Alcohol and Asthma: A Good or Bad Mix?

Some asthma sufferers say that a few beers or a glass of wine does nothing to aggravate their symptoms. Some even claim these libations help to improve their symptoms.  Yet other asthmatics find that drinking alcohol worsens their chronic respiratory symptoms.  How can such a large discrepancy exist? Here's why.

Sulfur Dioxide in Wine

If you're one of the many people with asthma who experience a negative reaction when drinking alcohol reaction, it's probably not the alcohol itself but rather a particular ingredient in the drink that triggers your symptoms: Sulfur dioxide, a preservative found in wine can cause shortness of breath and other respiratory ailments. Keep in mind that people allergic to this ingredient often experience a reaction to foods that also contain sulfur dioxide, including many canned goods, commercial baked goods, dried fruits, fruit juices, and frozen tomatoes.

Histamine in Red and White Wine

Histamines occur naturally during the fermentation process, often forming in higher concentrations in red wines than in white varieties. And while this isn't a problem for most people, if you're highly sensitive, it's important to keep a close tab on how much you're drinking. A reaction usually spurs only from ingesting a large quantity.

Barley, Rye, Wheat, and Corn in Beer

Many asthmatics find it easier to tolerate beer than wine, but if you notice that your asthma worsens after an icy cold brew, you're actually reacting to the barley, rye, wheat, or corn contained in the beer. Be on the lookout for an onset of asthma symptoms after you consume anything in these food groups. This may help you zero in on exactly what causing your discomfort.

Benefits of Alcohol for Asthma

Alcohol doesn't affect all asthmatics negatively. In fact, having a drink can actually provide some sufferers with important benefits. Studies have found that alcohol appears to dilate restricted airways that shrink during a bronchial attack. Because each person's body is different, be sure talk to your doctor first to make sure that having a drink is indeed safe for you.



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