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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Death by Alcohol and Seafood

I remember when I was in my 2nd year of college I went out with a long term ex-boyfriend, his best friend and his girlfriend.  (Ironically my ex ended up marrying that girl but that is a different story).  We decided to go out for a fancy lobster dinner and even though we were underage, for some reason we were able to order wine and beer with dinner.

Afterward we went to a movie and I was fine until about half way in when I started experiencing the worst stomach ache of my life - I cannot even describe the pain other than it was sudden, it was intense and I felt like I wanted to die.

After the movie I convinced the others to drive me home while I listened to my ex say how I always "ruin everything".  (Yes, I am glad I was not the one to marry him!).   Of course at the time that made me feel even worse but I also felt so bad I just wanted to get home and head to bed.  Once I was dropped off, that is exactly what I did.

The next day I was fine and just chalked it up to a strange experience.  I really just thought I caught a touch of something and did not think much more about it.  Flash forward  2 years to just after college - I was out having a seafood dinner with a friend, this time crab legs with beer.  After a great dinner I experienced very similar symptoms to when I had the reaction after the lobster dinner.  Cramping.  Feeling sick to my stomach.  Feeling like I want to die

I started to piece together that I had both reactions after a seafood dinner but was puzzled because there were other times I had seafood and did NOT have the same reaction.  I finally figured out that the difference was when I had the reaction when I ate certain shellfish and had a drink.  I could eat shellfish alone (I think) or drink alcohol with other foods and be fine.  Only when I paired the two did I have the reaction.  What I had was a seafood allergy.  But only with beer, wine or liquor.

I found this thread that has accounts for others who experience the same adverse reaction when mixing seafood and alcohol.  I was glad to find others that have the same reaction.  When I tell people about my allergy they usually give me a strange look so it was a relief to find others with the same allergy.  Most reactions were even more severe than mine.

I can eat Shrimp with no problems, even paired with  alcohol.  My reaction to the lobster and crab was so severe however I am afraid to test it out.  I am not sure why I can have shrimp but not lobster or crabs.  Now I have inadvertently had a bite of crab dip or a sip of Lobster Bisque with no reaction but that is a very, very small amount.  To think about actually sitting and eating lobster tail or a plate full of crab legs puts the fear of god into me.

Ironically my husband found out he was allergic to oysters.  I made oyster stew one time and he got sick (no alcohol involved)....    He said he must have had a "bad oyster" as he became ill, but no one else did.  The "bad oyster" theory was not sitting well with me because it was a stew that all the ingredients had simmered together for a while - basically we ALL ate the same meal.

A couple of years later we were in Seattle and went out for seafood.  He had a plate of Oysters.  We get home and he was in bed or in the bathroom for 4 days.  He will never eat oysters again.

I would be really interested to see if anyone else has the same reaction or something similar.  If so please feel free to comment!  I would love to hear your story

9 comments:

Penelope Lopez said...

Hi there,

I'll try to give you the nutshell version! :)

A couple of summers ago my boyfriend at the time made me try soft shell clams while we were out having a Sunday funday (lots of beer and orange crushes). Later that night I felt really nauseous to the point of not vomiting but enough to make me hang out next to dear John. Two years later I had soft shell clams and beer and some cocktails... Again felt very dizzy and nauseous. Early this year I went out to eat with a friend and had tuna and shirmp in my sushi.. My friend didn't get sick but later that night and next day I vomited for 12 hours straight. I went out to dinner couple weeks ago had crabs and 1 drink and immediately went home because I had a migrane. It was to the point I couldn't open my eyes to drive.. Someone else had to. I had oysters on Saturday and 1 beer then left to home home because of another headache. Later that night I had 1 vodka cran and 1 shot of jack and spent 8 hours vomiting. Finally I am drawing the conclusion I cannot mix seafood and alcohol. Sucks.. I live in Maryland.. Whats crabs without beer.. :(

Anonymous said...

This has happen to me twice. First time was clams and 1/2 beer , the 2nd time was oysters and 1/2 red wine.
Both times i thought i was going to die and it lasted about 18 hours and then i felt ok.

Tracy said...

