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Weird Alcohol Allergy: Are there other people who suffer from this?

Hi chowhounders...I was recently diagnosed with this weird GI disease (eosinophilic esophagitis) that makes my throat swell and close, much like asthma. I was drinking a Muscat when I first choked (thankfully I was rushed to the ER), and then it happened again when drinking a grain-based micro-brew, about 7 months ago.

Through severe trial and error, I have found that I can tolerate potato vodka, high-grade rice-wine sake, and, horror of horrors, cheap and watery beers, (such as PBR. I'm either a very expensive or very cheap date now). It looks like my allergic reactions are based in grain and grape beverages (though I'm not a celiac), so I was hoping some of you may have some interesting alternatives that can be consumed with meals. Sulfite free wines have unfortunately shown dismal (deadly) results.

Any advice appreciated!

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  1. Yes I have also recently discovered that I am allergic to alcohol and not just wine, but anything containing alcohol. I have run into a few people with the same allergy but I have been told there is no allergy testing available to confirm it. So it's basically trial and error and listening to your body.

    Miss red wine but learning to cope with it. So now bartenders hate me and I'm always the designated driver :) But I feel so much better all around since I totally stopped drinking alcohol, so I'm cool with it. Cheers.

    1. Laird's apple jack. It's made with apples. Might want to give it a try.

      About six years ago, after enjoying red wines all my life, I got queasy after drinking half a bottle of Chateau Meyney - one of my fave French humble crus. It was the same queasiness I get when drinking strong dark tea. The next few bottles of red were hit or miss. One of my oenophile friends told me I was getting a reaction to the tannins in red wine. Turns out he was right. I've been focusing on lower-tannin wines without problems, lately.

      3 Replies
      1. re: shaogo

        Many years ago, I discovered that I was allergic to young Cabernet Sauvignon. It only manifested itself when I drank something that was less than about 4-5 years old. I would flush very quickly, my sinus passages would swell and sometimes I got diarrhea. This only happens with CabSauv. I can drink +5 year Cab and any year of Pinot Noir or Syrah with no problem. I was told by an allergist/immunologist that there is probably some unique histamine in the young Cab that dissipates over time, in the bottle. So, now I can only drink older quality Cabernet, sigh; such are the trials of life. :-)

        1. re: araknd

          I'm allergic to Mad Dog 2020...At least I don't miss out on much. I have a good friend who is allergic to barley, so he can't have beer.

          1. re: araknd

            Definitely sounds tannin related to me.

        2. Hey..on Christmas eve i found out that i was allergic to alcohol. or did I? I was drinking a glass of wine and all of a sudden i started getting really hot and itchy. so i went to the bathroom and my face was completely inflammed and red! i took benadryl and it went away within 15 minutes. The next day, my sister made a kaluha and milk mix and after i had a couple of sips, i had the same reaction as i did the night before. as the days went on i would try different alcohols and within minutes i would get the same reaction. I tried. beer, vodka, kaluha, wine (red and white), rum, you name it. One night, my husband was drinking crown royal and ginger ale with his friends and kissed my cheek and my shoulder and within minutes,,i had a massive rash on my shoulder and cheek! I went to see my dermatologist and she told me that she thinkgs is something called Asian Flushing Syndrome. When i asked her what it was she said that only asians get it because they don't have the enzyme to break down alcochol so their body reacts differently.
          Im not totally thrilled with diagnosis so i am going to see an allergist to get a second opinion. I'm just really confused because i have always been able to drink..now im the driver!!

          1. Your problems might be liver enzyme related.

            1. I have a similar situation. I am being tested for EE, but have not been able to enjoy microbrews for several years due to a swelling of the throat. I don't have alternative suggestions for you on drinks, but I am able to enjoy all wines, Guiness, macrobrews, etc. British, Mexican, and German beers are also ok for me.

              1. My wife suffers from similar, though quite different. In her case, it is extreme lower-GI distress. This does not seem to occur with most whites, does not occur with San Giovese-based wines (domestic, or foreign to the US), or with most Zins. Younger Cab/Merlots give her fits.

                Not the same, but still a GI issue. No respiratory distress.


                1. While it never caused a severe problem, over the past four years I've noticed minor swelling around my lower eye lid area after consuming only one alcoholic beverage. The swelling would typically disappear over the next 24 to 48 hours. Then, out of the blue in April 2010 after a party I noticed light swelling on one side of my face, the next moring I woke to find severe swelling of my cheek and eye lids. After multiple visits to an Internist, E.N.T., Periodontist, Endodontist, CT Scan, Dermotologist, none could find a cause. Over a 2 month period I continued to experience swelling on either cheek and around my eyes, and had been prescribed Zpack, then Zpack and Prednisolone 4mg. The Zpack had no effect, but the Prednisolone appeared to work, however, since I had not yet made a connection between alcohol and facial swelling I continued to consume white wine and belgian beer and the effects of the medication appeared to be moderately effective.

                  About 10 weeks into suffering from swelling the puzzeled my physicians and frustrated the hell out of me, I finally made the alcohol connection. So, having discovered the problem, I simply stopped drinking alcohol and for 6 weeks I had no recurrence. Then, out of no where, I wake up in the middle of the night after feeling my entire face beginning to swell. I couldn't understand what happened, the only thing I done differently was to have dinner at a friends home... I had no alcohol, then I thought OMG did they use wine to marinate the steak they served? A quick call in the morning confirmed there was no wine used, but there was white balsamic vinegar and white raison used in the salad... then, I thought what about the sushi roll I had at 3pm before going to my friends home for dinner, I'd completely forgotten that rice wine vinegar is used to prepare the sushi rice... a round of prednisolone took care of my facial swelling and 4 weeks later I haven't experienced problems from swelling. On July 26th I went to an allergist/immunologist and after a round of testing found that I'm also allergic to shrimp and vanilla. As an Executive Chef, it's difficult enough to discover I have an allergy/reaction to alcohol and some vinegars. But to add shrimp and vanilla further complicates my problem. The allergist prescribed prednisolone and epipens for back up... parkrangerolivia, I'd strongly recomment you carry an epipen with you when you eat out.

                  Next week I have more testing with the allergist, however he suspects that I may have developed an enzyme deficiency and am not able to breakdown alcohol.