Allergies |The Wine Allergy You Don’t Know You Have
Brace yourself, wine lovers; this may be the worst news yet. A recent study shows that a surprising number of drinkers are allergic to vino—without even knowing it. And your health isn’t happy about it.
Researchers from Johannes Gutenberg University questioned hundreds of people living in a wine-producing region of western Germany. Of the roughly 950 respondents, nearly 25% of the group reported at least mild signs of alcohol intolerance—signs that are often chalked up to other issues. The most common symptoms included flushed skin, itching, nasal congestion, and increased heart rate. And here’s the worst part: Women were almost twice as likely as men to suffer from wine allergies, says study author Heinz Decker, PhD, who led the research effort.
Wine contains proteins from grapes, bacteria, and yeast, as well as sulfites and other organic compounds. Any one of those components—which are also found in beer and hard liquor—can cause an allergic-like reaction, says Decker. But red wine is the most likely to cause the unhappy allergic reaction: A specific type of protein allergen called “LTP” is found in the skins of the grapes (white wine is fermented without the grape skins).
So are you allergic to wine? If your typical glass of wine comes with flushing, nasal congestion, and diarrhea, or more severe reactions like vomiting, shortness of breath, or swelling of the lips, mouth, or throat, the answer could be yes.
On the other hand, you could be suffering from a more-general type of alcohol intolerance. Alcohol causes blood vessels to widen and expand, which can cause skin flushing in some people. So if that’s the only symptom you experience, you may be reacting to the ethanol present in any alcoholic drink, not just wine.
What should you do? If your symptoms are mild and you don’t mind them—who doesn’t like a rosy glow now and then?—you don’t have to do anything. If it’s red wine triggering the symptoms of an alcohol allergy, try switching to white. The same goes for beer and liquor: If you don’t react well to one type, try another. And of course, if your symptoms are more than mild, you may just have to leave your favorite bottle on the shelf.