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Tue, 04/19/2011 - 15:41 by Ananth in response to bargle

We went out for our pal Rachelle's birthday on Saturday - karaoke and everything, it was a lot of fun! Yuko rarely drinks because of how she responded to alcohol once in college - she skipped all the fun parts and went straight to bargling. After it happened again over the weekend (despite having plenty of water and a full stomach) I decided to do some research.

Asian alcohol intolerance is real (to varying degrees for different people) and is caused by a gene mutation. It affects only part of the Asian population. The liver produces two enzymes to break down alcohol - the first enzyme converts the alcohol to acetaldehyde, and second enzyme converts acetaldehyde to acetic acid (which can eventually be broken down into carbon dioxide and water). People with the gene mutation have decreased activity of the second enzyme, which means that they experience a buildup of acetaldehyde - toxic in large quantities. The flushing that comes with drinking is a sign that the body is trying to expel the buildup of toxin through sweating (vomiting in extreme cases). Further reading below (it was tough to find good sources but I think these worked out):

I'm curious to hear from any of you who know more or have had similar experiences, especially any of you whose experience has been more to the extreme. 

CMYcat t-shirts are almost sold out! There are a couple of Mens' Large and XL tees left. But not to worry! We put in an order for more yesterday, and while we're at it we're bringing back the Hokusai tees! I'll post about it ahead of restocking - it'll be some time in the next few weeks. 

That's all from us! We'll be playing a bit of catch-up over the next couple of days, but I'll drop in and respond to comments when I can. Til Thursday!


It's completely true.

Comment by Jedifreak (not verified) Tue, 04/19/2011 - 15:47

We've brought several Asian foreign students to Oktoberfest, and only the Koreans were able to drink without turning into Helios.


Comment by Jedifreak (not verified) Tue, 04/19/2011 - 15:48

I would have thought the Japanese (Sake, anyone?) would be able to hold their liquor. Surprise surprise.

Sake isn't exactly liquor,

Comment by Kuragari (not verified) Wed, 04/20/2011 - 08:19

Sake isn't exactly liquor, it's only about 15% alcohol. It also makes me wonder if there's a difference between asian men and women when it comes to the enzyme deficiency too.

As well, soju is a Korean

Comment by Anonymous (not verified) Wed, 04/20/2011 - 10:42

As well, soju is a Korean rice liquor with about the same alcohol content as sake.

My boyfriend's grandmother (a Korean immigrant) can drink quite a lot, but her face turns bright red after one drink and she'll start fanning herself after two. My boyfriend, on the other hand, can and has drank a handle of Captain Morgan by himself.

I feel you

Comment by Emily (not verified) Tue, 04/19/2011 - 15:52

My asian glow is so bad that I also avoid drinking, more so out of embarrassment than bargling. My friend has dubbed me his "little 200 watt lightbulb" and swears people could read by my glow in the dark.

On the bright side, I have cheap nights out when my friends do drag me out!

My father is half-Japanese,

Comment by Anonymous (not verified) Tue, 04/19/2011 - 15:54

My father is half-Japanese, but his reaction is so bad that he goes into a seizure. It's been about 30 years since he's had any alcohol.

On the other side.

Comment by Gabe (not verified) Tue, 04/19/2011 - 16:02

My father is Filipino and his alcohol tolerance is extreme, in fact when he was in a study during college on the effects of hangovers my dad was removed from the testing due to the fact that his liver processed the alcohol to the point that he didn't get hangovers. Alternately, my mother is a tiny white woman who's alcohol tolerance is nil.

The children are kid of a mixed bag.

Yep. Those of the Malay

Comment by Silver C. (not verified) Tue, 04/19/2011 - 23:32

Yep. Those of the Malay stock seem to have a much higher alcohol tolerance than the rest of the Asian population. I'm Pinoy myself and we "sort of" take pride in out drinking Westerners, especially American soldiers when they still had bases here. It doesn't help that moonshine (lambanog--coconut Arrack: 80-90 proof on first distillation, and 166 or so proof on the second) is fairly prevalent here and is drunk everywhere, particularly the provinces. It's a sad truth that it's drunk to keep cold and hunger away more than fun.

