The Connection Between Wine And Migraines
To wine or not to wine, that is the question for many migraine sufferers who believe there is a connection between drinking wine and developing an attack. While alcohol in general is considered a common trigger by some, research from the American Migraine Foundation appears to show the risk is overrated. The most common reason for a headache associated with wine consumption is drinking too much of it. This presents itself as a hangover that causes stress, which is an undisputed trigger of migraine attacks. All the same, some patients develop headaches after drinking just a single glass of wine, especially when red wine is made from dark-colored grapes.
How To Test Your Wine Tolerance
If you must drink wine, test your tolerance at home in private first. Keep a special wine tracker or make a specific entry in your migraine diary to identify other factors present when you drink wine. Make a note of everything you eat or drink in the days before enjoying your wine, which will give you a clear picture of all the circumstances surrounding your first attempt. If wine doesnt work for you, follow the same process with each type of alcohol until you discover which is safe for you to enjoy.
Studies On Headache And Wine
Several studies have been conducted to explore the relationship between headache and wine ingestion. One of the first studies on headache and wine, specifically red wine, was performed by Kaufman, who tested the prophylactic ingestion of acetylsalicylic acid to prevent the so-called red wine headache syndrome . Although poor in details, the small study observed that red wine indeed provoked a headache attack and ASA had little or no effect in altering headache evolution once it already began .
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There Could Be A Legitimate Reason For Your Brain Pain Aside From Drinking Too Much
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Ask any expert the best way to avoid an infamous wine headache and theyll simply tell you to lay off the booze, but it turns out there could be a legitimate reason for your brain pain, aside from over doing it.
If that feeling when your head starts pounding and youre desperate for a glass of water is all too familiar you might be falling victim to some of wine’s major culprits.
Some believe that post-wine headaches are caused by sulphites but this myth has since been debunked by experts. Instead, we should be pointing the finger at tannins, histamines and sugar, according to Vinepair.
What Causes A Wine Headache
Among alcoholic beverages, wine has quite the reputation as a headache trigger, particularly red wine. That first twinge of a headache can occur within a sip or two, or it may show up several hours later.
Alcohol can dilate blood vessels in your brain, which can cause a headache. Red wine, in particular, has long been known as a migraine trigger.
But even among those who identify red wine as a trigger, it doesnt hold true every time. Its likely that migraine attacks involve several contributing factors.
There are many theories, but no clear evidence as to why wine gives some people a headache.
Here are some possible theories regarding wine headaches.
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What Causes Wine Headaches
As we relax and enjoy the warmer temperatures with the company of friends and family, we may lose track of the amount of alcohol were consuming in these social settings, causing the dreadful next-day headache. Oftentimes, of all alcohol types, its wine that causes the most headaches or triggers migraines.
Dr. Aaron Bubolz, a neurologist at Aurora Health Care, who oversees the Multidisciplinary Headache Clinic, says there are many reasons why people get wine headaches.
Most of the time, headaches occur from dehydration, or the amount of alcohol or wine consumed, explains Dr. Bubolz. While these are the two main reasons, there are other causes of headaches or migraines that people should be aware of that can be associated specifically with wine.
One cause could be tannins. Tannins are naturally occurring molecules found mainly in plants, bark, and leaves that create a drying, rubbing sensation on the tongue. Wine tannins are extracted from grape skins, seeds, stems, and oak barrels. When grape skins, seeds, and stems soak in juice, they release tannins. The longer they soak, the more tannins they release. Tannins are most common in red wines and can trigger headaches in certain people.
Dr. Bubolz advises to stay hydrated and be conscious of how much alcohol you consume. If headaches or migraines are a common occurrence for you, its time to schedule an appointment to understand your triggers.
Is There A Solution Or Remedy
The Tribune reports that opting for lighter-colored wines can reduce the effects, since the lighter hue means there are fewer tannins. Also helpful is drinking two cups of coffee prior to drinking red wine, as this will constrict blood vessels and limit migraines. Lastly, the age-old advice of drinking water as you go to stay hydrated can also curb the effects of red wine.
Do you get red wine headaches?
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What Causes Red Wine Headaches
So, if sulfites and tannins arent to blame, then whats causing red wine headaches? The most likely causes are histamines and tyramine.
Tyramine is an amino acid produced during fermentation and, if not broken down properly, can affect blood pressure in a way that leads to headaches. To process tyramine, the body has to have a specific enzyme. If your body doesnt have enough of that enzyme, tyramine will first constrict and then dilate your blood vessels. This leads to slightly higher blood pressure, which oftentimes means getting a headache. This particular compound is already a well-known trigger for those who suffer from migraines.
Basically, if your body doesnt know how to process tyramine properly, youll probably get a headache after ingesting food or drink with tyramine. Many aged foods, like different kinds of cheeses, have tyramine in them. So, if tyramine already gives you a headache, that makes those wine and cheese parties pretty risky.
Its likely that youre already somewhat familiar with histamines. Thats because theyre the compounds that get released during an allergic reaction. Just how some people have more allergies than others, some people are more affected by extra histamines than others. If your body is more sensitive to them, the histamines in wine will cause your blood vessels to dilate, your face to flush, and then produce extra inflammation. Ergo, headache.
Is The Red Wine Dilemma Solved
Does that mean people who love red wine but fear it may bring on a headache should just stick to a cabernet or merlot? Alas, the answer is not so clear cut.
Krymchantowski says cabernet sauvignon wines from France, for example, have much higher tannin levels than any of the wines he tested from South America, making it tough for consumers to compare wines grape-to-grape if they come from different countries.
Headache experts who reviewed the study for WebMD praised the research for looking into something that’s a common problem for patients, but one that’s had very little attention from science.
“We hear quite often that wine, specifically red wine, is a trigger for people,” says Brian Grosberg, MD, director of the Montefiore Headache Center in New York City.
But Grosberg says the study also leaves many important questions unanswered.
“Usually it’s a combination of two or more triggers that precipitates a attack. Many women will notice that their menstrual period is a very strong trigger. Or it may be that, ‘Oh, I didn’t get enough sleep, and I had that glass of wine the night before,'” he says. “I’d like to know if they were looking at any of these other variables.”
Grosberg says there are other substances in wine that may cause problems for people, such as sulfites, and he wonders if the researchers looked at sulfite levels in the wines.
Other experts agree that the study is interesting but offers limited information.
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Are Sulfates The Culprit Of Red Wine Heachaches
Even in the very best wines sulfites are often added as a preservative to keep wine from spoiling due to bacteria or yeast going awry after bottling. Its a practice common for many foods from dried fruits to fruit juice, packaged grains, most condiments, and beer. But sulfites also occur naturally in many foods, including most fruits and even grapes. As a result, its impossible to drink a truly sulfite free wine. The question instead is, how much has been added?
Its up to the winemaker how much to use. If the winemaker is working with lower quality grapes as a result of poor farming, he or she will have to err on the side of caution and increase the sulfites added to keep the wine drinkable. Frederick Freitag, associate director of the Diamond Headache Clinic in Chicago, told the Wall Street Journal that sulfites could cause allergy and asthma symptoms, but they dont cause headaches. Instead, most people that feel they have a sulfite allergy may be reacting to other additives in a more commercial wine.
Maybe you have said, When I travel to Europe I can enjoy red wine, headache free because they dont use sulfites. In Europe, there are sulfites in wine, but other additives are strictly regulated, more so than in the United States. Whether in Europe or the United States, small, family run estates tend to rely on hands-on farming with fewer chemical additives.
The Best Solution Is To Know Your Winemaker
The absolute best way to find the right wine for you is to know your winemaker! Winemakers devoted to making wine with the least intervention possible will likely be shouting it from the rooftops. Look at their website and read about their approach. If you see keywords like organic, biodynamic, handmade and small production you may be on the right path.
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What’s Really Causing That Red Wine Headache
That great glass of cabernet sauvignon can sometimes come with a price a headache.
Setting aside those who suffer routinely from migraines or someone who tied one too many on the night before, even people not normally prone to headaches can sometimes feel the effect after a simple glass or two of red wine.
Sulfites often get the blame for causing the affliction, but experts said it’s highly unlikely sulfites are the culprit and that two other substances are probably at fault.
Andrew Waterhouse, wine chemist in the Department of Viticulture and Enology at the University of California at Davis, said people may think sulfites are the problem because of the “contains sulfites” phrase seen on wine labels since the 1980s.
“They look at the bottle … and they think, ‘Oh my goodness, if it contains sulfites, that must be dangerous,'” he said.
Most winemakers add a small amount of sulfites to keep wine from oxidizing, and sulfites occur naturally during fermentation.
Sulfites are used to keep foods from browning, for instance, at salad bars or in dried fruit, and a very small percentage of people have a sulfite allergy, hence the Food and Drug Administration’s decision to require the label, Waterhouse said.
Dr. Frederick G. Freitag, a headache specialist and associate professor at the Medical College of Wisconsin, said headache is not a common symptom of allergies.
Freitag said red wine headaches are likely linked to tyramine and tannins.
What to do?
Can Drinking Bring On A Migraine
Alcohol is a diuretic it acts on your kidneys to make you pee more fluid than youre taking in. Losing fluid from your body like this can lead to dehydration, which can cause headaches. So if youre prone to migraines, you might get one if you drink to excess.
Drinking alcohol also relaxes your blood vessels, leading to increased blood flow to the brain. This can also cause headaches, including migraines if youre susceptible to them1.
These potential migraine triggers can be found in any alcoholic drink. But there are also ingredients in specific drinks that are particularly associated with migraines.
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Theory : High Alcohol Content
Okay, this sounds obvious. If you drink too much wine, youll get a headache. So, to counteract the headache caused by the alcohol content, drink a glass of water between glasses of wine. You can also manage your intake by drinking one glass of wine per hour.
However, I think most of us are trying to figure out the non-alcohol induced headache. Many have experienced headaches that start within 30 minutes to a few hours of drinking wine. This type of headache likely has nothing to do with the alcohol content. That leads us to the next theory.
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Teague spoke with Dr. Alexander Mauskop, the director and founder of the New York Headache Center located in Manhattan, about the subject: Mauskop said wine-related headaches is actually one of the center’s topmost cases, but clarified that his knowledge is limited, and then proceeded to catalogue a number of possible explanations: The type of oak casket used in fermentation may play a role, but it’s not clear which oak is worse. He then noted that some of those who experience wine-related headaches wonder if they are actually allergic to sulfites. This is rare, he says .
Wine drinkers could be suffering from dehydration, given that alcohol acts as a diuretic , which Mauskop says is the root of the problem for many of his clients. Another explanation may be a depletion of magnesium: “Alcohol is a major depleter of magnesium,” Mauskop told WSJ. He recommends that chronic headache sufferers seek out 400mg of magnesium supplements per day, and see if that doesn’t help.
But despite Mauskop’s musings, there’s not much published research on wine headaches: Teague unearthed a 1988 Lancet study, titled “Red Wine as a Cause of Migraine,” where two groups of drinkers were asked to drink either red wine or a substitute to see if migraines came exclusively from one or the other. The participants chugged down 300 milliliters, around two glasses, and waited to see if they were affected.
Here’s the latest research on alcohol consumption:
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The Fallacy Of Sulfites
Youll often see the wording contains sulfites on wine bottles, which means the product contains a sulfur-based preservative to prevent oxidization and retain freshness. Sulfites are naturally-occurring chemical compounds that prevent microbial growth and reproduction, and winemakers often add extra sulfites to the wine to extend its shelf life. Sulfites are also found in foods, and are believed to trigger asthma attacks more than migraines.
Red wine usually contains fewer sulfites than white or sweet wines do. If experience shows that sulfites could help to provoke an episode, stick to organic wines that usually have lower levels of sulfites. You can expect these to both taste differently and differ in cost as well.
Sulfites And Red Wine Headaches
What is the culprit in red wine that causes headache or migraine, or as it is sometimes known “Red Wine Headache” , after a glass or more of this lovely beverage? Is it the red wine in its entirety, the sulfites in the wine or perhaps even the tannin?
The RWH is said to be a misunderstood phenomenon – try telling that to any sufferer – but there are so many theories about it’s causes, yet fairly few facts to back them up. One thing for sure is that it is some compound within the red wine itself.
What are the likely causes of Red Wine Headaches? Compounds within grape skins are likely causes, these can be either naturally occurring or be a product of the fermentation itself. Yet the blame for RWH nearly always comes back to sulfites that are added to the wine during the winemaking process. But there are other possible causes:
Why is there a need to add Sulfites to Wine?
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What Is The Interval From Alcohol Consumption To The Start Of Headache
Alcohol can trigger a migraine attack within a few hours . This is the typical headache induced by alcohol. Another type is the delayed alcohol-induced headache . This hangover headache appears in the next morning after alcohol intake. At this time the blood alcohol level is falling and reaches zero. The symptom of headache is present in 2/3 of subjects with alcohol hangover. The DAIH can be experienced by anyone, but people with migraine are more susceptible. Furthermore, migraine patients can develop headache with the ingestion of modest amounts of alcohol. All alcoholic drinks can provoke either immediate or delayed headache.