I tried Crab Legs about 10 years ago (believe I was drinking too) and became VERY sick. Thought I had bad seafood. Over the next few years, I tried lobster a few times...only to wake up in the middle of the night throwing up, along with an upset stomach. Last night - since it had been YEARS, I tried Crab AND Lobster. BIG mistake. Sick all night. I did consume wine last night. BUT, I can eat shrimp w/no problems. Maybe its the Iodine, since lobster has a high level. Thoughts?

MB Isaac said...

I can eat shrimp also (and oysters). Crab seems to make me sick also. I am not sure what would cause some shellfish to cause a reaction but not any...

Thanks for sharing your story!

Charles DiChiara said...

The problem you are suffering from when combining certain seafoods and acohol is a toxic histamine reaction. Some people that have a shortage of, or an insufficient activity of the enzymes needed to deal with histamine in their bodies, can react badly, even violently to a meal of histamine-rich foods. These foods include certain seafoods (most usually shellfish), certain fungi / mushrooms, MSG, etc., etc.

Worse yet, is the fact that this reaction can also occur with foods, food products, and /or spirts which promote an increase of histamine within the body. There are a number of these foods which can act to trigger a reaction and these trigger foods vary from person to person. The most common trigger appears to be alcohol.

The “why” to all this is the fact that histamine is a critical matabolite and neurotransmitter which activates to defend against foreign cell matter in our bodies. The trigger foods cause the body to release potentially dangerous and even dangerous amounts of histamine. Also, alcohol and acetaldehyde dehydrogenase are important to dealing with the amounts of histamines in our bodies. So alcohol, especially in people that lack the enzyme acetaldehyde dehydrogenase, causes these people to be particularly susceptable to a reaction since drinking alcoholic spirits stimulates the prodution of histamine in the body.

Charlie D. / Computerguy

Charles DiChiara said...

The problem you are suffering from when combining certain seafoods and acohol is a toxic histamine reaction. Some people that have a shortage of, or an insufficient activity of the enzymes needed to deal with histamine in their bodies, can react badly, even violently to a meal of histamine-rich foods. These foods include certain seafoods (most usually shellfish), certain fungi / mushrooms, MSG, etc., etc.

Worse yet, is the fact that this reaction can also occur with foods, food products, and /or spirts which promote an increase of histamine within the body. There are a number of these foods which can act to trigger a reaction and these trigger foods vary from person to person. The most common trigger appears to be alcohol.

The “why” to all this is the fact that histamine is a critical matabolite and neurotransmitter which activates to defend against foreign cell matter in our bodies. The trigger foods cause the body to release potentially dangerous and even dangerous amounts of histamine. Also, alcohol and acetaldehyde dehydrogenase are important to dealing with the amounts of histamines in our bodies. So alcohol, especially in people that lack the enzyme acetaldehyde dehydrogenase, causes these people to be particularly susceptable to a reaction since drinking alcoholic spirits stimulates the prodution of histamine in the body.

Meg McCormick said...

Same thing happened to me and I wrote about it. Am in the process of testing to see if I can eat shrimp again and it seems that I can - and in hindsight, there was wine in all 3 instances where I got so sick all those years ago. I just stumbled upon the message board you linked to and take comfort in knowing others have had a similar experience. http://soupisnotafingerfood.wordpress.com/2009/05/11/difficult-choices-and-a-giveaway-too/

bt hayesesq said...

I, too, have the same reaction -- but not consistently. And, like Penelope above, I live in a seafood hub (New Orleans) and can't imagine eating raw oysters without beer; I've been eating shellfish all my life and never noticed this problem. I wonder if it has to do with age (I recently turned 40) or the fact that I drink more than I used to. Given the histamine toxin explanantion above, I wonder if popping some antihistamines beforehand could head off a repeat of this awful experience. Of course, benadryl with beer might not be the best way to go either...

MB Isaac said...

I am not sure if age has anything to do with it - I was around 18 or 19 when I noticed the problem. (Yes, I was drinking underage LOL). I am in my 40's now and would not want to test it.... I do know though that sometimes people grow into allergies so something that may not have bothered you before may result in an allergic reaction now.

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