If you were born anywhere before the 90's you're most likely grew up where alcohol is natural at the home. A ten-year old can go to the nearest "sari-sari store" to buy a bottle for his parents. Boys are introduced to alcohol fairly early as tolerance is considered "manly." So you can bet that most Pinoys during that time (esp. raised in the rural areas) do have a fairly good to excellent alcohol tolerance.

Personally, I can't say I have a tolerance because I found out I'm allergic to alcohol. (^^); Which makes me exempt in partaking alcohol in many gatherings. My Chinese relatives on my mother's side do get the "Asian glow" whilst drinking, which makes them lightweights. Pure Malay Filipinos on the other hand, drink like there's no tomorrow I noticed.

I'm in a pretty similar

Comment by Jamba (not verified) Thu, 04/21/2011 - 04:38

I'm in a pretty similar situation. Filipino. Alcohol processes very quickly. Even on big parties it's hard for me to stay buzzed all night since it fades after a few minutes. If I wanted to get well and truly blitzed I don't even drink beer since then I'd just feel bloated.


Comment by Anonymous (not verified) Tue, 04/19/2011 - 16:09

All the drinks. All of them.

Part Chinese here...

Comment by Nate (not verified) Tue, 04/19/2011 - 16:10

and my normal drink is vodka. Straight vodka. Guess the Asian alcohol intolerance skipped me.


Comment by Ewen (not verified) Tue, 04/19/2011 - 16:28

Despite being Caucasian I have alcohol intolerance or something like it. (It's supposed to affect about a third of East Asians, but I can't find any info at all on how often it appears among other people...) I tried drinking, and then stopped when I realized it took very little for me to end up needing to lie down and wait for the suck to go away. Luckily almost none of my friends actually drink in the first place.

You're not alone

Comment by HappyHead (not verified) Thu, 04/21/2011 - 08:00

Another Caucasian with alcohol intolerance here. I skip over the fun drunk part and go right into horrible hangover with no time between. My Irish and German ancestors are horrified. (Seriously - my grandfather was one of them, and when he found out, he was horrified, and said "But! But we're Irish! You're supposed to be able to chug whiskey for hours without getting tipsy!")

I've met about four other non asians who have the same problem, so that makes six of us.

Me three!

Comment by Cuna (not verified) Thu, 04/21/2011 - 08:18

Also painfully white, and entirely incapable of drinking alcohol without skipping straight to "bargle!" within an hour.

Quarter Japanese... it seems

Comment by Emeryn (not verified) Tue, 04/19/2011 - 16:30

Quarter Japanese... it seems to have escaped me, because I don't get sick. I am a huge lightweight, though, much to my German-Irish husband's amusement. One shot of whiskey and I'm drunk. Half a bottle of whiskey and he's just a wee bit tipsy.

German/Irish? Man... That

Comment by Anonymous (not verified) Tue, 04/19/2011 - 16:57

German/Irish? Man... That dude was bred for drinkin'!

Ancestry ain't everything

Comment by kathleen (not verified) Tue, 04/19/2011 - 18:52

Ancestry ain't everything! I'm English/Irish/German/Scottish and I'm a total lightweight (though, being a small-sized girl may have something to do with it). One glass of wine and I'm done. I can't even drive at that point.


Comment by mamafrog (not verified) Wed, 04/20/2011 - 02:16

I'm English/German/Danish/ScotsIrish/Choctaw/Cherokee--used to be able to drink with very little problem, in fact, I was getting to where my tolerance was pretty good with age. Then I had to start taking high blood pressure meds and now I have a severe alcohol allergy. You know--getting bright red, swelling up, screamingly itchy, especially on my palms and soles, can't breathe. Just when I really like it--I can't drink it! Life just isn't fair at times!


