Developing an Intolerance to Alcohol: What Does it Mean? By Michaela

It is possible that you have heard of the possibility of “developing an intolerance to alcohol”. For most people, this comes with negative feelings attached, as this means that the individual is a heavy drinker that is dependent on alcohol.

Developing a tolerance to alcohol is certainly a bad thing, but what does it actually mean and how can you identify it? Knowing how to spot something like this is the first meaningful step to reversing it and getting control back over your alcohol consumption.

In this post, we are going to cover what it means to develop an intolerance to alcohol, the impacts of developing a tolerance to alcohol, and how you can reverse the effects by working with The Alcohol Coach.

Definition of Alcohol Intolerance

Before we can get into the fine details surrounding alcohol intolerance, let’s talk about the definition of alcohol intolerance and what it actually means to have an alcohol intolerance.

Alcohol intolerance occurs when an individual drinks alcohol and experiences a physical reaction. This can include symptoms such as headaches, nausea, flushed skin, difficulty breathing and more. These reactions are not caused by the amount of alcohol consumed but rather because the person has developed a sensitivity to it.

Symptoms of Alcohol Intolerance & Drinking Alcohol

Wondering what the best way would be to find out whether you have an alcohol intolerance? There are a few ways, but the simple and best way would be to know the alcohol intolerance symptoms to help you determine if you have an alcohol allergy, an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase, or other risk factors that could prevent you from drinking alcoholic beverages safely without damaging your immune system.

Physical Symptoms

Flushing, Itching, or Feeling Hot

Flushing, itching, or feeling hot are all common symptoms of alcohol intolerance. These symptoms occur when the body is unable to process alcohol effectively and quickly and can happen from a few minutes to several hours after consuming alcohol.

Flushing is one of the most easily recognizable signs; it may present as redness on the face, neck, or chest that causes a feeling of warmth and heat.

Itching also often occurs with flushing; this can be felt anywhere on the body but typically affects the hands, face, or ears. Feeling hot is another symptom that often accompanies flushing and itching; those affected may feel an overall sense of warmth throughout their body or in specific areas and commonly experience sweating without any physical exertion.

Nausea or Vomiting

Nausea or vomiting is one of the most common symptoms of alcohol intolerance. It can be experienced after drinking even a small amount, and usually comes on suddenly.

Symptoms can range from mild queasiness to full-blown vomiting, often accompanied by headache, cramping, or an upset stomach. The severity of nausea or vomiting may vary depending on the individual and how much they have consumed.

In extreme cases, this symptom may persist for several hours and can lead to dehydration or other complications. Nausea and vomiting are also often accompanied by a strong metallic taste in the mouth, as well as heartburn or acid reflux.

Thankfully, these symptoms typically go away soon after drinking stops and proper hydration has been achieved.

Headache, Dizziness & Fainting

These unpleasant sensations can be mild or severe depending on the individual, but generally lead to a feeling of unease and discomfort in those affected. A headache may feel like a dull throbbing pain, while dizziness can range from feeling lightheaded to experiencing vertigo-like sensation. Fainting is often accompanied by a feeling of weakness or heat. In extreme cases, loss of consciousness can occur.

Rapid Heartbeat

One of the key symptoms of having an alcohol intolerance is rapid heartbeat. This occurs when a person consumes alcohol and their body is unable to process it appropriately. Commonly, those affected may experience an elevated heart rate that can be very uncomfortable. Symptoms such as a fast or erratic heartbeat, chest pain, palpitations, and shortness of breath are generally associated with this intolerance. In some cases, an allergic reaction may also occur alongside this symptom. It’s important to note that it is not always recommended to consume alcohol if you have experienced a rapid heartbeat after drinking. If it continues for more than a few minutes or if you experience any other concerning symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.

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Psychological Symptoms

Changes in Mood

Changes in mood are common symptoms of alcohol intolerance. When someone has an intolerance, their mood can become erratic and unpredictable, with sudden shifts between extreme highs and lows. These changes can be caused by the body’s inability to process alcohol properly and may occur after even small amounts of drinking. People who experience this symptom often feel overwhelmed, depressed or anxious before or during a drinking session. The most effective way to manage this symptom is to avoid consuming alcohol altogether, as it is impossible to moderate the effects on one’s mood.

Gastrointestinal Symptoms

Abdominal Cramping & Bloating

There are also a number of gastrointestinal symptoms that might be affected when you drink alcohol even though you have an alcohol intolerance. Abdominal cramping and bloating are two of the most common. Abdominal cramping is often associated with pain or spasms in the abdomen, while bloating occurs when your stomach feels full or swollen due to trapped gas. These symptoms can be mild or severe and may be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Causes of Alcohol Intolerance

There are several possible causes of your alcohol intolerance. Here are a few of the possibilities!

-Genetic Factors: Some individuals may be predisposed to an enzyme deficiency which makes it difficult for their body to process alcohol.

-Medications or Supplements: Certain medications and supplements can interact with alcohol, potentially causing unpleasant reactions.

-Allergies: An allergy to something in the beverage, such as wheat or gluten, can also cause an intolerance.

-Liver Damage: Liver damage or diseases such as cirrhosis can make it difficult for your body to process alcohol effectively.

Struggling With Alcohol Intolerance Due to Alcohol Dependence?

Even if you are told that you have an alcohol intolerance that causes severe physical side effects, you might still be struggling with curbing your alcohol consumption.

If you find this to be the case, it could be because you have an alcohol dependence. Alcohol dependence can manifest from drinking large amounts of alcohol over a prolonged period of time and can also be caused by underlying issues such as depression or anxiety.

If you believe that your alcohol intolerance may have been caused by an underlying issue, it is important to seek help to address the root cause. This is where The Alcohol Coach comes in. Through positivity, empowerment, and self-care, The Alcohol Coach gives lessons in reducing alcohol consumption and regaining control over your life.


Hi, I'm Michela

I’m a leader in the science of transformational freedom for women, and someone previously addicted to alcohol. I have walked the path. I understand your concerns and fears. Here you will find some of my thoughts and insights. Happy browsing!

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