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15th Mar 2024

Are your hangovers worsening as you age? A new allergy could be to blame

Sophie Collins


Are your hangovers horrendous, even after just one or two glasses of wine?

For many people, the aftermath of a night involving a few drinks can end with a dreaded hangover – a cocktail of nausea, headache, fatigue, and overall discomfort. 

While hangovers are commonly associated with excessive alcohol consumption and dehydration, there’s another factor at play that may make these symptoms even more unbearable: alcohol intolerance or allergy.

Scrolling on TikTok one evening this week, I came across a video from the ‘Between Us Girlies’ podcast. In one particular clip, Casey Corradin spoke about her worsening hangovers, and mentioned the potential reason for it; an underlying intolerance.

She said: “Every time I drink I get so deathly sick the next day and not just like your typical hangover like oh, I feel sick like I am actually like physically ill even if I had one and a half glasses of wine. 

“I am 27 years old. I’ve been drinking for a while. I can drink two glasses of wine and be normal, but since this past year I get so sick.” 

Casey went on to say: “I felt awful so I posted about it on Instagram and oh my god so many people are going through this it’s like actually crazy. My DMS still, now like three or four days later, are flooded with people being like ‘I get the same way’ and ‘I have alcohol intolerance’.

“So, apparently you can become allergic to alcohol. My grandma was yeah like later in life.”

She then added: “A lot of people are saying you might have developed an allergy to alcohol a lot of people said there’s like sulphates in wine that a lot of people don’t react well to them.

“A lot of girls not only told me that they feel the same way, but I’ve also seen they’ve gone sober because they get so sick now.”

@betweenusgirlies Throwback to the college days where we could drink every night and never feel sick #relatable #alcoholintolerance #weekendvibes ♬ original sound – Between Us Girlies

Having listened to this – and related to it – we decided to have a look into whether or not there is any truth to it, and we’re surprised by what we found.

Understanding alcohol intolerance and allergies

Over time, people who regularly consume alcohol may develop an intolerance or allergy to it, according to Penn Medicine Becker ent & allergy. This can lead to heightened sensitivity and more severe hangover symptoms. 

This phenomenon sheds light on why some people experience increasingly unbearable hangovers as they get older.

Alcohol intolerance is characterised by the body’s inability to metabolise alcohol efficiently, resulting in adverse reactions such as flushing, nausea, headaches, and rapid heartbeat. 

In some cases, people may also develop allergic reactions to specific ingredients in alcoholic beverages, such as grains or sulphites, further exacerbating symptoms.

As people continue to consume alcohol, despite experiencing adverse reactions, the body’s intolerance or allergic response can intensify over time. 

This heightened sensitivity can manifest as more severe hangover symptoms, including prolonged headaches, extreme fatigue, gastrointestinal distress, and cognitive impairment, as explained by the Cleveland Clinic.

The role of histamines

Certain compounds found in alcoholic drinks, such as histamines and congeners, can make hangover symptoms worse and contribute to alcohol intolerance or allergies, according to Very Well Health

Histamines, which are naturally occurring chemicals in the body, play a role in allergic reactions and can trigger symptoms like flushing and nasal congestion. 

Alcohol, particularly wine and beer, contain varying levels of histamines, which may worsen symptoms in those with existing sensitivities.

Congeners, on the other hand, are byproducts of the fermentation and distillation process that give alcoholic beverages their distinct flavours and colours. 

These compounds, which include methanol, acetone, and tannins, are known to contribute to hangover severity. 

Darker-coloured drinks like red wine, whiskey, and brandy tend to have higher congener content and may lead to one awful hangover.

Alcohol intolerance and hangovers

If you’re a person who experiences increasingly severe hangovers, you may be inclined to consume more alcohol to try alleviate symptoms – otherwise known as “hair of the dog”.

However, this only creates a cycle of alcohol intolerance and worsening hangover symptoms in the long run.

To minimise the risk of developing alcohol intolerance or experiencing severe hangovers, you should practice responsible drinking habits and prioritise overall well-being. 

This includes:

  1. Moderating alcohol consumption: Limiting the amount and frequency of alcohol intake can help prevent tolerance buildup and reduce the risk of developing alcohol intolerance or allergies.
  2. Hydrating adequately: Drinking plenty of water before, during, and after consuming alcohol can help mitigate dehydration and alleviate hangover symptoms.
  3. Choosing beverages wisely: Opting for lower-congener alcoholic beverages like clear spirits, lighter beers, and white wines may lessen the severity of hangovers.
  4. Listening to your body: Pay attention to how your body reacts to alcohol and heed warning signs of intolerance or allergy, such as flushing, rapid heartbeat, or gastrointestinal discomfort.
  5. Seeking support when needed: If you suspect you have developed alcohol intolerance or are struggling to manage hangover symptoms, consider consulting a healthcare professional for guidance and support.

By raising awareness of the link between alcohol intolerance, allergies, and worsening hangovers, people can make informed choices about their drinking habits and prioritise their overall health. 

If you’re struggling with alcohol use, you should seek professional advice. You can find more information here.