Comment by Bunny (not verified) Thu, 04/21/2011 - 08:16

English/Scottish/Lithuanian here. Possibly a touch of Romani in there but not certain.

I used to be able to drink anyone under the table, until I was put on SSRIs. The meds screwed with my tolerance levels on parableedingcetemol, let alone alcohol. I've been off the meds for a while but still haven't been able to get my levels back up to scratch.

Then again, my family were already shocked with my alcohol preferences since I was the one family member that didn't prefer vodka as a primary choice.


Comment by Annie (not verified) Tue, 04/19/2011 - 16:35

I'm Chinese and, yes, this is real. I've told people about it before and they're always surprised to hear it's an actual thing.

I've never gotten to the point where I get sick, but that's probably because I get tipsy really quickly and have to stop. In one extra-ridiculous instance, I had two -- TWO -- rum and Cokes at a bar and ended up falling asleep against a pillar on a subway platform in the wee hours of the morning. So.

Haha, oh no! I definitely

Comment by Ming (not verified) Tue, 04/19/2011 - 18:10

Haha, oh no! I definitely get Asian flush halfway into one drink, and I never feel inclined or awake enough to have much more than two or three in a night, but I've yet to actually just konk straight out or bargle (except for that one time in college with all of the appletinis that I don't like to think about anymore).

However, I think being half Irish has given me a bit more natural ability to deal with the deficiency. Don't anybody get between me and my Guinness!

I seem to be getting that

Comment by Ananth Tue, 04/19/2011 - 21:08

I seem to be getting that beer goes down a lot easier than anything else! Apparently you can take Pepcid AC 30-60 minutes before drinking to reduce the redness, if that's of concern!

My wife is half-Chinese and

Comment by neumann (not verified) Tue, 04/19/2011 - 16:39

My wife is half-Chinese and generally one drink (one beer, glass of wine, or cocktail) is enough to make her lightheaded, flush, and sick feeling. It affect her mother the same way. There are supplements (NAC is the one that comes to mind) that are supposed to replicate the missing or under-working enzyme but we didn't have any luck with them. It's a shame too, because she genuinely enjoys to the taste of good beer and wine but can't have more than a few sips before becoming self-conscious of looking flushed.

Is it possible to get the

Comment by Lupus Draconis (not verified) Tue, 04/19/2011 - 16:43

Is it possible to get the Hokusai tees in something other than white? I love the shirt, but I have trouble wearing white because it bliiinds me in the sun. X|

Oh, the Hokusai tees were

Comment by Ananth Tue, 04/19/2011 - 21:09

Oh, the Hokusai tees were never white! They're actually light blue. We'll avoid doing white t-shirts for as long as we can. :)

Curse you AAI!

Comment by fraoch (not verified) Tue, 04/19/2011 - 16:49

It's all your fault I'm a cheap date!

Protip: Immodium AD before

Comment by snikyma (not verified) Tue, 04/19/2011 - 16:49

Protip: Immodium AD before you drink will help with the flushing. However, when it comes to the vomiting, no clue. :[

a trick some friends use

Comment by cat (not verified) Tue, 04/19/2011 - 16:50

A couple of my friends take heartburn medicine 1/2 hour or so before drinking and it seems to reduce their redness significantly. Personally I don't have any issues with drinking despite being full chinese. I've noticed that korean and japanese friends have insane levels of tolerance though, especially the little petite ladies.


Comment by AlmostLiterally (not verified) Tue, 04/19/2011 - 16:54

I had a bargle once, before I got my hurlsky.

good times

Comment by kallinite (not verified) Tue, 04/19/2011 - 17:00

I am not asian (I am caucasian), but I am alcohol intolerant. Even .5 oz of alcohol almost immediately causes hot flashes, nausea, extreme fatigue, and a really weird burning/cramping in my thighs and upper arms. The more I drink, the worse it gets. I've gotten as far as 2 oz before I got so sick that I had to stop.

