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Why Does Wine Give Me A Headache

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It’s All In The Genes

Why Does Wine Give Me a Headache?

Biogenic amines, a group of chemicals produced during fermentation, include headache-linked substances such as histamine and tyramine. While amine content varies widely in wine, it tends to be higher in reds than whites. So are these compounds the villains?

Dr. Sami Bahna, at the Allergy & Immunology department of the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, explains that genetics may impair some drinkers ability to metabolize histamine and its brethren. This means more amines make their way from the belly to the bloodstream, which can lead to symptoms such as facial flushing and, indeed, headaches.

But if youre amine-sensitive, you also have other foods to worry about: Aged cheeses, cured meats and dried fruits can all trigger reactions. Which means the next time you go to a party, that sexy charcuterie platter overflowing with runny Taleggio and gamey soppressataand so nice with a glass of redmay only work to intensify the headache youre headed toward.

How Can You Prevent Wine Headaches

The best way to avoid a wine headache is to take preventative measures. Next time youre going to indulge in a bottle of wine, try out these simple hacks to prevent that awful headache after drinking wine.

The best way to avoid a wine headache is to drink a glass of water for every glass of wine you drink.

A 1:1 ratio will keep you hydrated and help you avoid a serious wine headache or worse, a wine hangover.

Try taking allergy medication before drinking wine to avoid a wine headache.

Pop an antihistamine, such as Claritin or Reactine, before drinking wine. This will help protect you from the histamines in wine.

To avoid a wine headache, choose wines that are low in tannins.

Try to avoid cheaper wines, which often add sugar during their shorter fermentation processes. Avoiding foods high in sugar will also help.

Take a painkiller before drinking wine to prevent a headache

Take an ibuprofen or pain killer, like an Advil or Tylenol, before going to bed. Counteracting the headache *before it arrives* has been shown to work in some people.

How Do You Get Rid of a Wine Hangover?

Getting rid of a wine hangover is no easy task, but its possible! Drinking water, eating eggs or taking a nap are some of the methods, but we cant do them for you heres our Recovery Guide for Wine Hangovers!

Your Wine Headache Could Be Caused By The Amount Of Sugar In Your Wine

The combination of alcohol and sugar is a prime culprit for wine headaches, as both require high amounts of water in order to process properly. If you go into the evening of drinking dehydrated or allow yourself to become dehydrated while drinking, a wine headache is a likely result. While dehydrated, your body will start to pull water from other areas of your body in order to process the alcohol and sugar including from your brain. The emphasis here, if you havent gathered yet, is to drink lots of water!

Be mindful of the amount of sugar in the wines you are drinking regularly, click here to learn more about how much sugar is in your wine.

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Theories For Why Wine Give You A Headache

One theory is that sulfites found in wine are to blame for such headaches. Sulfites are chemical compounds that are produced naturally by yeast during fermentation. Theyre also added by winemakers to preserve the wines character, flavor, and color, as well as to prevent oxidation and fight off naturally occurring bacteria. While not all winemakers add additional sulfites, theyre a natural product of yeast, so almost all wines contain them.

According to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau , wines containing at least 10 parts per million of sulfites must say contains sulfites on their label. This label designation was intended to protect people that may be allergic to them. That said, its important to note that many foods such as dried fruits and cured meats also have sulfites, and often at much higher levels than wine. So if you dont get a headache after eating a slice of salami, then its not the sulfites in wine causing your wine headache.

Dr. Kevin Weber, MD, a neurologist at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center agrees. We arent sure what specific substances in wine cause migraines in some people, Weber says.

Related: Most Common Types of Headaches

How Alcohol Triggers Headaches

Why Does Wine Give Me A Headache?

There have been several proposed explanations for how alcohol causes headaches.

Red wine is the type of alcohol most often reported as a headache trigger. Tannin, a component in red wine, has been long considered the culprit.

In addition to red wine, other alcoholic beverages, including beer, white wine, and liqueur, have also been reported as headache triggers.

Substances such as sulfites, histamine, and tyramines are found in alcohol and may contribute to headaches as well. It has also been proposed that alcohol triggers an inflammatory response that can lead to a headache.

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Whats Causing Your Wine Headache It Might Not Be Sulfites

Sulfites have been said to cause adverse reactions in some wine drinkers, but a recent research paper by Sophie Parker-Thomson argues that bottlings made without added sulfites might be more apt to generate symptoms like headaches or watery eyes.

Instead of sulfites, Parker-Thomson writes, the culprit is more likely to be a group of compounds called biogenic amines .

Present in all fermented food and drink, biogenic amines increase with food spoilage. Theyre produced from amino acids via enzymic activity in living organisms like microbes, most often a subset of bacteria. The best-known biogenic amine, histamine, is produced when microbes remove carbon dioxide from the amino acid histidine.

