If you suffer from the Asian flush, you would have probably noticed that some types of alcohol make the flush reaction worse than others. This is because not all alcohol is made the same way and certain ingredients can have the effect of exacerbating skin redness. Therefore, a neat trick is to restrict your consumption to the types of alcohol that reduce the severity of your Asian flush and steer clear of the types that make your flushing worse.
How can some alcohol make you flush less?
In order to understand why some alcohol makes you flush less than others, it is important to first understand why we flush in the first place.
As covered in our article about alcohol flush reaction, the prime cause of the flush reaction is a toxic alcohol metabolite called acetaldehyde. In response to our liver’s inability to properly break down this toxic substance, the body releases what are called histamines. The release of histamines causes to body to react with a variety of allergy-like symptoms such as flushing, rapid heart rate, difficulty breathing, headaches, etc.
Some alcoholic beverages contain ingredients that cause the body to release more histamines, on top of what is already causing your Asian flush. This obviously makes whatever symptoms you’re already experiencing a little, and sometimes a lot, worse.
Types of alcohol that make flushing worse
The types of alcohol that make flushing worse are those that contain high amounts of tannins and sulphites. Sounds easy enough, but you won’t always find these ingredients simply by looking at the product label. At least in the case of tannins, you need to know how the alcohol was brewed and what it was brewed in.
Alcohol high in tannins
Let’s take tannins in wine as an example. I’m sure you’ve noticed that some wines create a dry sensation in the mouth after you swallow them. The degree of dryness you feel depends on the amount of tannins in that wine – or how “tannic” it is. The greater the feeling of dryness, the higher the tannin content of the wine.
One factor determining the amount of tannins in wine is the amount of time the juice is left to sit with the grape skin, seeds and stems after the grapes have been pressed. The longer the wine is left to soak in the skin, seeds and juice, the more tannic it will be and the more it will worsen your Asian flush reaction.
Another factor that contributes to the amount of tannins in wine is the type of container it is aged in. This is because materials like oak and other woods, traditionally used to make barrels for aging alcohol, also contain tannins that seep into the alcohol as it ages. Alternatively, alcohol that has been aged in metalic containers will not pick up as many tannins in the aging process and will be kinder on your Asian flush.
Alcohol high in sulphites
When we talk about sulphites in alcohol we are generally referring to sulfur dioxide (SO2), which is a preservative commonly used to maintain a wine’s freshness.
Unlike with tannins, if you look at a wine bottle you will most likely see the words “contains sulphites” written somewhere on the label. The general rule is that any wine that has more than 10 parts per million (ppm) of sulphites must include that warning on the label.
As a general rule, if you find a wine that doesn’t specifically state that it “contains sulphites” the chances are that it will be much kinder on your Asian flush than a wine that displays the warning.
In this regard, many organic and bio-dynamic winemakers will refrain from adding sulphites as preservatives in order to comply with their strict licensing requirements. Therefore, a low tannin variety of organic or bio-dynamic wine would be a smart choice for someone with Asian flush.
Types of alcohol that reduce the Asian flush
We’ve just covered wine. But what about beer? whiskey? vodka? champagne? or mixed drinks? There are so many factors that go into choosing the right alcohol to reduce your Asian flush that you could practically write a book about it.
In fact, this is exactly what a smart group of alcohol enthusiasts have done. Except, instead of writing a book about the manufacturing processes of all the different types of alcohol (that would be boring), the team at SRQ Labs have put together a beautifully illustrated cocktail recipe book that contains more flush-friendly cocktails than one could drink in a lifetime.
Instead of having to learn all of the details of how alcohol is made and which specific ingredients to watch out for, all you have to do is pick one of the delicious cocktails or mixed drinks in the book and drink it.
Not only have they carefully picked the types of alcohol that are best for Asian flush drinkers, but they have also combined them with various fruits and herbs that also work to counteract the flushing process.
Flushed: Cocktails to Reduce Asian Flush
I am a severe Asian flusher. One beer and my face turns bright red, I swell up around my cheeks and my eyes get so bloodshot that it looks like I’ve been smoking drugs all day. It’s not a good look.
After trying a few of the cocktails in this book, without any supplements or other Asian flush prevention methods, I can confidently say that it made a noticeable difference.
Like I said in a previous product review, myself and all of the contributors to this site are big fans of Asian flush supplements. But even with supplementation, you notice a difference when you’re drinking cocktails out of this book compared to drinking beers or random wines.