Feeling flushed? Why alcohol might give your face a red glow

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Feeling flushed? Why alcohol might give your face a red glow

August 11, 2017

While many of us enjoy a drink or two, some people experience a warm, red flush on their cheeks and skin when they consume alcohol. In more extreme cases, it can even lead to itching of the skin and feeling dizzy and nauseous. This is commonly referred to as alcohol flush. People who suffer from this alcohol flush reaction often feel very embarrassed and sometimes even avoid drinking alcohol.

So, why does your face turn red when you drink alcohol? Why do some people react to alcohol in this way while others don’t have to worry about turning the colour of a tomato? Evergreen Life explains more.

What exactly is alcohol flush?

When you drink alcohol your body produces enzymes known as aldehyde dehydrogenase that convert the toxins produced from the oxidisation of the alcohol (these are known as acetaldehyde) into harmless acids. Normally, this process ensures your body can get rid of that nasty acetaldehyde.

Unfortunately, there are some people who do not produce efficient enzymes and therefore the acetaldehyde toxins do not get processed quickly and remain in the body for longer. These toxins are poisonous and the body reacts by turning your skin red or making you feel sick or dizzy.

Why does it affect some people and not others?

It all comes down to your DNA and a gene called ALDH2. It is this gene’s job to produce the enzymes that process the acetaldehyde toxins. Lucky people will have ALDH2 genes that efficiently metabolise the toxins, while the less fortunate have genes that produce inactive enzymes that slow down the metabolism process.

How can alcohol flush affect your health?

As well as skin redness and allergy-type reactions, alcohol flush can affect your weight if you regularly drink a lot, especially if you drink sugary alcoholic drinks. When you combine alcohol with sugars and other added ingredients, the calorie count can quickly rise. 

So, if your ability to metabolise alcohol is low, your body will struggle to deal with alcohol. This means you’re much more likely to start storing fat due to increased blood sugar levels and calorie intake. Slowing down your rate and frequency of alcohol and choosing low-sugar alcohol (spirits with sugar-free mixers) should help to reduce any side effects associated with drinking alcohol.

Are there any treatments?

The good news is that next time you turn red in the face while drinking a gin and tonic, you can tell your friends it isn’t you, it’s your genes! The not so good news is that you can’t change your genes and there are very few proven treatments to alcohol flush.

The most effective solution is to not drink, and if you have very serious reactions to alcohol this may be the best option. Some people find that their symptoms are reduced if they take antihistamines, however as there can also be negative effects when you combine these with alcohol - it is not recommended.

Assess your risk of alcohol flush reaction

Understanding your genetic makeup can give you a better insight into how your body functions and why. By doing genetic testing and learning more about your DNA, you can see whether or not you're likely to be susceptible to alcohol flush.

An Evergreen Life DNA testing kit will provide you with everything you need to know about your genes that are affecting your body’s ability to process alcohol. Our DNA testing kits can help you learn more about aspects of your diet, fitness, metabolism and skin. Find out more and order your kit today!

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