Allergic to wine?

By Mina Radman • Published: July 26th, 2013
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

A glass of red wine a day keeps the heart disease away — right? When consumed in moderation, wine has health benefits, but did you know that some people can be allergic to wine?

Researchers in Germany questioned more than 900 people about the symptoms they experienced after drinking wine and found that nearly one-quarter of those folks reported at least one allergy-like symptom. The most common symptoms included flushed skin, itching, nasal congestion and increased heart rate, and some people even reported serious reactions such as asthma and low blood pressure. Women were twice as likely as men to report allergies. People who drank red wine reported more allergies than people who drank white wine or rosé.

What causes a wine allergy? Wine contains histamine, a chemical known to set off allergy symptoms. The histamine in wine is produced by yeast and bacteria during the fermentation process. Wine also contains sulfites, which can trigger asthma and allergies, too. A protein found in grape skins, called lipid transfer protein, is a recognized allergen and is used in the fermentation of red wine.

If you experience symptoms like itching, nasal congestion or diarrhea when you drink a glass of wine, then you may have an allergy. But you also could be alcohol intolerant, which means that your body doesn’t have the proper enzymes to break down alcohol toxins.

If your symptoms are mild, and you don’t mind sneezing while holding a wine glass, then there’s no need to give up wine. If you do have symptoms and drink mostly red wine, try switching to white wine, which is made without grape skins. If your symptoms are severe, however, then leave the wine glass empty. Wine may be tasty but your health comes first.