Alcohol Flush (Asian Flush) has made me a self conscious drinker since college. By the end of my first drink I’m as red as a tomato and can feel my heart beating in my chest. I’ve spent the last few years experimenting with several types of alcohol and supplement strategies to reduce the effects of my “Asian Glow”.
For those unfamiliar Asian Glow is a condition where the body does not produce an enzyme called ALDH2, which is necessary to for the body to metabolize acetaldehyde, a toxic compound created when the body digests alcohol. Without ALDH2 this toxic compound builds up in the body and causes a host of side effects, including flushing.
Based on trial and error I have a few practical tips that should help anyone dealing with an alcohol intolerance enjoy a drink or two every now and then. However, it goes without saying that everyone’s genetic profile is different and while these strategies should reduce the side effects of alcohol intolerance it is not meant to be a cure in anyway.
1. Limit Alcohol Intake
The only way to completely prevent Asian Flush is to completely abstain from alcohol. Sadly, this is not practical for most adults 100% of the time. Because of this limiting yourself to 1-2 drinks still allows you to participate socially while minimizing the negative physical impact.
|Lowers acetaldehyde concentration
|Reduces flush intensity
|Dilutes alcohol in the bloodstream
2. Proper Drink Selection
In my experience, I’ve found that some types of alcohol can significantly exacerbate the symptoms of Asian Glow much more than others. To mitigate severe flushing, I opt for beverages with a lower alcohol by volume (ABV) and favor clear alcohols that tend to have lower histamine levels. This strategy minimizes the chances of an adverse skin reaction
Instead I’ve found that there are some alcohols that produce a much less powerful effect than others, and it is primarily related to the alcohol content in the beverages. Drinking a low ABV beer or mixing a clear alcohol with soda water is a great way to reduce the actual amount of alcohol your are consuming per drink.
I’ve found that sticking to low ABV drinks or cutting my drinks with soda water turns my dark red skin rash into a subtle rosy glow.
For instance, selecting a vodka or gin over whiskey or beer can make a noticeable difference. High ABV drinks, dark liquors, and those with a high sugar content often intensify the flushing, headache, and other discomforts linked to this condition.
Here’s what I’ve gathered on how to select drinks wisely when dealing with Asian Flush:
- Opt for Low ABV: Aim for drinks with lower ABV percentages. Beverages like light beers and spritzers typically fall into this category.
- Choose Clear Liquors: Clear liquors such as vodka are usually lower in histamines and congeners which may contribute to a reduced flushing response.
- Steer Clear of Certain Ingredients: Cocktails high in sugar or containing ingredients with high histamine levels, such as certain fruits or aged spirits, might increase the likelihood and intensity of Asian Glow symptoms.
This straightforward approach isn’t a cure, but it can help you enjoy a social drink without the worst of Asian Glow’s effects.
3. Drink Lots Of Water
When I consume alcohol, it’s broken down into acetaldehyde, a toxic byproduct that’s responsible for Alcohol Intolerance / Asian glow. Hydration is crucial for diluting the alcohol (and acetaldehyde) concentration in my bloodstream. By drinking water before, during, and after alcohol consumption, I help my body to process and eliminate the toxic substances more efficiently. This can alleviate common symptoms like headache, nausea, and dizziness by reducing the overall impact of ethanol on my health. Basically, the more you pee, the more you will be able to relieve the buildup of toxins!
Key Points about Hydration:
- Before Drinking: I make sure to drink water to prepare my body for alcohol metabolism.
- While Drinking: I alternate between alcoholic beverages and water, aiming to have at least one glass of water for every drink.
- After Drinking: I continue to consume water to aid my body in flushing out toxins.
Remember, staying hydrated may not prevent the Asian glow, but it’s effective for mitigating its uncomfortable side effects. I generally aim for chugging a full glass (12 ounces) right before and right after alcohol consumption.
4. Eat Before Consuming Alcohol
Having some food before drinking is a great way to slow the toxin build up and give your body a chance to excrete some of the acetaldehyde. Before a night of drinking I prefer to eat proteins and fats, as they help form a lining within my stomach. This slows down the process of alcohol reaching my small intestine, where absorption occurs more rapidly.
In particular, foods with healthy fats, like avocados, can be particularly effective. I avoid light snacks like chips or pretzels alone, as these don’t have the same slowing effect and do nothing to help my stomach prepare for alcohol.
Ultimately, balancing alcohol intake with food can contribute to better overall health and more controlled alcohol tolerance, while also mitigating the rapid onset of symptoms associated with Asian flush.
5. Use Supplements To Help Detoxify Acetaldehyde Build Up
Outside of simply reducing the amount of alcohol I consume, there are a few supplements that have helped to greatly reduce my flushing by delivering detoxifying antioxidants to my body:
- Glutathione: Sometimes called the body’s ‘master antioxidant,’ glutathione actively breaks down acetaldehyde. It is crucial in the maintenance and regulation of the immune system, and its levels can be bolstered through direct supplementation.
- Alpha Lipoic Acid: This potent antioxidant aids in the regeneration of glutathione and can also assist in repairing liver damage. It helps ensure that my liver functions optimally.
- Vitamin C: As an antioxidant, Vitamin C enhances the body’s ability to combat oxidative stress caused by acetaldehyde. Consistent intake can reinforce the immune system and support the detoxification pathways in my liver.
- N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC): NAC is a precursor to glutathione and works to enhance the body’s ability to metabolize alcohol more effectively. It helps in minimizing the toxic effects that may lead to symptoms of Asian Flush.
These supplements are all a part of my daily regimen, as they help provide a buffer if I decide to have a drink. It’s important to note that this supplement combination is not a cure, but it does reduce the effects of flushing if I decide to consume alcohol.
Other Ways To Limit Alcohol Flushing
There are a lot of DIY testimonials and anecdotes on places like Reddit where people claim they successfully “cured” their flushing by taking some sort of Pepcid. While Pepcid products can reduce short term redness in the skin they do not address the underlying issue of acetaldehyde accumulation in the body.
This can give people dealing with Asian flush a false sense of security that they can drink more than usual which can cause a significant toxin build up.
Without proper breakdown of acetaldehyde—usually handled by the enzyme acetaldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH2)—toxins continue to linger, posing potential long-term health risks. Even though the red glow is less than ideal it serves as a warning signal to your body that you need to stop drinking.
Regardless of the severity of your Asian Flush I recommend closely monitoring your alcohol intake. This is the best way to your to understand how your own body works and make decisions you are comfortable with.