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will drinking make my allergies worse

Eat, Drink and Be Merry or Will Drinking Make My Allergies Worse?

Eat, Drink and Be Merry. Where does that phrase come from?

I never thought I would be quoting the bible in a blog. I am interested in the merry part. There are multiple references in the bible, and merry is also one of Shakespeare’s favorite words.

I learned at school that merry had a different meaning in Shakespeare’s day, close to the modern “healthy”.

Doing research to prepare to write a blog with a title, “Eat, drink and be healthy”, I found no verification for that meaning of “merry.” Too bad.

What I was taught all those years ago, at school was wrong!

In spite of that, I will continue in that vein. If you are reading this, the chances are you have some issue with allergy and/or asthma, and that you take some medication. Many medications have some admonition about not to take these pills and drink alcohol.

Antihistamines make you drowsy, so combining them with alcohol might knock you out. But, if you are watching your diet, one of the latest recommendations is the Mediterranean diet, which states that red wine is not such a bad thing in moderation. It will lower your risk of having heart problems. Contradiction! What should you do? What if you have asthma and/or allergies? Will alcohol make things worse? A lot of people wonder, will drinking make my allergies worse?

The title of a recent paper, “High Alcohol Consumption Causes High IgE Levels but not High Risk of Allergic Disease” by Lomholt at al in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (2016, volume 138, page 1404) seems to say it all. (To learn more about IgE see my blog “Happy Birthday IgE” about IgE being a marker for allergy.)

It would be difficult to do a large controlled study of subjects taking high amounts of alcohol, comparing with subjects taking no alcohol, and do it as a blind study. The one’s taking high alcohol would probably recognize what they were imbibing.

Instead, the researchers studied a very large population in Denmark – 111,408 subjects ages ranging from 20 to 100 years. They relied on questionnaires about alcohol consumption, allergy symptoms and measured IgE in blood samples. They felt they could rely on the information as in Denmark individuals with medically diagnosed allergy receive uniform medical care under their system of universal health.

Still, the relation of alcohol consumption to IgE and allergy does not necessarily mean cause and effect. They also did some very interesting statistical triangulation. They analyzed the population for gene variants related to how the body handles alcohol.

We all know that different people react differently to alcohol. The interesting thing is that some gene variants which cause the body to rapidly break down alcohol, caused an accumulation of unpleasant breakdown bi-products. People with those genes tend to become alcohol averse. They found genes that do not make people alcohol averse are associated with higher IgE, presumably because they will like drinking better and therefore drink more than those without that gene.

Measuring likelihood of alcohol consumption two different ways enabled them to conclude a causal relationship. Wonderful what you can do with statistics if you have large enough dataset.

Alcohol consumption CAUSES higher IgE, but with no increase in allergy! So in conclusion, eat, drink and be merry, because the holidays are coming!


Julian Gordon

Julian is a world renowned serial inventor who has made groundbreaking contributions to multiple fields of science. His group at Abbott Labs was responsible for developing lateral flow immunoassay technology, which led to the first home pregnancy tests. Prior to Abbott Labs, Julian’s group at Novartis (then CIBA-GEIGY) was responsible for inventing the Western Blot, an important method used today in molecular biology, biochemistry and immunogenetics for the characterization and detection of proteins. As a scientist, Julian is passionate about using evidence-based data to prevent human suffering. As he explains, “I know of no greater suffering than a mother in anguish about her child not being able to breathe normally – and not knowing what to do about it. I feel so fortunate to be part of an incredible team working to solve this problem.
Julian Gordon
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