Histamine is produced by the body and is involved in immune and allergic responses. If you experience hay fever, you might pop an antihistamine pill to decrease your bodys production of this biogenic amine.

Other biogenic amines found in food and wine include tyramine, putrescine and phenylethylamine. In large amounts, all can cause unpleasant side effects. It would be wrong to think of them as toxins, however, because each performs essential physiological roles.

Fortunately, its simple to make wines with low biogenic amines by controlling microbial growth. A blast of sulfur dioxide at grape reception or crushing will eliminate bacteria and many wild yeasts from developing during the early stages of fermentation.

Others point out that alcohol itself is a toxin.

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An aged sherry

One expert says that drinking two cups of strong coffee beforehand helps. Dr Seymour Diamond of the National Headache Foundation, told the Chicago Tribune that caffeine constricts blood vessels, in turn alleviating wines nasty effects.

Another also suggests taking an antihistamine prior to a heavy night out to thwart potential allergy-like effects.

The most obvious of course is to drink more slowly and to swig a glass of water for every glass of wine.

Surprisingly, the type of wine you choose will make a difference too dry wines are low in sugar so are less likely to give you brain pain while dessert and red wines should be consumed sparingly, especially if youre sensitive to tannins.

Read Also: How To Start A Wine Label

Avoid The Greasy Spoon

In my younger days, my friends and I would hit up the Dennys the morning after a night of drinking. Or worse, wed stop at the Waffle House and load up on pancakes, bacon, and eggs on the way home from a night out. These days my stomach cant take that. Ugh!

Truthfully, avoiding all the heavy, difficult-to-digest foods will help your body recover much faster. Go for a soft-boiled egg and toast instead. You can even add avocado if thats your jam. Eat light so your body can get replenished but still have the energy to focus on detoxing.

If youre like me, youre going to feel pretty ravenous the next day. Youre going to think you want to eat that greasy burger and fries. But your body is just responding to dehydration. You think youre hungry, but youre more thirsty than hungry. Drink Vitamin Water before you eat that burger.

What Happens If You Drink Too Much Wine

9: Why does wine give me headaches?

Larger amounts can cause blackouts, trouble walking, seizures, vomiting, diarrhea, and other serious problems. Long-term use of large amounts of wine causes many serious health problems including dependence, mental problems, heart problems, liver problems, pancreas problems, and certain types of cancer.

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Can Wine Trigger A Headache More Often Than Other Types Of Alcohol

There are many factors that might lead to wine headaches. One is the sulfites in wine. Another is the tyramine in wine. Tyramine is found mainly in foods like cheese, soy sauce, and eggplant, but it can also be found in aged alcohol like wine and beer.

Wine headaches are due to a chemical reaction between tyramine and sulfites that occurs when your blood pressure drops. The headache usually lasts for about an hour or two and then goes away on its own. If youre worried that you may get a wine headache, you can drink only small amounts of wine over a long period of time instead of larger amounts all at once.

Although red wine is thought to cause headaches less often, it can still happen. Wine triggers headaches because of the sulfites that are used in the process of making the wine. Sulfites are also used in preserving food and to keep food looking fresh.

When To See A Doctor

Experts agree that headaches after drinking wine are quite common. If you experience a headache immediately after drinking wine, experts recommend to hydrate immediately with water, take an over-the-counter pain reliever, and lie down in a dark area for a few minutes. Note: If you decide to take a pain reliever, make sure you read the label carefully as mixing with alcohol can be dangerous in certain instances.

Dr. Bertrand adds that if your wine-triggered headaches are concerning, try switching the type of wine you drink or reducing your wine consumption. She cautions that drinking too much alcohol of any kind can damage your brain, liver, and heart. It can also increase your risk of cancer. If the headaches dont stop, then cut back the amount of alcohol youre drinking and definitely see a doctor, she says.

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Tricks To Remedy A Wine Headache

#1 Drink a Glass of Water With Every Glass of Wine.

The most common mistake that wine drinkers make is hydration. Its easy to forget because you are drinking already. When theres wine involved hydration is key and water is what you need. Make it a habit to chug a glass of water prior to enjoying a glass of wine. It may stress your waiter out but your forehead will appreciate you.

#2 Take Two Before Drinking.

Since Im suggesting over-the-counter-drugs and Im not your doctor, be sure to consult your doctor first. If you are uncomfortable with this idea , skip to trick #3 and repeat trick #1.

#3 Dont Eat Sugary Things with Wine.

The only thing worse than a red wine headache is a cake-and-wine headache. Confetti cake sounds particularly amazing , however the combination of sugar and alcohol will greatly exacerbate the potential for a headache. If you are sensitive to wine, reserve confetti cake for your midnight coffee-and-cake binges only and stave off the dessert desire while drinking wine.

