Imagine this: you drink a couple of glasses of your favorite wine, and then a person at that same party points out your face that has flushed to a red, almost resembling your red wine. The classic alcoholic red face, but what does it mean? Are you drunk? Is it a reaction? So many questions racing through your mind.
This alcohol-induced flushing is also called the Asian flush, as many people and many Asians lack a certain type of ALDH2 gene, an enzyme that breaks the acetaldehyde into acetate and water that is formed when the alcohol is broken down in the liver to form this acetaldehyde. Since this compound is not broken down it remains in the liver and causes numerous symptoms including red alcohol flushing, nausea, vomiting, and headache.
What Causes This Redness?
It is the blood vessels underneath the skin dilating, which happens as a reaction from the immune system against the toxic acetaldehyde. While the redness and other symptoms like headaches are what we call short-term effects, in the long term people who are prone to alcohol-induced flushing are at a higher risk of oesophageal cancer.
While there are ways to help with the symptoms of this alcohol intolerance, there is no one-shot way yet to increase the metabolic efficiency to break the aldehyde thus this toxic compound remains in one’s body. Does that mean that all they can do is smoke and should restrain from drinking together? Actually no, we often forget that cigarettes and E-cigarettes also hold acetaldehyde within them, consequently increasing acetaldehyde levels in the body as well.
There is no real remedy here to this enzyme deficiency other than to not consume alcohol or consume very little of it. Is this a problem to worry about? No, it is not something to worry about but rather something everyone must be made aware of so that they can take preventive measures. There is nothing to feel ashamed about this enzyme deficiency, and one must certainly not let peer pressure come into the picture. On the bright side if the correct precautions are taken this enzyme absence leads to a healthier liver.