February 3, 2010

the asian glow and how to prevent it

i am half chinese and half white (mostly german), and i inherited the gene for what is colloquially called "the asian glow." for some people with asian heritage, consuming alcohol will cause their skin, particularly around their face and neck, to become flushed and red. our bodies have this reaction because we are, technically, allergic to alcohol -- we lack the enzymes needed to break it down properly. for those who are interested, here are some of my obervations about the asian glow:

being red does not (necessarily) mean we are drunk
depending on how much i've eaten before and what kind of beverage i drink, i might turn bright red after just one drink. despite the fact that i look intoxicated, i am not. this is why i usually don't drink at workplace happy hours. i just can't handle the "whoa there! maybe you should slow down!" comments when i'm a third of the way through my first glass of chardonnay.

the asian glow affects people differently
some (lucky) asians get just the slightest flush to their cheeks. some, like my little sister, turn noticeably bright red. others, like our chinese dad, will swell up like a strawberry and require immediate medical attention (needless to say, he doesn't drink). my advice to young asians experimenting with alcohol: drink with caution.

it doesn't hurt, but it can be annoying
getting the asian glow isn't painful, but it can be mildly uncomfortable -- like being really flushed after working out. i personally dislike it because it makes me feel childish, like i can't handle an adult beverage. mostly, it just makes me look silly in pictures.

after years of battling the glow, i have finally identified a potential "cure." here today, i'd like to share my trade secret -- my tried-and-true way to prevent the asian glow: two pepto bismols and one maximum strength pepcid AC.

take with at least half a glass of water at least 15 minutes before consuming alcohol. i've had about a 90% success rate with the concoction. don't believe me? here's some unscientific evidence: in the photo below, my little sister and i are 3 hours into a 10-hour boondoggle in vegas. not a glow between us.

i'd like to point out that i am not a doctor, so i'm really in no position to dole out medical advice. that said, these products are available over the counter, and i'm not really recommending them in obscene doses. obviously, there might be some side effects from antacid usage, but occasional use, even daily use, of antacids is generally safe. final thought: if you're drinking so much that your accompanying antacid consumption poses a risk to your health, i think you probably have bigger problems than pepto abuse.


Joe said...

Also known as the "Irish flag" in my family.

Tiffany said...

I've always been impressed by your "cure" - glad that you're sharing it with everyone. I've actually recommended it to friends!

Les K said...
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Calvin Liu said...

23andMe says that if you get Asian glow your liver doesn't process alcohol "properly," and you're especially susceptible to esophageal cancer. I think it said something to suggest that antacids raise this risk, too. Terrible. And that's why - hard drugs.

Liam McTiernan said...

how long before drinking should you take this combo?

Christopher Li said...

Def gonna try that combo, I've been using pepcid for awhile only but that combo looks interesting. Thanks for sharing! If anyone is interested, here is a video that only people with asian flush will understand