Allergies to Alcohol

Alcohol may trigger respiratory allergies

Two recent studies have found that drinking alcohol can worsen allergy symptoms such as sneezing, itching, coughing and headaches. If you suffer from seasonal allergies, you may want to avoid alcoholic beverages until pollen season subsides.

It's not the alcohol itself that's the culprit, but rather the fact that beer, wine and liquor contain histamine, a chemical produced during the fermentation process. This is the same compound that produces allergic reactions in the body as part of an immune response. Wine and beer also contain sulfites, which can trigger asthma- or allergy-like symptoms as well.

Scientists in Sweden conducted a study involving thousands of people, and found that those suffering from asthma, bronchitis or hay fever were far more likely than the general population to experience runny noses, sneezing and other respiratory complaints after having a drink. Red and white wine produced the strongest effect, and women were about twice as likely to be affected as men.

Another study, published in the journal Clinical and Experimental Allergy, looked at thousands of women and found that two glasses of wine a day doubles the risk of allergy symptoms, even in women who did not have a history of allergies.

These findings suggest that allergy and asthma sufferers may want to avoid other foods that either contain histamine or cause it to be released in the body, such as aged cheeses, anything pickled or fermented, and foods containing yeast.

April 19, 2010

The New York Times

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