Allergy to alcohol

I saw this image and quote, which I love, and it got me thinking.

For many decades, perceived medical wisdom was that stomach ulcers (both gastic and duodenal) were caused by stress and lifestyle factors like smoking, drinking and diet.  Until 1982 when it was discovered that a bacterium called Helicobacter pylori was responsible for many presenting cases and could be tested for and managed with a course of ‘triple therapy’ of two different types of antibiotics and a proton pump inhibitor (PPI).  The treatment of gastritis and stomach ulceration was revolutionised with this knowledge.

And then Veronica Valli shared a video of Elizabeth Vargas’ candid admission of her alcoholism on US television last week.  During the video interview she shared how she had described her disease to her children as an allergy to alcohol.

Now in the last 20 years allergies and intolerance’s to food have become common and in some instances, such as peanut allergies, can be life-threatening.  Their existence is accepted and they are managed accordingly.  So my logic was that in the same way that causes of stomach ulceration had been misunderstood in the past could our pigeon-holing and stereotyping of alcoholism have been a victim of the same narrow thinking?  If we were to broaden our thinking about alcohol dependency and alcoholism and consider it as an allergy to alcohol that had negative consequences for those who drank, would people be more likely to admit there was a problem and accept help?  Would it destigmatise the disease sufficiently that we could have an honest conversation with ourselves and each other about the substances effect on us and would it then be managed more appropriately before reaching the equally life-threatening stage?

I have an intolerance to wheat, like an increasing number of people I know, who chose to eat less of it because of the irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms they suffer as a consequence.  I am not afraid of people knowing this.  Would I be less reluctant to discuss my abstaining from alcohol if I could say that it was because I have an intolerance to it and my life is better if I exclude it, just like I do with wheat?

Just food for thought ……

8 thoughts on “Allergy to alcohol

  1. I think people need to take responsibility for their actions to properly recover, and called alcohol abuse a disease or an allergy is simply an excuse. Some people do not want to feel that they made bad choices in life and and want to avoid the idea that they were at fault in some way.

    1. I agree but I also think there needs to be a recognition that alcohol is an addictive substance and that dependence on it isn’t a personal failing but also a symptom of the substance itself, particularly when our culture and society seems to normalise it’s consumption. Thank you for reading and commenting! 🙂

  2. I think it is an allergy in some ways…I used to get red splotches on my face and chest when I would drink sometimes. I think once we know more about it, it will become less stigmatized. In the meantime, there is nothing bad about not drinking. WE know that it is so much better, right?! Nice post! 🙂

  3. I had the same experiences as Jen – I would get splotchy and red sometimes when I drank, and ALWAYS if I was also under fluorescent lights. Weird but true. And antihistamines helped, so even if it wasn’t the alcohol itself, it was definitely some ingredient in the wine or beer that I was reacting to. I have googled “allergy to alcohol” more than once. I really wonder if some sort of underlying physical intolerance is a factor for some people. You’re right, there is still so much we don’t know. Thanks for bringing this up!

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