Do you experience allergy or asthma-type symptoms when you drink a glass of wine? This is not as uncommon as you might think and in some cases the symptoms can be life threatening. What causes wine allergic reactions and if you have one does it mean you can’t drink alcohol at all?
Many so-called wine allergic reactions are not true allergies at all but are related to the sulfites used to preserve red and white wine as well as beer. If you’re able to drink other forms of alcohol without a problem but have problems with wine and beer, you may be experiencing a sulfite reaction. Generally, wine allergic reactions that are related to the presence of sulfate give rise to asthmatic type symptoms such as wheezing and shortness of breath, although occasionally a more serious anaphylactic type reaction can occur with hives, lightheadedness, rapid heart beat, and even collapse. A sulfite sensitivity is something you want to take seriously.
If you’re sensitive to sulfites, which is particularly common in asthmatics, the sulfites act as an irritant which causes the airways to clamp down resulting in wheezing and other asthmatic type symptoms. In most cases, an allergy test will be negative, suggesting that this isn’t a true allergic reaction. Keep in mind that if you’re sensitive to sulfites, you’ll need to avoid other potential sources of this preservative such as dried fruits, molasses, pickled foods, and even some medications. Ask your doctor for a complete list of food and drinks to avoid.
Another possible cause of so-called wine allergic reactions is related to the by-products of the fermentation process used to make the wine. Some of these components including a substance known as tyramine have properties similar to histamine, a protein produced when your body experiences an allergic reaction. Histamine causes many of the characteristic changes you see with a true allergic reaction such as swelling, rash, dizziness, and itching. Because of the residual fermentation by-products present in the wine, you can experience symptoms similar to a true allergic reaction when you drink a glass of wine.
Other causes of wine allergic reactions include allergies to the grapes in the wine or the yeast used for fermentation. In some cases what may appear to be a wine allergic reaction is actually caused by a deficiency in the enzyme that breaks down alcohol known as aldehyde dehydrogenase. This occurs most commonly in the Oriental population and is characterized by marked facial flushing after consuming alcohol. This will occur when drinking any alcohol, not just wine.
As you can see the causes of apparent wine allergic reactions are varied and most are not true allergic reactions. If you experience any of these symptoms, you may want to stick to non-alcoholic drinks.