Does Alcohol Trigger Asthma?

Mmmm beer!!!

I love beer. There’s nothing better than ending the day with an ice cold one. But, sometimes I like to have more than just one. And when I do, sometimes I experience asthma symptoms the next day. So, this got me to wondering: Is it possible alcohol triggers asthma symptoms?” Let’s investigate.

Alcohol contains allergens.

Some alcoholic beverages contain preservatives. Sulfites are a common preservative used in beer and wine. Some people with asthma may develop an allergy to sulfites. So, it can trigger both allergy and asthma symptoms.1

This seems to be the most well-accepted theory linking alcohol with asthma. I have found ample articles describing it. But, I’m not convinced I have an allergy to beer.

Alcohol Contains Histamine.

Histamine is a mediator of inflammation. This means that it may cause airway inflammation. It’s naturally released during the asthma and allergy responses. Our bodies also make an enzyme called diamine oxidase DAO. This enzyme metabalizes or breaks down histamine. It prevents histamine levels from getting too high.2

But, 1% of people are histamine intolerant. This means they don’t have enough DAO to break down histamine. So, what does this have to do with alcohol?

Well, alcohol contains histamine. When you drink you are adding histamine to your system. If you have ample supplies of DAO, no problem. But, if you’re histamine intolerant, histamine may build-up in your system. When this happens it may trigger allergy and asthma symptoms.2

I suppose this could cause my asthma symptoms the day after. But, I”m still not convinced.

Alcohol Causes Dehydration.

On the surface, this theory might seem a little odd. I mean, beer, wine, and other beverages are drinks. They contain mostly water. So, you’d think they would hydrate you. Right?

Well, if you drink, you’ve probably noticed that it makes you pee. Researchers say that, for every 200 ml of alcohol you consume, you pee out 320 ml 2-3 So, if you consume enough alcohol, it can dehydrate you. So, why is this important?

The part responsible for this is a part called the hypothalamus. It’s responsible for homeostasis. It’s responsible fr maintaining a state of normalcy inside your body. And one of it’s functions is to regulate water inside your body.

One hormone produced by the hypothalamus is vasopressin. Another name for this hormone is anti-diuretic hormoneADH. I like this name because it pretty much tells you what the hormone does: it prevents you from peeing.3-6

So, your hypothalamus is constantly checking the water levels of blood. If blood water levels are low, this means you’re dehydrated. This tells it to make more ADH. It then causes the release of ADH into your bloodstream. It attaches to ADH receptors in your kidneys. It tells your kidneys to put water back into your bloodstream. So, this mechanism causes your body to conserve water. It helps to re-hydrate you.3-5

Now, let’s get back to alcohol. Alcohol suppresses ADH. So, now your hypothalamus is making less ADH. This causes low ADH levels. So, this makes alcohol a diuretic. Alcohol makes you pee. Therefore, too much alcohol consumption can make you dehydrated. It’s this dehydration that causes your hangover symptoms the next day. It might also trigger asthma. 3-5

The science I explained here is well accepted. But, there is not much evidence linking dehydration to asthma. But, there is some, and this includes a link between histamine and dehydration. So, if you’re into theories, you may enjoy my post, “Links Between Dehydration And Asthma.”

Poor compliance.

There may be a time or two this happened to me when I was younger. But, I don’t forget my medicine too often anymore. Plus, I don’t drink enough to cause poor compliance. But, I just thought I would throw this in here for good measure. It’s something to think about if you’re a drinker. But, forgetting to take your medicine frequently might certainly contribute to asthma.

What to make of this?

Keep in mind these are all just theories. There is no proof alcohol triggers asthma. But, it certainly makes for an interesting subject. It’s something to keep in mind if you like to drink.

Tsck…pshh…fwshhhhhhhhh. Ahhhhh.

What do you think?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Asthma.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.
View References
  1. Vally, Hassan, Neil LA Misso, "Adverse reactions to the sulfite additives," Gastroenterology and Hepatology from bed to bench, 2012, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4017440/, accessed 10/1/18
  2. Maintz, Laura, Natalija Novak, "Histamine and histamine intolerance," The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2007, May 1, https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/85/5/1185/4633007, accessed 10/1/18
  3. Karl, Dr., “Why Does Drinking Alcohol Cause Dehydration,” abc.net, 2012, Feb. 28, http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2012/02/28/3441707.htm, accessed 9/12/18
  4. Hobson, Rugh M., Ronald J. Maughan, “Hydration Status And The Diuretic Action Of A Small Dose Of Alcohol,” Oxford Academic, 2010, July 1, https://academic.oup.com/alcalc/article/45/4/366/155478, accessed 9/12/18
  5. Ohara, Kevin, Alcohol Mastery, 2014, https://alcoholmastery.com/does-beer-hydrate-or-dehydrate-the-body/, accessed 9/15/18
  6. "The Pituitary Gland And Hypothalamus," ER Services, https://courses.lumenlearning.com/suny-ap2/chapter/the-pituitary-gland-and-hypothalamus/, accessed 9/15/18

Comments

View Comments (5)
  • Shellzoo
    2 months ago

    I can’t tolerate any beer. I was tested for wheat allergies and was negative but just a few sips of beer and I am miserable. I can’t really tolerate it in food either. I sorta suspect the hops since I am allergic to most tree, weeds and grass pollens. I can see how allergies to substances in beer could cause problems. I guess I will stick to my favorite lemon iced tea. Nice article. I have heard if you have pollen allergies, you can have reactions to some foods such as fruits, vegetables and nuts. I believe it is called oral allergy syndrome. Allergies are so not fun.

  • Lyn Harper, RRT moderator
    2 months ago

    Shellzoo – you’ve got it right there! Allergies are no fun at all, especially when you have asthma. I have heard of people with sensitivities to environmental pollens also having issues with related foods. I hope beer wasn’t one of your favorite foods…that would be a bummer.

    Regards,
    Lyn (site moderator)

  • Shellzoo
    2 months ago

    I used to like adding beer to some dishes when I cook but never liked drinking it. When I was a very young child, my dad gave me a few sips in celebration when the Tigers won the 68 World Series. Never wanted to drink beer since 😉 It is interesting how some foods can affect our allergies and of course how allergies affect our asthma. We have to learn how our bodies react to our allergens and have plans to avoid them.

  • John Bottrell, RRT moderator author
    2 months ago

    I never heard of oral allergy syndrome. Will have to look into that– although it makes sense. Thanks. John. Site Moderator.

  • Leon Lebowitz, RRT moderator
    2 months ago

    Hi Shellzoo and thanks for your post(s) here. I always understood that, when cooking with alcohol, the alcohol ‘content’ is ‘cooked off’ and all that’s left is the flavor of whatever beverage was used.

    I also did a ‘quick, cursory’ search, and it appears there is something termed ‘oral allergy syndrome’ as you mentioned, Shellzoo. Here is just one of the many references I located and looked over; this one from the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology: https://acaai.org/allergies/types/food-allergies/types-food-allergy/oral-allergy-syndrome.
    Wishing you well,
    Leon (site moderator)

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