Zantac, like other antacids is now considered by those with alcohol flush reaction to be an unofficial cure for Asian flush. Zantac contains H2 blockers which are now known to have the side effect of alleviating some of the symptoms of Asian flush. Symptoms of Asian flush include red puffy skin, itching, hives, dizziness, and nausea. these symptoms are cause by an overload of acetaldehyde, the poisonous byproduct of alcohol metabolism. Ok, maybe I'm going to fast.
As you drink alcohol, it is of course digested, like anything else. As you body breaks down the ethanol (alcohol), a byproduct called acetaldehyde is created. This is poisonous and usually taken care of by a natural enzyme in our body called ALDH2. People with Asian flush don't have enough (or any) or this enzyme so the poison builds up in their body and causes the nasty symptoms associates with Asian flush.
So where does Zantac and H2 blockers come in? Actually, Zantac is not the only kind of antacid that can cure Asian flush. Pepcid's active ingredient is actually stronger that Zantac's and is therefore more often chosen as a mean to cure Asian flush. However, because the active ingredient in Zantac is different than that of Pepcid, it may work better for some people.
H2 blockers work to stop antacid by actually stopping the production of histamines. (the acid in your stomach). This is different from other types of antacids which work to reduce the acid levels of your stomach (something like Tums). By reducing the amount of acids that break down alcohol in your stomach, you also reduce the amount of acetaldehyde and thus the effects of Asian flush. Very often, one Zantac is enough to get you through one night, Asian flush free. However, many people report that taking antacids to cure Asian flush result in getting drunk faster than usual. This may be because the alcohol is broken down slower, so more is absorbed through the walls of the stomach (where most alcohol is absorbed anyway)
The long term effect of Zantac on Asian flush sufferers is still unknown because there are very few controlled studies. Taking antacids over a long period of time is not known to have any serious negative side effects, though some studies say that overuse can lead to stomach acid problems and ulcers.
Excessive drinking combined with lacking the ALDH2 enzyme has been linked in some studies for a higher risk of cancer due to the frequent buildup of Acetaldehyde which is a known carcinogen. The use of the antacid Zantac and others like it may contribute to this possible link.
The real way to cure Asian flush has yet to reveal itself to the community of alcohol enthusiasts and social drinkers. However, there are many speculations on what new tonics, formulas, and techniques can actually cure Asian flush.
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