I think my biggest fear from embracing complete healthy living is knowing that I am going to eventually have to give up things I enjoy. I decided to share one of the issues that has started presenting itself to me more frequently.
When I have a drink containing alcohol: margaritas, wine, or beer, my face can turn bright red. It may not happen every time, but I have started to make the connection. It’s definitely something I need to start keeping an eye on when I drink, so that I can fully understand what’s going on. If it continues to be a problem, some things may need to change. This is a very sad reality for someone who loves craft beer as much as I do!
In order to better understand what is going on, I did some research on the Internet. I was quite disappointed in the quality of the information I was able to find. Basically, it has to do with the incomplete metabolism of alcohol. When ethanol metabolizes, it is oxidized to form acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde isn’t a great byproduct, but luckily it is further oxidized by the enzyme acetaldehyde dehydrogenase into the acetate anion, which is much less toxic and easy to eliminate.
This is a scientifically sound article on the chemistry of ethanol:
According to this article, high levels of acetaldehyde can cause facial flushing, nausea, and a rapid heartbeat. The flushing can occur after only a moderate amount of drinking. That’s good to know because it happened as I was about half way through one beer! Apparently this “alcohol flush reaction” is most prevalent in people of Asian descent, but it can happen in anyone. This is rather concerning, as having excess acetaldehyde stick around could be really bad for you! I just would expect it to happen every time if it was due to excessive acetaldehyde build-up.
At the same time, having a red-face isn’t something new to me, so maybe it’s not a lack of acetaldehyde dehydrogenase, but just that my blood vessels are close to the surface of my skin. I quickly turn red when I am embarrassed (and it doesn’t take much to elicit that response). When I exercise vigorously, I turn so red that it looks like I am dying, when sometimes, I don’t even feel winded. It seems like my heart rate comes down long before my face returns to its normal color. Spicy food can also make my face red. It could just be me… I was once diagnosed with rosacea and was given doxycycline to help my facial redness; it turned my face more red! Apparently, I was allergic to doxycycline on top of having rosacea.
Perhaps the rosacea connection is part of the equation. I read several articles that people with rosacea tend to struggle with alcohol flush and it doesn’t take much alcohol to trigger the reaction. This is a nice article on rosacea and the many things that can turn your face red:
According to this article, it’s the fermented sugars and carbohydrates that is the problem. They suggest lighter and domestic beers (rather than darker or foreign beers), white wine (rather than red), mixing liquor with soda or juice (as opposed to drinking it straight, I guess – yuck) and additional hydration when drinking. Good suggestions, but light, domestic beer… No thanks!!
I guess I have more work to do to figure out what is causing my red face…
I took a picture last night, although my husband and friend said my face wasn’t as red by the time I took the picture. I’ll share it for fun….
Maybe the alternative is to just wear makeup and cover my red face with foundation… Nah! I don’t see that happening! Hahaha!