Ruth, like many Asian Americans, has at times been reluctant to drink wine because of her tendency to turn a deep shade of red after even just half a glass of red or white.
The cause of this "wine flush" has to do with how many Asians metabolize alchohol. Alchohol is absorbed through the stomach and small intestine. About 10 percent is eliminated by the kidneys, lungs, and sweat glands, but the rest is dealt with in the liver by two enzymes: alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) and aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH). I don't know enough about the body's chemistry to know how these two enzymes actually manage to break down the alchohol, but it's enough to know that they do.
It's this second enzyme (ALDH) that is missing (or low) in up to 50 percent of Asian people, and is not present at all in most Native Americans and Inuits. People with less ALDH will often flush and sweat after drinking alcohol, and if their quantities of the enzyme are quite low, they may also become ill after drinking even small amounts of booze.
Recent studies also suggest women have fewer of these enzymes than men.
The wine flush ranges from a light pink to a deep red purple in my experience, and for many it's embarrassing, which is why my ears perked up the other day when an Asian colleague at work claimed to have a cure for it.
He swore that taking a Pepcid AC tablet before or during drinking, significantly reduced or even eliminated his wine flush.
After a few highly scientific tests, we have found that it really does work. How it works is a mystery that won't be solved here. Pepcid AC contains Famotidine. According to DrugDigest.org, "Famotidine is a histamine-2 receptor blocker, or H2-blocker. It works in the stomach on a pump that releases hydrochloric acid when stimulated by histamine. Famotidine prevents histamine from stimulating this pump, thereby reducing the amount of acid that is released into the stomach." What I don't know, is how the level of acid in the stomach correlates to ALDH levels and alchohol metabolism.
I'm going to spare Ruth the embarassment of having before and after pictures posted here, and as a creative person you couldn't have trusted that I didn't photoshop them anyway. So I simply leave it to you to try yourself, or offer to friends. Ruth is glad to know about it, and especially excited at the prospect of not having to be bright red in her wedding dress after a few sips of Champagne at the reception.
A wine book like no other. Photographs, essays, and wine recommendations. Learn more.
Drinking Time Itself: The Champagnes of Anselme Selosse The Great Prosecco Crisis of 2015 Vinography Unboxed: Week of May 17th, 2015 Vinography Images: Up in Flames California's Other Seven Percent Vinography Unboxed: Week of May 10, 2015 Vinography Images: Spring Dreams Tasting One Man's Experience: The Champagnes of Agrapart et Fil Vinography Unboxed: Week of May 4, 2015 Vinography Images: A Shaggy Guardian
Wine Will Never Smell the Same Again: Luca Turin and the Science of Scent Forlorn Hope: The Remarkable Wines of Matthew Rorick Debating Robert Parker At His Invitation Passopisciaro Winery, Etna, Sicily: Current Releases Should We Care What Winemakers Say? The Sweet Taste of Freedom: Austria's Ruster Ausbruch Wines 2009 Burgundy Vintage According to Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Charles Banks: The New Man Behind Mayacamas Wine from the Caldera: The Incredible Viticulture of Santorini Why Community Tasting Notes Sites Will Fail Chateau Rayas and the 2012 Vintage of Chateauneuf-du-Pape A Life Indomitable: The Wines of Casal Santa Maria, Portugal Bay Area Bordeaux: Tasting Santa Cruz Mountain Cabernets Forgotten Jewels: Reviving Chile's Old Vine Carignane The First-Timer's Guide to Les Trois Glorieuses of Hospices de Beaune