Have you recently noticed a shift in how your body reacts to drinking and wondered, “Why can’t I drink alcohol anymore without feeling sick”?
The truth is, there are many underlying causes for this; some are minor, and some are more serious. In this article, we explore the reasons behind increased sensitivity to alcohol, the range of factors that can contribute to a relationship change with alcohol, and what can be done about it.
Can My Relationship with Alcohol Change?
In short – yes. In our journey through life, the way our body interacts with substances (such as alcohol) can evolve, leading to different experiences and responses. So, what this means is that, although you might have been able to consume alcohol without experiencing any negative side effects in the past, this might not always be the case.
For many, this shift in the body’s relationship with alcohol can be a source of concern and confusion. It’s actually quite common to notice changes in how we react to alcohol, whether it’s feeling the effects more strongly or experiencing different physical symptoms.
So, Why Can’t I Drink Alcohol Anymore Without Feeling Sick?
If an individual can no longer consume alcohol without experiencing nausea, they’ve likely developed an alcohol intolerance, or at the very least, a heightened sensitivity to certain ingredients found in different beverages. Causes of this can be anything from age to starting a new medication, but we’ll provide more context around common causes later on in this article.
Understanding Alcohol Intolerance
Alcohol intolerance can be defined as experiencing unpleasant and uncomfortable symptoms after consuming alcohol.
Adverse reactions associated with alcohol intolerance can range from mild to severe and are often characterised by a set of specific symptoms. Various biological, environmental, and genetic factors can also influence this reaction.
- Biological factors. These include the body’s ability to process alcohol. Certain enzymes, such as alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) and aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH), are responsible for breaking down alcohol in the body. Deficiencies or variations in these enzymes can lead to an accumulation of acetaldehyde, which is a toxic byproduct of alcohol metabolism. This can cause alcohol intolerance symptoms.
- Genetic factors. Our genes can also play a significant role in developing an intolerance to alcohol. Variations in genes responsible for the production of enzymes that metabolise alcohol can lead to differences in how quickly and effectively alcohol is broken down in the body. These genetic differences can explain why some people experience more intense or adverse reactions to alcohol compared to others.
- Diet and lifestyle factors. Changes in diet can impact how our bodies metabolise alcohol. Lifestyle factors, including exercise and our overall health, can also play a role in alcohol tolerance. For example, a healthier lifestyle might improve liver function, potentially affecting how the body processes alcohol.
- Environmental factors. In addition to our diets, other environmental factors, such as exposure to alcohol at a young age, can also influence the development of alcohol intolerance. Additionally, certain medications and health conditions can exacerbate intolerance symptoms.
How to Recognise the Warning Signs of an Alcohol Intolerance
Symptoms of an alcohol intolerance can look like experiencing hangovers, changes in mental health following alcohol consumption, or physical reactions (including feeling sick or experiencing palpitations).
Other more obvious, common signs that are associated with alcohol intolerance include facial flushing, nausea, rapid heartbeat, headache, and experiencing some form of congestion, such as a runny nose. The severity and combination of symptoms can vary from person to person. But, in some cases, symptoms of alcohol intolerance can be quite severe, leading to significant discomfort.
It’s important to understand that changes in how the body reacts to alcohol may mean nothing, but it can also indicate that there might be an underlying cause.
Can You Be Diagnosed With Alcohol Intolerance?
If someone has developed an alcohol intolerance, it’s typically diagnosed based on symptoms and medical history.
There are currently no specific tests for it, but allergy testing can rule out an alcohol allergy to specific ingredients found in alcoholic beverages. It’s important to distinguish alcohol intolerance from alcohol allergies, which involve the immune system and can cause more severe allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis.
Managing alcohol intolerance primarily involves avoiding alcoholic drinks or limiting alcohol consumption. In some cases, medications may be prescribed to manage specific symptoms.
How to Manage Alcohol Sensitivity
Managing alcohol sensitivity is all about knowing how your body reacts to alcohol and taking steps to minimise any uncomfortable effects. See below for some general advice to avoid experiencing symptoms of alcohol intolerance.
- Listen to your body. Everyone’s different, so what works for one person might not work for you. Pay attention to how your body reacts and adjust your drinking habits accordingly. If you’re experiencing a flushed face, feel a headache coming on, feel nauseous, or experience low blood pressure consistently after drinking, this is a clear indicator that your body does not respond well to alcohol. We would recommend opting for alcohol-free alternatives.
- Moderation is key. If you’re drinking alcohol and worried about experiencing uncomfortable side effects, keep an eye on how much you drink. Knowing your limits and sticking to them is important.
- Stay hydrated. Drinking water before, during, and after having alcohol can help. It keeps you hydrated and might reduce some of those not-so-fun sensitivity symptoms.
- Eat before consuming alcohol. Having food in your stomach can slow down the absorption of alcohol. So, make sure to munch on something before you raise your glass.
- Understand the ingredients in alcoholic beverages – Some types of alcohol might agree with you more than others. For example, you might be okay with a glass of wine but not so much with a pint of beer. Pay attention to how different drinks affect you.
- Talk to your GP. If you’re really struggling with alcohol sensitivity and want to know why, it might be a good idea to chat with your doctor. They’ll be able to give you a better idea of what’s going on and rule out any underlying causes.
- Get support. If you’re finding it difficult to cut down on your alcohol intake, you might benefit from seeking professional support from addiction specialists, even if it’s just for advice.
- Go for alcohol-free options. There are plenty of great non-alcoholic beverages. From mocktails to non-alcoholic versions of your favourite drinks, there’s a lot to explore.
Need Advice? Speak to Us Today
We hope you’ve found our article helpful. If you’ve tried to limit your alcohol intake and are finding it difficult, give us a call on 0151 268 6992 today. Our team will be able to give you free advice and recommend any treatment avenues and resources that may be worth exploring.