Tuesday, November 07, 2006


On 6 August 1998 I got very drunk on a work placement social evening. Offer free beer to a student, and what do you expect. I was used to drinking beer, I'd spent much of my university career in the student bars, drinking beer in impressive quantities. But that day (or the morning after) I had a really bad reaction to something.
Admittedly, I was so hungover I didn't really notice, but it was only mid afternoon, when I'd been at work all day (on the final day of the placement) that someone pointed out the rash covering my face. I was mortified that I'd been wandering round all day without having noticed it (everyone said they just assumed I knew), but didn't really try to work out what had caused it.
A couple of days later I travelled to America for a semester studying over there. At 20, and without convincing looking fake ID I basically decided that it was easier not to bother trying to get served. A spell off the drink would do me good anyway. (Although it didn't help my waistline, because I just replaced it with food...) Between then and christmas I had a very very small number of drinks, but noticed that sometimes after drinking beer the rash would start to reappear. Not as bad as it was that time on the placement, but I'd feel a bit itchy. It seemed to be dependent on a combination of three things - beer, TOM and warmish weather, and it didn't happen every time, but there was definitely some sort of reaction. I joked that I was allergic to beer, but didn't make much of it.
After I left university I stopped drinking beer so much. My taste in alcohol moved on, to encompass things like red wine and spirits and cocktails. I'd have the occasional beer, but I'd rarely spend an entire evening drinking it. The times when I did, it would make me feel far worse than an equivalent number of other drinks would have done. But generally speaking, I just don't drink it. I haven't had the rash for ages, I'm not sure if I would if I drank the right amount of beer at the right (or wrong) time, but the situation just hasn't come up.
Now, if there's one problem with running club (and I still love it to bits), it's that it's a bit of a beer drinking situation. After runs I go to wait for the bus in the bar over the road which is a working mans club type place, and where I suspect you'd be looked at strangely if you asked for wine or a cocktail. And after races they head off to the sort of country pubs that specialise in having a wide range of beers on tap.
So far, I've been going along with beer drinking. Not in huge quantities - never more than one after training, and two after the race on Sunday. I remember when I used to get through four at a time as a student (the student bar was £1.25 a pint, which worked out nicely for going out with a fiver). But I've noticed that it really does make me feel rough in a way that a glass of wine wouldn't. I'm starting to think that while I'm probably not actually "allergic" to beer in the true sense of the word, it really doesn't do me any good, even in small quantities. I mean, I know it's not a superfood or anything like that and it's not "good" for me, but I've always taken the opinion that a little of what you fancy isn't going to hurt. But maybe with beer it really is worth just steering entirely clear of the stuff.
I've been complaining about running in the evening making it harder for me to sleep, but I noticed that the one day I did sleep really well after running club was last Wednesday when I didn't drink after the run because I still felt a bit ill. Maybe it's the beer not the running? Possibly worth experimenting with that thought?

I can't believe it's taken me so long for the connection to really click in my head. At university in particular, I put any crapness down to the amount I was drinking (which no doubt also contributed), since then I've tended to only drink beer abroad where I put it down to the effects of the heat. I've ever really considered the fact that in isolation, even with nothing else worthy of triggering a reaction, less than half a pint makes me feel quite grotty. And I've carried on drinking it. Stupid or what?
I might be changing my routine a bit anyway on running club days. Although it's possible to get the bus home, it's a bit of a faff, so I'm considering driving to the leisure centre where we meet in the morning, getting the bus into work from there, getting the bus back in the evening, running then driving home. And if I'm driving not only do I not have to hang around in the pub waiting for the bus, but I also have a cast iron excuse for sticking to soft drinks if I do decide to pop in for a while.
I suspect that I may still have a beer from time to time, particularly on holiday, but now that I've re-established the connection in my head between drinking it and how I feel, that may become less and less frequent.


Blogger K said...

I have a similar problem with red wine - one glass will give me an almost immediate migraine. Sometimes you just have to admit defeat. (My life is so quiet that it's not exactly a calamity.)

These days almost everyone seems to have some kind of food allergy or sensitivity (or someone in their family does) so I'd guess your running club will be fairly sympathetic!

9:58 PM  
Blogger Sue said...

I was always a beer fan, but I stopped drinking it when I started losing weight last year. Since then I've had one - and couldn't finish it because I felt so bloated!

3:03 AM  
Blogger dianka said...

i don't see why you should need to make excuses not to drink beer. simply say it doesn't sit well with you, or that you prefer wine and cocktails and drink that. if they look at you weird then that's their problem, not yours.

11:16 AM  

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