Several anecdotal reports suggest that alcohol intolerance may be linked to long COVID, specifically the post-viral fatigue syndrome (PVFS) type.
Long COVID refers to persistent symptoms that occur more than three weeks after the initial COVID-19 infection.
According to several anecdotal reports, alcohol intolerance, which is characterized by reactions like nausea, low blood pressure, fatigue, and dizziness when consuming alcohol, may be a unique symptom of long COVID.
While not widely recognized as a symptom of long COVID due to limited research, alcohol intolerance has been reported by some individuals.
While research on alcohol intolerance post-COVID-19 is limited, numerous anecdotal reports suggest that alcohol intolerance could be a symptom of long COVID for some individuals.
Some people describe feeling sick after consuming only a small amount of alcohol, while others report experiencing hangover-like symptoms that seem disproportionate to their alcohol intake.
In a March 2021 blog post, neurologist Georgia Lea discussed the potential connection between long COVID, specifically the PVFS type, and alcohol intolerance.
Prior to developing COVID-19, she could comfortably consume alcohol. But after her infection, she found herself unable to tolerate even small amounts of alcohol, experiencing unpleasant sensations like lightheadedness, sluggishness, and queasiness after just a few sips.
However, due to the limited available data on post-COVID-19 alcohol intolerance, it’s unclear whether it’s a temporary or long-term symptom. Further research is needed to establish a clearer understanding of this phenomenon.
Alcohol intolerance is a condition where the body reacts negatively to the consumption of alcohol. It’s typically related to an inability to properly process or metabolize alcohol.
Symptoms of alcohol intolerance can vary but often include:
- Flushing: The skin may become red and warm.
- Nausea: You might feel queasy or vomit after consuming alcohol.
- Headaches: Alcohol can trigger headaches or migraine attacks.
- Rapid heart rate: Your heart may beat faster (palpitations).
- Low blood pressure: This can lead to dizziness or fainting.
- Congestion: Some individuals experience a stuffy or runny nose.
- Skin reactions: Itchy skin or hives may develop.
- Digestive issues: Diarrhea or stomach cramps can occur.
- Fatigue: Alcohol intolerance can lead to general fatigue or tiredness.
Other factors that may lead to alcohol intolerance include:
- Genetics: Certain genetic factors can make some individuals more prone to alcohol intolerance.
- Medications: Some medications, such as certain antibiotics, antidepressants, or antihistamines, can interact with alcohol and cause adverse reactions.
- Histamine intolerance: People with histamine intolerance may be more likely to experience symptoms when consuming alcohol, as alcohol can trigger histamine release.
- Allergies: Individuals with allergies to specific ingredients in alcoholic beverages, such as grains or sulfites, may experience intolerance.
- Food interactions: Consuming certain foods, such as histamine-rich foods (aged cheese, soy sauce) along with alcohol can worsen symptoms of intolerance in some individuals.
- Underlying medical conditions: Conditions like liver disease, gastrointestinal disorders, and myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) can affect how the body processes alcohol, increasing the likelihood of intolerance.
This connection could provide insights into how long COVID might contribute to alcohol intolerance.
One theory suggests that the virus causing COVID-19 acts as a severe stressor, possibly affecting a part of the brain called the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus (PVN). This could make the PVN extra sensitive to life’s stresses, causing fatigue and relapses similar to ME/CFS.
When stress exceeds a certain limit, it might trigger brain inflammation, resulting in symptoms like those seen in ME/CFS, including alcohol intolerance. Ongoing research, including advanced brain scans, aims to further investigate these connections.
Treatment for long COVID, including symptoms like alcohol intolerance, typically involves a multidisciplinary approach aimed at managing specific symptoms and improving overall well-being.
Here are some treatment options:
- Symptom management: Addressing individual symptoms is an important aspect of long COVID management. For alcohol intolerance, you should consider reducing or eliminating alcohol consumption if it worsens your symptoms.
- Rest: Rest is commonly recommended for long COVID, and it’s important to pace your activities to avoid overexertion, which can worsen symptoms.
- Physical therapy: Physical therapy can help with muscle weakness and pain. It may involve gentle exercises and stretches to improve mobility and strength.
- Occupational therapy: Occupational therapists can assist in managing daily activities and finding energy-conserving strategies.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT can be useful for managing psychological symptoms such as anxiety and depression that may accompany long COVID.
- Medications: In some cases, medications may be prescribed to manage specific symptoms, such as pain, sleep disturbances, or mood disorders.
- Diet and nutrition: A balanced diet can help support the immune system and overall health. It’s important to maintain good nutrition, especially if appetite or digestive issues are present.
- Hydration: Staying well-hydrated is important, as dehydration can worsen symptoms.
- Research and clinical trials: Participating in clinical trials and research studies may offer access to cutting-edge treatments and therapies for long COVID.
While research on post-COVID alcohol intolerance is still limited, anecdotal evidence suggests that it’s a symptom experienced by many people following the virus.
Although the underlying mechanisms aren’t fully understood, the symptom may be linked to the broader condition of long COVID and share similarities with conditions like myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS).
More research is needed to understand its causes and treatment options. In the meantime, healthcare providers should take alcohol intolerance into account when evaluating and treating post-COVID symptoms.