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Nov 30, 2007 11:16 AM

Question for Maria Lorraine (or???) about wine reaction

I'm directing this to Maria Lorraine because I know she has done a lot of searching on the subject of reaction to wine, but anyone's help would be appreciated.

I've recently been asked if I am aware of any specific link between wine reaction in the form of hives or rash and menopause. This question came from a woman who says she and several friends have been having that reaction since the onset of menopause. I have not been aware of any specifics on this, but I found the question interesting enough to see if anyone here knows anything about it.

I do remember the link between ashtmatic conditions and similar reaction, but not to anything else that speciifc. It isn't difficult, however, to conclude that hormonal changes could affect sensitivity to alcohol or other things.

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  1. Reporting for duty...

    Yes, wine often causes hot flashes in women experiencing menopause. The effect is often rather dramatic, with obvious reddening and sweating. The exact mechanism for this is unknown. Harvard has done some studies that indicate women experiencing menopausal hot flashes "have a lower tolerance for changes in the body’s core (innermost) temperature than women who don’t have hot flashes."

    Alcohol causes a destablization of core body temperature, as does spicy food (another cause of hot flashes), sweating and flushing being the result. Perhaps a hot flash is merely a magnified version of what we all experience -- man or woman, menopausal or not -- when eating spicy food.

    2 Replies
    1. re: maria lorraine

      Apologies for not addressing the hives/rash question, but instead answering your question as though you were describing a reddening/sweating/hot flash kind of thing.

      Do you, or these women experiencing menopause, mean actual hives or rash, meaning raised red welts or bumps? Specifically, these are symptoms of an allergic reaction, but to what I cannot tell you. Sulfites in wine have been ruled out as causing allergic reactions (sulfites, period, do not cause allergic reactions). Histamines in wine causing reactions have pretty much been ruled out also.

      If you are asking if hormonal changes cause a woman experiencing menopause to be more susceptible to allergic reactions, that is a huge question, and one beyond my lay capabilities. That's a question for the individual woman and her doctor.

      If, instead, the words "hives" or "rash" are being used colloquially to describe flushing or reddening, usually of the face and chest, after drinking, then this has several causes. A mild version of the aforementioned hot flash, or the too-quick conversion of alcohol to acetaldehyde, which has been discussed previously on this board, are two such causes. Beyond that, I don't know. Sorry.

      1. re: maria lorraine

        Not 100% sure, but the woman said "hives" and "a rash". I can't know for sure until I speak with her again, but that sounds to me like more than just flushing or reddening. I guess 'bumps' would be the defining difference though. If she comes back, I'll ask more specific questions.

    2. Not quite on topic, and only anecdotal, but since menopause, my sister has completely lost her tolerance for wine. Beer, or spirits, are fine, but two glasses of wine and she's toast.