Alcohol intolerance occurs when your body doesn't have the proper enzymes to break down (metabolize) the toxins in alcohol. This is caused by inherited (genetic) traits most often found in Asians.
Other ingredients commonly found in alcoholic beverages, especially in beer or wine, can cause intolerance reactions. These include:
- Sulfites or other preservatives
- Chemicals, grains or other ingredients
- Histamine, a byproduct of fermentation or brewing
In some cases, reactions can be triggered by a true allergy to a grain such as corn, wheat or rye or to another substance in alcoholic beverages.
Rarely, severe pain after drinking alcohol is a sign of a more serious disorder, such as Hodgkin's lymphoma.