If you’ve ever been remotely curious about your Asian flush on the internet, there isn’t a chance in hell you haven’t stumbled upon Pepcid AC, Pepcid Complete, Zyrtec, Zantac and similar over-the-counter drug recommendations at least once. These babies seem to have a ton of anecdotal evidence behind them which indicates they help with Asian flush symptoms - with the red face in particular.
Countless Asian flush sufferers eager to enjoy drinking start using them right away - they are recommended on all four corners of the internet - on websites, forums, even mentioned in traditional media, such as an episode of Fresh Off The Boat episode.
But, is there any actual evidence to support such widely spread use of these drugs, or is it indeed merely anecdotal? In this article we’ll try to shed light on the exact effects of these generic allergy medications on Asian flush, whether they are safe to use, and whether there might be a better alternative.
What are Pepcid AC, Zantac, and Zyrtec?
We chose these three because they are the three varieties most commonly used to treat Asian flush, and you’d likely hear about them from Asian friends who swear by them.
What they all have in common is that they are antihistamines - generic medications used to treat multiple allergy symptoms, such as sneezing, congestion, hives and rashes.
These drugs are:
- Have few side effects
- They don’t require a prescription
How do they actually treat the symptoms of allergy? They inhibit your histamine release.
When your body comes into contact with an allergy trigger, such as pollen, dust mites or pet dander, it produces chemicals called histamines, which are behind most allergy symptoms, some of them mentioned above. The histamine reaction is the method your body uses to tell you that something is wrong.
Why are they relevant to Asian flushers?
Different antihistamines target different histamine receptors in the body, but a particular subgroup, H2 receptor antihistamines is particularly important for Asian flush, as one 1988 Japanese study showed how they have an effect on the flushing reaction in orientals - they can significantly reduce facial redness.
Do antihistamines actually treat Asian flush?
The short answer is simply: no. The long answer would be the following: If they ever have a “positive” effect on reducing facial flushing caused by an adverse reaction to alcohol, it’s merely cosmetic - they treat the consequence, not the cause.
While they may prevent or reduce the alcohol flush reaction of facial redness with varying degrees of success (depending on the person) they don’t account for the fact that your histamine release happens for a reason: your body simply can’t metabolize alcohol!
While you’re drinking happily into the night, pleased that you don’t have the usual symptoms to show for it, your body is building up acetaldehyde way more than it normally should. There are no headaches, nausea, facial redness or any other socially awkward symptom that might stop you.
There is, on the other hand, a chance you’ll get wasted quicker, and in all cases you risk acetaldehyde toxicity. But that might not be the only thing you have to worry about.
Negative effects of using Pepcid, Zantac, and Zyrtec for Asian glow
First of all, let’s get one thing straight: these over-the-counter drugs are not designed for Asian flush specifically, and even if we didn’t have any other information on the subject of safety, this one is a major red flag. It is never recommended to take any medication for a purpose other than what was intended by the manufacturer. Off-label use, on its own, always bears the risk of side effects.
Unfortunately, studies show that there are far more dangerous things than mere recommendations for generic medicine use. As we state in our Reset guide on Asian Flush and Asian Glow: acetaldehyde accumulation in your body is dangerous in ways scarier than a red face could ever be: there is a direct correlation between acetaldehyde and heightened cancer risk.
We feel so strongly for the subject that we’ve dedicated an entire article at Sunset on the subject of Asian flush, antihistamines, and cancer risk - Asian Flush Cancer: Debunking the Myth (hint: it’s not a myth at all), where we discuss several studies conducted by different institutions, all confirming there is a definite link between nasty acetaldehyde and cancer, especially esophageal cancer, along with a a type of skin cancer known as squamous cell carcinoma.
The danger is so serious, that the National Institute of Health in the United States and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) have both issued press releases confirming it.
What to do if you want to avoid cancer? Well, the general recommendation for people who sport the glow is to stop drinking altogether.
The alternative - taking a supplement when drinking
Fortunately for you, at SRQ labs, we aren’t in favor of prohibition. We liked the idea of ALDH2 deficient people being able to drink just like regular people with normal alcohol metabolism, but we knew that we had to not only find a way to stop the alcohol flush reaction, but also the cause behind it, the inefficient enzyme.
What we came up with is Alcohol Flush Support, a supplement in the form of pills you take prior to drinking. It’s based on a 12-compound formula that aids your lazy ALDH2 enzyme in starting to work properly in getting rid of acetaldehyde. It treats the problem at its root, and provides a histamine blockade to stop anything that manages to escape the first line of defence - and the result is the possibility for flush-free and cancer-free drinking at your heart's content.
Well, as cancer-free as drinking can be for the average person, that is, as we know that alcohol, or ethanol, is still a Group 1 carcinogen, Asian flush or not.
We hope to have answered most of your questions regarding antacid use, their effects and safety. If you nonetheless want a quick DIY fix for your flush for that special occasion, you now know the risks involved, and you can make an educated decision.
If you’ve decided to go straight-edge, that’s awesome too! But in any other circumstance where you want to drink safely, we wholeheartedly recommend the Sunset pills.
Have any comments? Want to share your experience dealing with Asian glow? As always, you can drop us a line!