Essential Asian Flush Facts

picture of asian flushing

Contrary to common belief, the Asian flush reaction is actually not an allergy.  It is a genetic condition, also often referred to as alcohol flush reaction, and comes about as a result of our body’s reaction to a toxic metabolic byproduct of alcohol.

This toxic reaction occurs because of a genetic predisposition that causes an inhibited acetaldehyde dehydrogenase enzyme that is normally active in breaking down acetaldehyde, which is a bypoduct of alcohol metabolism.

According to a study conducted in 2007, nearly 40% of Japanese, Chinese and Korean drinkers have Asian flush.  In addition to this, despite the racially specific name, this flushing can be experienced by people of all nationalities and is not exclusive to Asians.

 

Symptoms

The physical symptoms often occur 10 to 30 minutes after alcohol consumption. The first signs are a tightening sensation on one’s face, especially around the cheeks and eyes, accompanied by an increase in heart rate and mildly restricted breathing.

Asian flush photo

Figure 1: Asian male experiencing Asian flush.

These initial symptoms progress to a hot throbbing sensation accompanied by a red flushing of the skin around the face, neck and chest.  Depending on the amount of alcohol consumed, physical symptoms have the potential of progressing to throbbing headaches, itchiness, hives, dizziness and nausea.

Many test subjects have also reported heightened social anxiety and a feeling of embarrassment when experiencing Asian flush in public.   This anxiety  can even cause the reaction to worsen and in turn form the basis for further anxiety to the point where some subjects have even reported wanting to “go home” whenever their reaction becomes unbearable.

Esophageal Cancer Risk

Research suggests that someone with Asian flush who consumes two beers a day has a ten-fold greater risk of developing esophageal cancer.  Esophageal cancer is hard to detect and is one of the deadliest cancers in the world.

Despite this risk, alcohol consumption remains a common activity in most people’s social and professional lives.  Responsible health practices would suggest that Asian flush sufferers should refrain from drinking on a regular basis and seek regular medical check ups to verify the non-existence of esophagael cancer.

 

Living With Asian Flush

Most people who have this disorder will tell you that it is both annoying and embarrassing to experience a red flushed face in public.  Feedback from test subjects emphasises a desire for a way to control their symptoms and drink alcohol without experiencing, above all, an unpleasant and embarrassing red face.

Please continue on to our blog post titled ‘Asian Flush Success Story‘ to find out about how some people are controlling their symptoms.

 

References

1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17718397

2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2846302/

4. http://dujs.dartmouth.edu/fall-2009/esophageal-cancer-and-the-%E2%80%98asian-glow%E2%80%99

5. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2FBF01296608

6. http://journal.lib.uoguelph.ca/index.php/surg/article/viewArticle/982/

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Leave A Reply (5 comments so far)


  1. Alfredo
    2 years ago

    Don’t think Asian flush is just for Asian people! I am Italian and I have this problem. It usually happens to me after my first drink. How many drinks does it take everyone else?


  2. Dimitri78
    2 years ago

    I am half Russian half Chinese and I experience this problem when I drink more than 2 drinking within an hour of each other. The red flushing happens for me mainly around my eyes and sometimes in the worst cases can sometimes spread to my neck and chest. Thank you for your help with this article – it has helped make me realize that there is something I can do about my problem.


  3. CarolD
    2 years ago

    This was surprisingly informative. I wonder why this disorder is so prevalent in Asian people?


  4. Didilin88
    2 years ago

    Thank you, this article has shed some light on a problem that I’ve been dealing with ever since I can remember. I used to wonder why I was the only one of my friends to react to alcohol like this and it took me a long time before I realized what my problem was. I often find that drinking quickly makes my reaction worse, does this happen for anyone else?


    • No Red Face Formula
      2 years ago

      Yes, drinking quickly can definitely exacerbate the reaction. Remember, the physical symptoms you are seeing is your body’s reaction to acetaldehyde build up. Acetaldehyde is produced whenever your body tries to metabolize alcohol, so the faster you drink the faster the build up of the toxic metabolic byproduct that causes your flushing.

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