohol. But why do you get a red face when drinking alcohol, sometimes even before you finish your first drink?
Asian Flush, even for Caucasians, comes down to an enzyme deficiency in the liver that doesn’t metabolize alcohol properly.
In a typical body, the body breaks down alcohol into a toxic chemical called acetaldehyde. Then, acetaldehyde is broken down further into a harmless chemical and the individual drinking alcohol doesn’t realize what’s occurred. They may still feel the effects of a hangover if they drink too much, but they won’t feel symptoms of Asian Flush.
However, this process gets interrupted in those with Asian Flush, or alcohol flush reaction. Once the body breaks alcohol down into acetaldehyde, another enzyme is supposed to break it down further. This enzyme, called aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH2) is ineffective in those with Asian Flush, so toxic acetaldehyde begins to build up in the system. This chemical causes those horrible symptoms, such as facial flushing or bright red cheeks when drinking alcohol.
It’s no surprise that an ineffective enzyme is the cause for this reaction. Enzyme issues are usually the causes for food or drink intolerances, such like those with lactose intolerance who cannot create the enzyme lactase.
However, the body reacts to acetaldehyde in an important way. By producing negative symptoms, such as a red face and headaches, your body is signaling to you that acetaldehyde is flooding your system and is a harmful chemical. Unfortunately, acetaldehyde has been linked to higher risks of developing certain types of cancers when exposed to the chemical for extended periods of time.
One of the biggest concerns is that the chances of experiencing DNA damage are increased for those with Asian Flush. One study testing the effects of alcohol on mice found that the likelihood of DNA damage after one dose of alcohol was 4 times higher in mice with Asian Flush, than those without.
We know that alcohol isn’t exactly healthy, but it’s important to keep an eye on your alcohol intake and drink responsibly, especially if you deal with Asian Flush or alcohol flush reaction.
How to stop getting a red face from alcohol
Unfortunately, there is no way to reverse the ineffective liver enzyme causing all these issues, but there are a few ways you can minimize your Asian Flush symptoms.
Stop drinking, or drink less - Not everyone wants to stop drinking alcohol entirely, especially when it’s such a huge part of life for many of us. However, this is a full-proof way to stop your Asian Flush symptoms - stop drinking! Otherwise, you can minimize the amount of alcohol you consume and thus minimize the amount of acetaldehyde your body is exposed to.
Asian Flush supplement - Certain alcohol flush reaction supplements on the market can help reduce your symptoms greatly. Sunset Alcohol Flush Support can help your body break down acetaldehyde much quicker, thus reducing your overall symptoms as well. This is a great, natural way to keep acetaldehyde levels down and help make drinking alcohol much more comfortable and enjoyable.
Asian Flush moisturizer - If you still want to drink alcohol occasionally with friends, a Asian Flush moisturizer like Reset is a great option. This green-tinted facial moisturizer helps minimize the effects of a red face when drinking alcohol, whether you’re Asian or not. It can also help reduce skin temperature so you don’t feel hot when drinking.
Strategic drink selection - Perhaps you’ve found that you get a worse reaction when you drink wine versus when you drink beer. By making strategic drink selections, you can minimize your reaction. It’s also helpful to choose drinks with less alcohol content, such as a Spritz, which is alcohol and soda water. So while you’re still drinking alcohol, it’s mixed with something non-alcoholic.
Stay Hydrated - If you choose to drink alcohol, try to have a glass or water or non-alcoholic drink in-between every alcoholic drink you have. Not only does this keep you hydrated (and you’ll have less of a hangover the next day) it also forces you to drink slower and gives your body a chance to deal with the alcohol you’ve consumed before you add more to your system.