If liquor leaves you feeling miserable, and you’ve ruled out a standard hang-over, it could be an alcohol intolerance or allergy.
Alcohol intolerance is an inability of the body to properly process alcohol. It is a genetic problem—not an allergy—and often manifests through flushed skin, hives, and a runny or stuffed-up nose.
An alcohol allergy has nothing to do with the digestion of alcohol, but rather, it is an inappropriate reaction on the part of the immune system to elements in the alcohol. When the body encounters allergens in the alcohol (such as yeast, rye, gluten, grapes, etc.), it may perceive them as “enemy invaders” and attempt to fight them off by releasing histamines into the body that cause allergy symptoms. Of course those ingredients hiding in your glass of beer or wine aren’t really harmful—your body just thinks they are. (That’s what happens with allergies!) Until your body becomes desensitized to those ingredients through allergy immunotherapy, it will likely continue to overreact to them.
If your reactions to alcohol are mild enough that they don’t interfere with your quality of life significantly, you may be able to continue to have an occasional drink. If your reactions are bothersome enough or even hazardous to your health, though, it’s important to consult a doctor. While there is no known treatment for alcohol intolerance, there are some options for alcohol allergies. Consult with your doctor about a relatively new treatment known as sublingual immunotherapy which uses under-the-tongue drops (as an alternative to allergy shots) to desensitize your body to common allergens.