If you suffer from asthma, it is important that you understand the asthma triggers that lead to flare-ups and attacks. A common concern among asthmatics is whether or not alcohol can trigger asthma attacks. Let’s take a closer look.
Does Alcohol Affect Asthma?
Studies indicate that alcohol does indeed affect asthma. A study by The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology shows that 33% of people that took part in the study suffered from an asthma attack after consuming alcohol. Their attacks ranged from mild to moderate. This would indicate that about 1 in 3 adults with asthma should be monitoring their alcohol consumption.
What Causes Reactions in Asthmatics who Drink Alcohol?
Only a few studies focus on the relationship between alcohol consumption and asthma attacks. However, the studies that have been performed indicate three possible reasons why the effects of alcohol increase the risk of asthma attacks.
1. Histamine Resemblance
When allergens enter your body, the immune system releases a chemical called histamine. This chemical often causes you to have an allergic reaction. Something similar happens when you consume wine and beer. Several natural chemicals reside in alcohol that your body often misreads as histamines. This causes your body to respond to the chemical as an asthma trigger. Some people suffer from a stuffy nose, while others suffer a more severe asthma attack.
2. Sulfite Sensitivity
To preserve its freshness, wine contains a preservative called sulfite. It helps keep the wine from turning brown. This preservative often causes an allergic reaction in people, particularly those in or near the middle age. Although serious reactions are rare, sulfite allergy symptoms vary from wheezing to anaphylaxis, which shocks the body into an allergic reaction. This sulfite allergy could become an asthma trigger, in turn becoming an asthma attack.
3. Acid Reflux
Alcoholic beverages can cause acid reflux. Acid reflux occurs when the acid in your stomach backs up into your esophagus. In extreme cases, this acid backs into the back of the throat and enters the breathing tubes located there. This happens soon after alcohol is consumed or while you sleep. The body produces mucus to trap the acid, and the results often lead to an asthma attack.
4. Heightened Anxiety
Often, intaking large amounts of alcohol heightens anxiety. For many people, anxiety (and the often-accompanying rapid breathing) is a key asthma trigger that might cause a serious attack.
Is Alcohol Safe to Consume if You Have Asthma?
Many believe that drinking alcohol and wine in small amounts has health benefits. However, The Lancet published a study in 2018 that may indicate otherwise. They found that overall, the negative health effects of drinking alcohol may outweigh any health benefits. Regardless, the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans says that moderate alcohol intake is acceptable for healthy individuals. There have been no guidelines set by medical professionals for those with compromised lung function.
Commons sense says that since studies have indicated that alcohol can trigger asthma, that you moderate your drinking and keep track of your response. The easiest way to log lung function over time is with a handheld spirometer.
The biggest thing to keep in mind is that alcohol may provoke your asthma even if it does not cause it. The best way to tell if alcohol is one of your asthma triggers is to thoroughly monitor your symptoms in correlation with any alcohol consumption.
Common Questions About Alcohol & Asthma
Here are a few frequently asked questions about alcohol and asthma that might answer some of yours.
1. Can asthmatics drink alcohol?
Whether or not you should drink alcohol depends largely on the advice of your doctor. While it has been shown that drinking alcohol can worsen asthma symptoms, this is not the case for every asthmatic. Simply monitor your symptoms, discuss it with your doctor, and drink in moderation.
2. Which alcoholic drink is good for asthma?
Alcoholic drinks with fewer sulfites are considered possible options for asthmatics. These include clear spirits such as gin and vodka. Although these are safer options, they should still be consumed with caution.
3. Can alcohol affect your breathing?
Because many alcoholic beverages contain sulfites, asthmatics can be susceptible to an asthma attack after drinking.
4. Is red wine good for asthma?
Research done by Georgia State University has shown that red wine contains a component that can help control inflammation in the upper respiratory tract. This could be beneficial for those who suffer from asthma.