An Alcohol Flush Reaction (AFR), informally known as the “Asian Glow,” is a syndrome that affects about 50 percent of the Japanese, Korean, and Northeastern Chinese population. Symptoms occur during and after alcohol consumption and include a flushed face and neck, increased heart rate, headache, and nausea. The symptoms can occur even after just one alcoholic beverage.
So, what causes AFR and is there an Asian Glow cure? In individuals without the syndrome, the liver metabolizes alcohol via oxidization (it is converted first into acetaldehyde and then acetate). People who suffer from AFR, however, lack the enzyme that converts acetaldehyde into acetate, which leads to an accumulation of acetaldehyde in the system up to 10 times the typical concentration. This buildup causes the range of uncomfortable symptoms above. There is, unfortunately, no complete cure for AFR, but there are a few things individuals can do to mitigate the symptoms:
1. Drink water
It might sound obvious, but staying hydrated is one of the best ways to keep AFR symptoms at bay. The Melbourne Dermatology & Rosacea Treatment Clinic recommends drinking plenty of water to dilute the alcohol and thereby reduce its effects. Before heading out for drinks, drink 1-2 glasses of water, then alternate between alcohol and water throughout the night. Since alcohol is a diuretic, it can increase your thirst. Make sure to quench your thirst with water and not more alcohol!
2. Choose wisely
Make sure to choose drinks with the lowest alcohol content. While taking shots might seem appealing in the moment, you will likely regret the decision when AFR symptoms kick in. Choose wine or beer with a low APV (alcohol per volume) percentage. Most wines have an APV of 12.5% or less and beers range from 4-8%. You may also consider trying to drink less in general—the alcohol tolerance for individuals with AFR is much lower.
3. Take an Antihistamine
While there is no product specifically formulated for sufferers of Asian Glow, there are various antihistamines on the market that are known to help with AFR-related alcohol intolerance. Popular products include:
- Pepcid AC (Famotidine): A histamine H2 receptor antagonist that inhibits stomach acid production. Most commonly used for the treatment of heartburn and peptic ulcer disease.
- Zantac (Ranitidine): Another histamine H2 receptor antagonist, this drug acts similarly to Famotidine. It is also most commonly used for the treatment of heartburn.
Keep in mind that these products should not be used regularly. Antihistamines increase an individual’s blood-alcohol level, which ultimately means that you will reach your alcohol limit faster. If you do take an antihistamine before drinking, be sure to carefully monitor your drink count.
4. Take Hangover Supplements
New technology has isolated a few key vitamins, minerals, and amino acids that are particularly good at helping to relieve symptoms of alcohol intolerance, including those related to hangovers and AFR. These supplements—often called hangover cures—are available as pre-drinking and post-drinking pills. These supplements have all the essential vitamins and nutrients you need to prevent and/or alleviate symptoms, including essential vitamins B1, B6, B12, C and E, Dihydromyricetin (an anti-alcohol compound from tree extract), N-acetylcysteine (an antioxidant that helps fight the byproducts of alcohol metabolism), milk thistle seed extract (a compound that supports liver function) and prickly pear fruit powder (a supplement known to calm nausea and reduce headaches).
Asian Glow Cure
While there is no Asian Glow cure out there, there are several ways to make sure your night out does not result in misery the next day. Consider these supplements and tips to ensure you have an enjoyable evening instead of regretting it later.