While the health benefits of drinking wine in moderation continue to make news, for some with allergies even a glass a day may be difficult to swallow. At the annual scientific meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) in Boston, Nov. 3-8, allergists share the latest buzz on allergies to alcohol and tobacco.
“Although it’s rare, allergies to alcohol can cause symptoms such as red, itchy eyes, nasal congestion, upset stomach and difficulty breathing,” said allergist Sami Bahna, MD, ACAAI past president, and chief of Allergy and Immunology at Louisiana State University Medical School in Shreveport. “In most cases, simply understanding what triggers the allergic reaction will help the person find an alternative drink to enjoy.”
Reactions can be triggered by naturally occurring ingredients in beer and wine, including barley, ethanol, grapes, histamine, hops, malt, oats, tryptamine, tyramine, wheat, and yeast. Other potential allergens may be introduced to beer and wine during processing, including egg whites, which are sometimes used as a filtering agent, and sulfites, which occur naturally in wine but also may be added as a preservative.
Allergic reactions to alcohol can produce minor symptoms such as rash, or life-threatening reactions including asthma attacks and anaphylaxis. In his presentation, Dr. Bahna discusses case studies of patients who experience symptoms of asthma and anaphylaxis after drinking wine or beer. He points out that wine, particularly red wine, contains chemicals called tyramines that commonly cause headache.
“Individuals can be allergic to the alcohol itself or an added ingredient, but even when people are not allergic, they may not realize that alcohol can worsen existing allergy symptoms, particularly food allergies,” Dr. Bahna added.
Similar to diagnosing a food allergy, Dr. Bahna explains, once an allergist helps someone pinpoint which allergens are causing a reaction, simply avoiding the beverage is the best solution.
Drink wine its good for your immune system!
Red wine unlike many other alcoholic beverages, does not subdue the immune system, according to nutrition researcher Susan Percival from the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. While red wine has been reported to aid in the prevention of heart disease and cancer, there has been no studies as to whether alcohol content might neutralise any benefits.
Percival’s new research seems to indicate that the circulating white blood cells that fight infection are not helped, or hurt by red wine consumption. “There’s been a lot of publicity lately on the health benefits of red wine, but we also know that alcohol suppresses the immune system. …So we wanted to find out whether red wine had a suppressive effect on immunity.”
Resveratrol, the polypherol in red wine, is a supplement that can turn on the sirtuin genes, which are programmed to keep the body alive. Every time you take resveratrol (more potent in supplement form), it “turns on” the genes that order the immune system and the body to stay alive.
Have you ever wondered about the French paradox, where the richness of French cuisine does not increase the incidence of cardiovascular disease in France?
It’s the resveratrol factor, says Dr. Ron Rothenberg, founder of the California Healthspan Institute.
What’s the healthy daily wine dosage? Health experts say not more than two glasses of wine for men and one glass for women. Not more.
by Kate Melville
Dr. Bahna also shared research related to tobacco smoke and its effect on allergic disease. While it may seem like common sense that tobacco smoke as a strong irritant worsens asthma, it can also affect seasonal allergy sufferers. Studies show that exposure to smoke can enhance sensitivity to airborne substances like pollen and mold spores, which wreak havoc during spring and fall allergy seasons each year.
“The health risks of tobacco smoke are widespread whether your exposure is a result of active smoking, passive exposure through second-hand smoke, or indirect exposure from pregnant mother to her unborn child,” said Dr. Bahna. “People with allergies and asthma should be especially careful to avoid any exposure to tobacco smoke.”
Red Wine Maintains Immune System
According to a study published in 1999 by the University of Florida, red wine does not supress the immune system like other alcoholic beverages.
Red wine is well known for its health benefits - from helping fight heart disease and cancer, to warding off Alzheimers and extending life in general. There had been some concern in the past, though, that as an alcoholic beverage it might share in some of the immune-system supression that tends to come with the alcohol.
Susan Percival, a nutrition and immunity specialist, performed a two month study on mice to examine what immune system reactions red wine caused on mammals. Her team examined mice of various drinking levels - non-drinkers, red wine drinkers, and heavy alcohol drinkers. They found that those who drank the red wine had a normal level of immunity, the same as that of the non-drinking mice.
Ms. Percival explained that the level of red wine consumption for the mice would equal that of a human drinking two or three glasses a night.
The research group wishes to do further studies, to determine what substance in red wine helps differentiate it from the other alcohols. The group also plans on performing studies on humans to see if the findings hold up with adult drinkers.
American Wine Society (AWS)
Studies show that tobacco smoke:
• enhances sensitivity to airborne substances like pollen or spores
• increases bronchial sensitivity to specific irritants
• paves the way to the development of asthma
• worsens asthma
• increases the risk of developing COPD
• increases the risk of emphysema and lung cancer.
Allergists have the training and expertise to treat more than just the allergy symptoms. Those who suspect they have reactions to alcohol, food, or tobacco should be evaluated by an allergist - a doctor who is an expert in diagnosing and treating allergies and asthma.
The ACAAI is a professional medical organization headquartered in Arlington Heights, Ill., that promotes excellence in the practice of the subspecialty of allergy and immunology. The College, comprising more than 5,000 allergists-immunologists and related health care professionals, fosters a culture of collaboration and congeniality in which its members work together and with others toward the common goals of patient care, education, advocacy and research.
Source: American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI)