The Formalities of Formaldehyde (Asian Flush, ALDH2, and You)

Asian Flush: More TOXIC than cute. Learn more about the dangers of acetaldehyde.

Asian Flush: More TOXIC than cute. Learn more about the dangers of acetaldehyde.

So I have been genetically tested and found to have the ALDH2 defect, the most probable cause for my sensitivity to mold and household chemicals. This makes it difficult for my system to handle formaldehyde, and its cousin chemical acetaldehyde, which is a toxin released into the bloodstream when yeast/mold dies or when alcohol is broken down by the liver. For the early part of my life, this mostly manifested as an instant hangover after one sip of beer (never could drink more than 2 glasses in my entire life). It is a common problem, especially for Asians, who manifest this acetaldehyde detox deficiency as rosy cheeks when they drink. This is often referred to as Asian glow or flush.

There is widespread significance to this, as it is estimated 24% of the populace have this genetic deficiency. Acetaldehyde causes all kinds of damage, mainly to the liver, and has even led to alcohol being classifed as a carcinogen by the WHO due to its association with drinking. So, if you want to drink, logically, it is crucial that you address your body’s ability to do this. You also might want to address it if you want to be around everyday household items, which when new, secretly harbor this dangerous chemical, as well as formaldehyde.

There is more to the story than just drinking, you see. My personal aldehyde detox inability has shown up in recent years in the form of mold sensitivity, which later developed into chemical sensitivity. This is because acetaldehyde is the main byproduct of yeasts and mold, and it is used in a lot of manufacturing. Thanks to Dr. Shoemaker’s protocols, I was tested for this deficiency and came up positive (in a negative way). So I cannot process the extremely common toxins formaldehyde and acetaldehyde as readily as most people. Though this defect is common, many people have not realized they have it. This is perhaps due to not being overexposed for any significant period of time to these toxins in a mold- or chemical-heavy house, not noticing the symptoms, or dealing with the symptoms of aldehyde build up by using pharmaceuticals and narcotics.

The Omnipresence of Aldehydes

Having an inability to detoxify these two things is a very inconvenient Achilles’ Heel in a world where they are not only byproducts of most modern technology, but used haphazardly in just about all manufacturing of products found within and without a box. You’ll be surprised to find that formaldehyde, which is found most commonly in embalming fluid and tissue storage (you know those pig fetuses you used to dissect?), is not the more common chemical. Before reading this extremely informative piece, I believed that formaldehyde was the culprit behind this sweet, sickening fragrance I smelled in new housing projects/construction, perfumes/fragrances, new clothes and fabrics, and a lot of new toys/electronics. Turns out acetaldehyde, the byproduct of the breakdown of alcohol, was more likely the offender.


Slowly, over the past several years, with many exposures and reexposures to mold, EMFs, and various chemicals, I have started to get really sensitive to aldehydes in colognes and pretty much any product that comes in a box. China is pumping these things into just about everything they manufacture (I guess because they’re a powerful antiseptic and have a “sweet” smell, so they just can’t resist using them). I can’t stand the stuff, and I can’t even accept gifts from my parents-in-law because my sensitivity to aldehydes has gotten so bad. Thankfully, I’ve been dealing with the digestive symptoms it gives me by taking Prescript-Assist and L-glutamine, but I can still smell the stuff, and they’re definitely still quite intolerable for me when I inhale them.

What You Can Do Right Now to Help Detox Aldehydes

Avoid aldehyde exposure. There are some simple ways to limit extreme amounts of aldehyde exposure. At this point I don’t know which I’m detecting when I smell them, but formaldehyde and acetaldehyde in my experience are most prevalent in the following everyday items which I have begun to avoid like the plague:

Common Sources of Formaldehyde

  • Nail polish remover and eyelash glue (You know that awful smell? Yeah, that’s formaldehyde.)
  • Perfumes and colognes
  • New cars (i.e. the “new car smell” everyone loves)
  • Most dish detergents, like Dawn and Palmolive, have quaternium to “enhance” the scent
  • Houses with new construction or additions (most plywood/particle board and paint)
  • Gas furnaces (we have a gas furnace in my house, so I’ve had to use only electric space heaters instead; very inconvenient)
  • New clothes and especially blankets (anti-wrinkle and permanent press)
  • Food high in formaldehyde: Mostly cured meats and various processed/canned foods

Use a fancy air purifier. I know this tagline sounds tongue-in-cheek, but I’m dead serious. You can really make a nice dent in bad air quality with a very high quality air purifier. If you have residual acetaldehyde or formaldehyde in your house that isn’t going anywhere, a HEPA filter will not work. If you’re going to try this approach, really go for it, and choose something that’s engineered specifically with these chemicals in mind. IQAir is the only one that I’ve heard is up to the task. It’s extremely pricey, but they are for sure guaranteed. If you’re disappointed, you can just return it.

Supplements That Could Aid in Aldehyde Metabolism

Though you should try to eliminate aldehydes as much as possible, it is very difficult to completely eliminate them. They are just everywhere. If you find yourself reacting to it more and more severely, you must combine your avoidance efforts with some attempt at strengthening your system in the detox process. Obviously, for those deficient in ALDH, this is a very difficult proposition. You’re either producing the enzyme aldehyde dehydrogenase or not. There is hope, though, if you’ll consider trying the following:

Take molybdenum. Molybdenum is an essential trace mineral that assists in the detox pathway of aldehydes. I have been taking molybdenum for awhile, and it always seems to help, but sometimes I forget. In fact, I just popped two 1 mg capsules of molybdenum glycinate from Thorne. However, that only goes so far I think. I cannot sleep through the night in a place that has a high level of formaldehyde no matter how much I take. This past Summer, I stayed at a large lake house for vacation, and with all the new construction, furniture, and/or flooring there, I couldn’t spend more than 20 minutes inside without feeling weakness in my legs, and ultimately lightheadedness leading to partial hallucination.

Take activated charcoal. This is the most universal binding agent for toxins. I use this. It is also effective at removing acetaldehyde, but if you keep getting reexposed, I think it becomes an encumbrance on your system. I’m not a fan of taking it constantly, because it seems to interfere with my probiotics (which I take often) and other supplements. When I’m feeling particularly lightheaded from food I’ve eaten or brief aldehyde exposure in the air, it seems to do the trick alright.

Take probiotics. Like I’ve said before, and I’ll say again, only one probiotic I’ve ever taken has helped me in any lasting significant way, and that is Prescript-Assist.

At a time when I was sleeping in my car due to excess toxins in my home from mold, this got me back to being a normal functioning human being. I was getting all kinds of allergies and sensitivities to everything that I’d never worried about before—even rubber and dogs.

Take L-glutamine. Any allergenic or autoimmune problem you’re experiencing started with a leaky gut from compromised intestinal lining. This comes from a lifetime of poor air quality and/or bad diet of inflammatory, high-sugar foods pumped full of preservatives, combined with exposure to antibiotics that were either prescribed to you or that got to you indirectly in your meat. L-glutamine has been incredibly effective for me, giving me almost instant results (stopping severe intestinal pain) when taken in high doses that I’ve ramped up to.

An Even Better Approach: Think Like a Drunk

Sometimes it really is better to think like an alcoholic. Let me ‘splain. When you Google “ALDH deficiency,” you only find results relating to the inability to process ethanol (causing instant hangovers, a la “Asian Flush”). It really doesn’t surprise me living in this world that the momentum for fixing this problem is more likely going to come from a desire for guilt-free drinking instead of a desire to improve the quality of life for MCS sufferers—but I digress.

I’m about to embark on a journey of discovery (and product reviews) where I’m going to test out all of the products that claim to treat Asian flush and prevent hangovers. Just for review, alcohol (ethanol) breaks down in the liver into aldehyde, which should then continue to be broken down by aldehyde dehydrogenase into acetic acid (which is easily removed). You see, these products aim to directly confront the aldehyde dehydrogenase deficiency with minerals, compounds, and herbs that are known to breakdown acetaldehyde. The answer was there all along.

The four products I will be trying are:

  • pure vitamin B1
  • Alcotox: a product that mainly utilizes B1 for the breakdown of acetaldehyde
  • pure dihydromyricetin (DHM)
  • Repair: a product that mainly utilizes DHM for the breakdown of acetaldehyde

I will let you know how it goes in a future post. 😉

About Rob 70 Articles
Rob was the valedictorian of his high school (his last claim to fame), but now believes that academics are overrated. He is a musician and former copy editor, and is now studying independently as an amateur nutritionist, businessman, and writer/rocker against world government and for liberty. He is also attempting to obtain a PhD in squats, deadlifts, shoulder raises, rows, bench press, dips, and pull-ups.


  1. Hi Rob!

    How has the journey been with the other things you have listed? I always had a very strong reaction to alcohol and would turn beet red, break out in hives, have issues breathing, etc. I avoided alcohol, just thinking I was a lightweight that couldn’t handle it mentally like others lol. Later on, I started getting issues after eating sometimes… like very very severe issues. My HR would skyrocket and I would break out like I do on alcohol, but this time I would get so sick that I pass out. Doctors shrugged it off, kept telling me to eat less and less even though I was nearly underweight. As most people, I started researching ways to figure out my issue online since I wasn’t getting any medical support. I ordered a consumer genome test and what do you know, right at the top was an ALDH2 complete deficiency. I discussed the findings with my doctor. He told me he has never heard of such a thing but doesn’t believe in consumer genome tests and it is probably incorrect, stating that people “like to make things up in their head for connections”. It’s quite frustrating. How did you get a doctor to not only issue this test but also take note of its existence?

    • Thanks for asking, JJ. I really need to do a follow-up. Definitely a lot has happened since I tried B1 in particular. It seemed it was helping for awhile, but things started to deteriorate since I tried it. Also, Prescript-Assist stopped working for me as well since I started using it. So I’m not sure I would recommend it, to put it one way.

      I am so sorry to hear about your experience with the miserably incompetent and basically defunct conventional medical industry. Dr. Shoemaker has a mold detox protocol, and in it, on top of other tests for inflammatory markers, he prescribes genetic testing for the ALDH2 deficiency to see if you have the inability to detox aldehydes, as you and I do. He wasn’t technically my doctor, because he doesn’t have a practice anymore, but I did consult with him over the phone (it was very expensive), and he was able to refer me to a doctor who does the “Shoemaker biotoxin protocol.” This guy, Dr. Kaplan was about an hour away, and my insurance didn’t cover him at all. He was osteopathic (holistic), and was actually quite good. Did all the Shoemaker-recommended protocols. Good stuff, but way too expensive. That’s when I just started to supported detoxification with a Welchol prescription, followed by maintenance activated charcoal and stuff like that. If you already know you have the deficiency, you should try and carry out the protocols in your own home-brew way to save some money. If you have the money, of course, it’s better to have supervision from a medical professional like Dr. Kaplan (a DO, or OD, osteopath) who understands these things and can guide you through and continually monitor your progress.

  2. Hello. I am Cathlyn and I am the CMO of Delta Nutrassentials. I came across this article and thought I’d share some information about our company and product as our mission is spreading awareness and improving education about ALDH2 Deficiency within communities.

    We will be launching our patent-pending flagship product, Essential AD2, which is the first product validated through 3rd party, double-blind, placebo controlled clinical data to alleviate acetaldehyde accumulation in those who suffering from ALDH2 Deficiency, who are predominantly East Asians!

    Essential AD2 is a daily nutrassential that reduces acetaldehyde circulating in the blood, which is always higher than normal in those with ALDH2 Deficiency and has long-term health consequences.

    We will be launching our product and website in November.
    In the meantime, check out this video where CEO Amy Chang talks about ALDH2 Deficiency and what it means.

    Thank you for sharing this article and creating awareness of ALDH2 Deficiency and Acetaldehyde!

  3. Thank you so much for this. I have had such a horrible time trying to find information about what to do besides stop drinking. I just found out that I am aldh2 deficient. Do you have any recommendations about what foods to avoid? Thank you so much I really appreciate this! -Annie

  4. What about a product to remove formaldehyde from tissues and blood ? I have been contaminated with methanol and one year later I can still smell it from my nostrils ,I have headaches and eyes problem and balance problem because of this .How could I do to remove this ? I am getting depressed by smelling it often .

    • I’m so sorry about what you’re going through! Chemical exposure is no joke, and you’re not alone. I haven’t had experience with methanol from my recollection. It’s just important to know you’re not imagining it. Sometimes our systems get attenuated to a certain chemical or toxin that occurs often in the environment, so it’s likely you’re actual smelling it. If you can figure out where there might be a big source of it around you, the best thing you can do to get it out of your system is “get ahead of it” or have your system “catch up” on detoxing it. Removing as much of it as possible and especially sleeping in a place where you’re not near it will help you get to where you’re not even noticing it anymore. The less that’s around you, the less you’ll smell of it every day (as long as you don’t have a source of it coming around).

      What was the original source of the methanol?

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