I've read of some people with similar experiences, particularly the muscle pain in the limbs. The flushing doesn't bother me so much because the other symptoms are far more awful. haha

Oooh, I thought I was the

Comment by EiceBleu (not verified) Tue, 04/19/2011 - 18:50

Oooh, I thought I was the only one getting the muscle spasms! They're awful!

Whoa, never heard of muscle

Comment by Ananth Tue, 04/19/2011 - 21:10

Whoa, never heard of muscle spasms! Yikes, sorry to hear that. 

Muscle pain but not Alcohol intolerant

Comment by Cody (not verified) Wed, 04/20/2011 - 13:27

I also experience muscle pain when I drink, especially the next day or at night when I'm trying to sleep. However, I also have a good reputation for being able to drink heavily. I once drank approximately 150 oz. of Guinness in about 3 hours without the Bargle. Forgive my boasting, but my point is I'm not sure that alcohol intolerance has anything to do with the muscle pain or not, it could be an independent effect/symptom of something else.

For the record

Comment by Cody (not verified) Wed, 04/20/2011 - 13:30

Also, forgot to mention that I'm mostly German/Italian.

me too

Comment by Euge (not verified) Tue, 04/19/2011 - 17:05

I'm Korean, have basically sworn off liquor, b/c a half a drink makes me feel so horribly sick for the rest of the night, I actively try to make myself vomit. It sucks. I feel Yuko's pain. Pepcid ACs used to help, but they don't do nothing for me no mo'.

I've known other Asian people who turn PURPLE from drinking, it is horrifying and scary.

For some reason, beer doesn't do anything to me, unless it's like a really thick, hopsy one.

Gah, purple?! That sounds

Comment by Ananth Tue, 04/19/2011 - 21:11

Gah, purple?! That sounds scary as hell!

I keep hearing that beer is okay for the most part. I wonder what the deal is!

To be fair....

Comment by Euge (not verified) Wed, 04/20/2011 - 10:25 only started happening like 1-2 years ago. When I was younger, I used to be able to drink a lot. :( I am getting old.

I just tried looking for a pic of my friend with purple face. I know I have some photos of it. It is INSANITY.

OH MY GOD. Now I know why I

Comment by Carlos (not verified) Tue, 04/19/2011 - 17:10

OH MY GOD. Now I know why I get sick whenever I drink more than one glass of beer (or any equivalent drink)! I totally have this Asian Alcohol Intolerance (I'm 100% Japanese genes, even though I live in Brazil)! My father had it. My mother doesn't.

Great! I was hoping we'd

Comment by Ananth Tue, 04/19/2011 - 21:12

Great! I was hoping we'd help someone out w/ this strip. 

I fell yukos pain...

Comment by Alisa (not verified) Tue, 04/19/2011 - 17:19

I am half thai and half german. Most of my thai relatives can (and do)drink a lot whithout gettink drunk but I do have alcohol intolerance -_- I start to feel warm, dizzy and sleepy after drinking 1/2 of a cocktail.... It´s kind of emberassing when you`re out with friends. So I don´t like drinking and when I´m out with new people they always ask why I don´t drink alcohol -.- alcohol is overrated :D All the thai people I know can drink a lot but all vietnamese and japanese I know fall asleep after a few drinks^^

Phillipinos bargle too

Comment by yokotei (not verified) Tue, 04/19/2011 - 17:26

long time reader, first time commenter. my friend rang me up to ask if i read this and it was quite enlightening. :)

I had the fun of learning about my own intolerance on a weeklong vacation with some friends in the mountains. i knew my mom is extremely allergic to alcohol in general - she gets hives from rubbing alcohol and can't use hand sanitizer- but i'm adopted (from the cebu region)so i thought it would be ok.
on the first night we ran out of shot glasses, so i had a bit of vodka, enough to just cover the bottom of a two handled, child's sippy cup. and then twenty minutes later my irish boyfriend decided i needed to be 'as drunk as everyone else' because they had all had a couple of beers before me. so it was probably, maybe just over an ounce.

i was bargling two hours later, and after another two hours of sleep i was fine again. needless to say i got to nanny for the rest of the week. there was only one more incident on the last night and of course it was my boyfriend.


