Red Face and Alcohol

The last thing you want to have after binge drinking is a red face! Here we give you a low-down on the relation between red face and alcohol.
WellnessKeen Staff
Last Updated: Aug 21, 2018
Red face and alcohol often go hand in hand. And it's not only about embarrassment here! At every party you see that one guy who has had a lot to drink and his face is all red. This particular occurrence is known as alcohol flush reaction and is one of the side effects of alcoholism.
So what causes this reaction? The red face is more commonly seen among people of east Asian descent and hence, is also known as the Asian Flush. The red face makes the people feel more flustered.
Facts You May Want to Know...
☛ Most people do not know this, but an alcohol flush reaction is a potentially dangerous reaction in the body. Usually, when a person consumes alcohol, the liquid (primarily ethanol) is first converted to a substance known as acetaldehyde, by a compound known as alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH).
☛ Acetaldehyde is a potentially toxic substance, and is dangerous to the body which unless converted into acetic acid, will harm the body.
The body knows the dangers of acetaldehyde and hence it promptly releases a substance known as aldehyde dehydrogenase-2 (ALDH2) to break down the toxic acetaldehyde into carbon dioxide, water and fats which are non-toxic substances and can be processed by the body. Then the carbon dioxide and water is removed by the body and the fats are absorbed.
☛ But, in case of people who get this flush reaction, there is a slight mutation. Some people face the problem where the normal process of the ALDH2 gene is hampered by its genetic variant, known as ALDH2*2 allele.
The ALDH2*2 allele doesn't let the ALDH2 chemical to go about its normal job, detoxifying the dangerous acetaldehyde, which causes the alcohol flush reaction, or as you call it, red face.
Researchers say that this small mutation exists predominantly amongst east Asians. Nearly 45-50% of east Asians face the problem of alcohol flush reaction, while it is rarely seen amongst people from other parts of the world.
☛ Now, this whole scientific explanation is fine, but what exactly is it that causes the red face? The acetaldehyde causes a condition in the body known as erythema. It causes the blood capillaries in the face, neck and shoulder to dilate, which creates blotching of the facial skin. But this is still not the most worrying aspect of this condition.
Researchers say that people who experience a reaction have a 6 to 10 times higher chance of contracting esophageal cancer than those who don't.
» Reduced blood pressure
» Dizziness and drowsiness
» Swollen face
» Fatigue
» Headache
» Faster than normal pulse
» Vomiting
Any Cure?
Unfortunately, there is no known sure-shot cure for the alcohol flush reaction. Some people believe that stomach acid medication work, but it is always better to consult a doctor who knows your medical history before trying any new medication. It is best that you know your limits and how much alcohol your body can take.
Researchers claim that people who experience the alcohol flush reaction have a larger chance (6 to 10 times higher) of contracting esophageal cancer. Hence, it is better to lay off the drinks, or at least drink in moderation, than to come out red-faced later!
Disclaimer: The information provided is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.