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Have you ever felt unwell after just one or two drinks, when you’ve been able to handle alcohol easily in the past? If this rings true, you might be experiencing alcohol intolerance. This perplexing condition can seemingly manifest overnight, leaving many bewildered and wondering what’s changed. Let’s explore the various factors that could be causing your sudden onset alcohol intolerance and highlight the importance of seeking appropriate help with a substance abuse treatment program if you find your relationship with alcohol changing. 

What Is Alcohol Intolerance? 

Alcohol intolerance describes a range of unwanted symptoms that can occur after the consumption of alcoholic beverages. While some may be swift and clear indicators that a drink is not agreeing with you, such as an itchy throat or rash, others are subtler, including facial flushing or a rapid heart rate.  The incidence of sudden onset alcohol intolerance is higher than you might think. Many individuals have reported feeling fine one day and the next, experiencing a negative reaction to even the smallest amount of alcohol, leading them to query what could be the root cause. 

What’s Happening in Your Body 

When we consume alcohol, it’s absorbed into the bloodstream and metabolized in the liver. For most people, the process involves a series of complex conversions, finally producing acetic acid, carbon dioxide, and water. However, those with alcohol intolerance have varying degrees of difficulty breaking down alcohol, which leads to an accumulation of acetaldehyde—a toxic byproduct of alcohol metabolism.  It’s important to note that alcohol intolerance is not the same as an alcohol allergy. While both conditions can produce unwanted reactions, an allergy is an immune response, whereas intolerance relates to the body’s inability to metabolize alcohol effectively. 

Factors Contributing to Alcohol Intolerance 

The causes of alcohol intolerance can be multi-faceted, involving genetic, enzymatic, medicinal, and lifestyle connections. 

Genetic Factors 

Your genetic makeup can play a significant role in alcohol intolerance. Certain ethnicities, particularly those of East Asian descent, are more likely to experience adverse effects due to a genetic variation that affects how their bodies process alcohol. 

Enzyme Deficiencies 

One of the primary enzymes involved in the metabolism of alcohol is alcohol dehydrogenase. Deficiencies in these enzymes can occur, making alcohol breakdown inefficient and leading to the onset of alcohol intolerance. 

Medications and Medical Conditions 

Some medications, when combined with alcohol, can produce a ‘disulfiram-like reaction.’ This reaction is a result of the combination of acetaldehyde build-up in the body and the medication, leaving the individual feeling sick.   

Symptoms of Alcohol Intolerance 

The symptoms of alcohol intolerance can range from mild to severe. Facial flushing is one of the most common symptoms observed, which is a result of blood vessels dilating. Other symptoms may include:  
  • Nausea  
  • Rapid heart rate  
  • Headache  
  • Respiratory difficulties 
Remember that alcohol intolerance can sometimes serve as an early warning sign of an alcohol use disorder. If you find that you are consuming alcohol despite adverse effects, consider reaching out to a behavioral health center for support in managing or stopping your alcohol consumption.   

Get Help Today From a Behavioral Health Center 

For individuals navigating the difficult landscape of alcohol intolerance and its possible links to alcohol addiction, reaching out for help is the first step toward a healthier relationship with alcohol. Behavioral health centers offer a range of treatments and support systems to address alcohol use disorders.  Whether you’re experiencing sudden alcohol intolerance or have been battling with the effects of excessive alcohol consumption for some time, alcohol addiction treatment is available. Contact a reputable behavioral health center today and start your journey toward recovery. Remember, it’s never too late to take control of your health and make positive changes for your well-being.