Sipping Champagne For Science

Why Does Champagne Give Me A Headache

A at the University of Surrey reported on the BBC compared the blood alcohol levels of volunteers who drank two glasses of fizzy champagne vs. flat champagne. After five minutes, the bubble drinkers had an average of 0.54 milligrams of alcohol per milliliter of blood. Those who drank flat champagne had an average of 0.39 milligrams.

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Scientists Aren’t Sure But Here’s What We Do Know

Rachel Nuwer February 8, 2011

Red wine is a fickle friend. It beckons with glistening ruby fingers, luring us into its swirling depths with a siren song of black cherry, currant, and the mysterious soil and mineral tastes of terroir, the taste of the land the grapes grew in. Were entranced: we sniff, we swirl, we sip, but unfortunately for our heads most of us dont spit.

The resulting red wine headache is a widespread affliction that can strike after as little as one glass. Its often accompanied by nausea and flushed skin. But this effect doesnt happen with white wine, and the majority of us suffer no ill effects from a glass of pinot noir or cabernet sauvignon .

So whats the deal with the red wine headache? To find out, I turned to Chris Gerling, an oenologist at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

Sulfites are often blamed, says Gerling. Sulfites are a natural component of wine, but theyre also a common preservative, usually added to wine at several stages during its production to prevent bacteria and oxidation. Without sulfites, we couldnt have wine: grape juice would turn into vinegar. Some people are allergic to sulfites, and it can cause problems for asthmatics too. However, red wine isnt alone in its sulfite content: in fact, sweet white wines often contain more. And, Gerling points out, there is no documented danger to the rest of the population, including headaches, at the parts per million levels at which SO2 is found in wine.

Filed To

Your Level Of Fatigue

It is important to be aware of the effects of alcohol on your body. While it can make you feel great initially, it can also lead to negative consequences in the long term.

Drinking alcohol, while feeling good at the time, leads to dehydration and headaches in the future. The risk increases when you drink wine.

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Why Is Wine Giving Me A Headache

Why is wine giving me a headache? You would not believe how many times I get asked that question. And I feel you, after 20 years in this business, wine sometimes gives me a headache too. So lets discuss the reasons wine can contribute to headaches. And more importantly, lets discuss ways to minimize this occurrence.


I promise you its not sulfites, and this is backed by years of scientific research. Sulfites are a natural by-product of fermentation, and these naturally occurring compounds have been used for hundreds of years in wine production. They prevent spoilage and allow your favorite wines to stay fresh on store shelves. Some producers choose not to add additional sulfites and others chemically remove them, but in my experience, these wines go bad in a matter of months. Thus, a truly sulfite-free wine is next to impossible and more importantly, its not shelf stable.

Im not at all saying there arent individuals out there with legitimate sulfite allergies. They exist, but they make up less than 1% of the population and often also suffer from asthma. When one of these folks ingests sulfites in any amount, they usually respond with hives in milder cases or difficulty breathing in more severe cases.



Josh Spurling

Choosing A Wine That Works For You


A study published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism suggests that low-alcohol beer paired with sodium greatly reduces the risk of dehydration while participating in social drinking. If you think your wine headache is the result of dehydration or excessive drinking, try these alcohol-free wines or non-alcoholic sparkling wine. And if you think you have excessive drinking speak to your doctor.

Some people have a reaction to what wine contains like sulfites, anthocyanins, or tannins. Different wines have different amounts of these, according to Dr. Bertrand. Obviously, if you react to a certain wine, avoid it.

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Why Does Wine Give You A Headache

Sometimess it begins with a dull forehead throb, a warp in the corners of my vision. Then the pain spreads until it feels like my mind is unsticking itself from my brain. Its a headache, a vicious one, and why do I have it? Because someone asked me a simple questionRed or white?and, despite knowing the possible consequences, I chose red.

Im not alone. According to a 2013 study, more than a third of regular wine drinkers report occasional headaches from wineand not from overindulgence. Even a single glass can trigger one. But as those of us who suffer are well aware, not every red causes a headache every time.

Last year, for instance, I was at a dinner party thrown by a glamorous friend. Shed brought up a couple of rare bottles of Burgundy from her cellar. The wine was the color of rubies. It undoubtedly cost a fortune. Ive also got some sort of Riesling in the fridge, she said. I hesitated. It should have been an easy choiceundistinguished Riesling versus grand cru Burgundy. For me, it was a gamble. I rolled the dice and wound up enduring a throbbing, grin-and-bear-it rest of the night. Which raises that crucial question: How can I, or anyone, tell a headachy red from a headache-free one?

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.

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