If you've ever craved a chocolate bar, you know how an alcoholic feels about his or her next drink. That preoccupation with alcohol, along with the compulsion to continue drinking once he or she's started, is what separates an alcoholic from a social drinker. Alcoholics also tend to drink large amounts every day, and to start early in the day. Others drink in binges. Either way, an alcoholic responds to alcohol quite differently from the way most of us do.
Why some people become alcoholics and others do not is one of the unsolved mysteries of medicine. Heredity takes its share of the blame - although some of the biggest drinkers have parents who are strict teetotalers, and some abstainers have parents who are alcoholics.
In other words, in spite of their attraction to alcoholic beverages, problem drinkers may actually be allergic to the stuff. They may either be allergic to the alcohol itself, or to the grains, corn, fruits, yeast or sugar from which alcoholic beverages are made.
And alcoholics do tend to have more food allergies than other people. A research team at Deaconess Hospital in St Louis, Missouri, tested seventy-five drinkers for allergy to seventy foods. Compared with non-drinkers, alcoholics were nearly twice as susceptible to food allergies (Modem Medicine).
Alcohol may also aggravate food allergies indirectly by interfering with the complete digestion of food proteins in the stomach, leading to bowel troubles, gas and diarrhoea, among other discomforts.
We're not saying that alcoholism is always caused by allergy. After all, alcoholism is a complex problem. But if you've reached a point where you know you're drinking too much, too often, understanding your compulsion could be the first step towards controlling it. If you are indeed allergic to foods from which alcohol is made, eliminating them could help you beat the problem once and for all.
Incidentally, doctors have noticed that people who drink a lot seem to suffer more than their share of stubborn skin problems. If you drink heavily and have a skin rash that you can't get rid of, it might clear up if you stay away from alcohol.
Because depression and anxiety can lead to alcoholism, people with drinking problems should also read the entries on those topics in this section.