Comment by Leah (not verified) Tue, 04/19/2011 - 17:29

It didn't start affecting me until I was of drinking age and it seems to get worse with time. Right now I can maybe take a couple sips of alcohol before getting the gross gurgle in my stomach that feels like food poisoning. There is no fun laughy enjoyment part. Just straight to sick and expelling from any orifice (TMI?).

I'm glad someone knows how to do a proper search online. All I found was "beer mud" or "beer shits".

Asians and Alcohol...its complicated :-P

Comment by Jade F. Lee (not verified) Tue, 04/19/2011 - 17:30

Its funny though, despite the majority of my family having craaaazy "Asian flush" when drinking, they still do it quite often! I think I'm a strange case though, where I will get drunk super quickly, and get red even more quickly (whether I'm drunk or not). But it will generally go through my system really fast too, so by the end of the night, I'm usually completely sober. And I've never experienced a hangover! BUT if I have harder alcohol, and then have a beer, THAT's when I get EXTREMELY sick. If I juust stick to hard alcohol throughout the night, or only beer then I'll be a-ok, but the instant I have two differing types of alcohol, its an instant inside-out :-(. Strange happenings.

Liquor before beer, you're

Comment by Anonymous (not verified) Wed, 04/20/2011 - 14:17

Liquor before beer, you're in the clear. Beer before liquor, never been sicker. :)

Asians Bargle And So Do...

Comment by Moofius (not verified) Tue, 04/19/2011 - 17:32

First Nations of the northern territories of Canada! I've lived up North my whole life and it's the same with our First Nations (Indian? Whatever you Amerikans call 'em). Ahuns and the First Nation are pretty closely related, genetics wise, actually. Since back in the days of the wolly mammoth the Ashuns followed the furry elephants over and then got trapped. True story!

The more you know. :D

One of my Japanese teachers

Comment by Kyle (not verified) Tue, 04/19/2011 - 17:35

One of my Japanese teachers has that, she got mad when I told her I don't like to drink. She wanted to switch places with me. HAHA.


Comment by Jacob (not verified) Tue, 04/19/2011 - 17:36

Most of my extended family gets the "asian glow". I have learned from my cousins that taking Pepcid AC apparently decreases the symptoms.

My stepmother

Comment by B_T_E (not verified) Tue, 04/19/2011 - 17:40

has intolerance for more than just alcohol; cafeine (she's only in terms with "coloured water" as I call her two-second-dip tea) and strong medicines are realy hard for her, and we're from Finland - so this curious trait is not bound to Asia.
She's not an extreme case in intolerance though, she can sip one or two (max) ciders in a long evening, but more or faster than that, she's soon out of the game and gets a really bad hangover.

It's interesting..

Comment by ColdFusion (not verified) Tue, 04/19/2011 - 17:51

I find it interesting to compare and contrast a simple lightweight who lacks sufficient lysosomes to process alcohol quickly, and a person with the tendency for acetaldehyde buildup.. there's a lot of symptoms in common but it's really a totally different thing, which is hard to explain to some people.
I've heard even the normal alcohol buildup in your intestines from eating carbohydrates can cause a bit of alcohol flush in these affected asians :o

Half-Japanese here, and I

Comment by Mina (not verified) Tue, 04/19/2011 - 17:58

Half-Japanese here, and I get the flush pretty bad. My 21st birthday was the first time I had alcohol, and my (full Japanese, with the tolerance of an Irish elephant) mother ordered me a vodka martini. Took two sips and the left half of my face went bright red, as well as getting horribly bargly. It seems to be a come and go issue for me, so I just drink fruity girly sissy drinks with low levels of alcohol. I get a little pink but that's it. My aforementioned mother could out-drink a bar of Irish miners if she wanted to, though. It's ridiculous.