We Asian flushers know full well how socially awkward and annoying it is to be considered someone who can’t hold their liquor. Red rashes, trouble breathing, insta-headaches - I’m sure we all have different opinions on what is the absolute worst. But as we’ve previously covered Asian flush and its symptoms and cures in a general way, and also the subject of alcohol induced headaches in particular (not to mention the actual facial flushing) - we’ve decided to focus entirely on another usual Asian flush symptom - breathing difficulties when drinking. Do you have trouble breathing after drinking alcohol? Keep reading!
Understanding the connection between breathing problems and alcohol
Alcohol is a depressant, which means that it slows down your nervous system, resulting in a number of physical or emotional changes. When it’s first absorbed in your bloodstream through the digestive system, it gets dispersed to other organs, primarily the liver, where it gets metabolized. If the liver can’t keep up with how much alcohol you’re consuming, the alcohol will build up in your body and voila - you’ve become drunk and all functions controlled by your nerves are impaired in one way or another. Breathing is no exception.
When it comes to Asian flush, the fact that the body doesn’t metabolize the ethanol in your blood to completion, or not nearly as fast as your body needs to means that you are much more likely to suffer breathing problems as well. Shortness of breath and hyperventilation are both common symptoms suffered by Asian flushers worldwide.
Chronic breathing problems such as asthma or chronic bronchitis are usually connected to habits such as smoking, and not nearly often enough to alcohol. But studies show that there is a definite correlation between breathing difficulty and alcohol in people who already have a chronic breathing condition. Heavy drinking can drastically reduce levels of glutathione, an antioxidant heavily involved in the metabolization process of acetaldehyde to acetic acid.
Additionally, regular or chronic drinking prevents your lungs from keeping up a healthy airway. Your mucociliary transport system works continually to clear mucus and contaminants out of your airways. When you drink heavily, the system doesn’t work as effectively as it should.
If you’re experiencing trouble breathing and you drink alcohol regularly, see your doctor, as this might be a red flag for an underlying medical condition - in people with asthma for example, alcohol can trigger an asthma attack. If the only time you develop breathing problems is after drinking alcohol, you should still see your doctor. You may have a rare allergy to the ingredients found in wine, beer, or spirits.
- shortness of breath
- difficulty regaining breath during physical activity
- chronic cough
- chest tightness
- a whistling sound when breathing, or wheezing
Tannin and breathing problems
Particularly problematic with people who experience difficulty breathing when drinking are alcohols that contain a high tannin count. These are the types of alcohols typically brewed in oak barrels, where over time they pick up the tannins from the wood. While the practice yields aromatic red wine, good beer, and quality whiskey, it can not only aggravate your breathing, it can exacerbate the symptoms of Asian flush in general.
Tip: Be strategic with your choice of drink.
Gin or vodka based cocktails or mixers are great low tannin alternative if you want to go easy on the reaction. If you want to do wine, do white instead of red.
Best drinking practices to avoid breathing difficulties when drinking
Let’s also repeat some general rules of thumb when it comes to any drinking - and especially if you have more difficulties with it than most:
- Eat beforehand, but lightly
- Don’t cross your limits and learn how slow your pace needs to be in order for you to not experience any trouble breathing at all
- Exercise and get your body used to using oxygen more efficiently
The one thing you can do - supplementing
It's precisely these other toxins that come along with alcohol consumption that supplementation does a great job of reducing. For example, the main metabolic by-product of alcohol in the human body, what we’ve referred to time and time again, as the culprit for most alcohol related problems - acetaldehyde has been shown to be the prime cause of breathing difficulty in 30-40% of East Asian alcohol drinkers.
Asian flush specific supplements such as Sunset Alcohol Flush Support help reduce the amount of acetaldehyde in your blood when you consume alcohol. This helps you breathe easier and allows you to enjoy alcohol like everyone else.
It’s a high quality N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) based Asian flush supplement, and the reason why it’s so effective is because it ensures the stores of glutathione in your liver don’t become depleted when you've had a few drinks or more.
To learn more about why having low acetaldehyde levels is important if you have trouble breathing, check out our comprehensive article titled: The Ultimate Guide to Asian Flush and Asian Glow.
Otherwise, take our word for it and get yourself a reliable Asian flush pill you can pop prior to drinking and not worry about anything.
At Reset, we always want to spark a discussion about Asian flush and Asian glow. If you have any comments, or want to share your experience living with Asian flush/Asian glow, be sure to drop us a line!