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What Is In Red Wine That Causes Migraines

Red Wine Headaches The Cause Solution Prevention And Cure For Rwh

The Truth About Red Wine Headaches (RWH) and How You Can Prevent Them

From time to time, many drinkers of wine get headaches. In fact, this is so common, it is often referred to as red wine headaches, or RWH.

While some of those headaches are caused from over consumption of wine, meaning the alcohol found in the wine, that is not the sole cause.

That is not to say that there are not also potential benefits from drinking wine. For details on the potential, important health benefits from drinking wine, calories and nutrition found in most wine, please read: Health and Nutrition Facts of Drinking Wine However, from time to time, many people experience a red wine headache when tasting wine.

Sulfites in red wine: A lot of people blame allergies to sulfites on their suffering. While that does happen, that is not the cause of red wine headaches. Sulfites are used in almost every type of wine as a preservative agent.

The percentage of sulfites in wine is really quite low. White wines contain between 250 and 450 parts per million of sulfites. Red wine has even less sulfites, with a range of between 50-350 parts per million.

The truth is, dried fruit, which is the common, agreed upon litmus test for sulfite allergies contain much higher degrees of sulfites with a range of between 1,000 to 3,000 parts per million.

The cause of red wine headaches or RWH: It would appear that there are two potential reasons for the red wine headaches. Histamines and Tyramine, both of which are present in all wines are the guilty parties!

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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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.

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What Is It About Wine That Triggers A Migraine

Certain wines are more likely to produce a reaction than others. Often, patients can drink spirits or beer without any effect, so its more than just the alcohol content in wine that causes migraines. The histamine content in wine is considered to be one of the main reasons it causes headaches. You also find histamines in aged cheeses, citrus fruits, smoked salmon and cured meats, among other trigger foods. Patients with an intolerance for histamines can develop symptoms that resemble an allergic reaction, including a headache. Taking a histamine blocker could reduce the adverse effects of this chemical in the wine.

Reducing Your Risk Of Bringing On A Migraine Through Drinking

What Causes Red Wine Headaches?

The UK Chief Medical Officers low risk drinking guidelines are designed to help all adults keep the health risks from drinking alcohol to a low level. However, some migraine sufferers may find even small amounts of certain drinks cause problems for them, so if thats you, its probably best to avoid alcohol drinks altogether. Studies have shown that migraine sufferers may suffer migraine symptoms even at low levels of drinking5.

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Keep A Diary To Understand Your Triggers

Migraines and their triggers are very individual what affects one person may cause no problems for the next. Many migraine sufferers find that keeping a diary helps them identify their own personal triggers and understand their patterns of migraines better.

If you want to try keeping a diary, you may wish to record what food youve eaten and how much caffeine youve drunk, as well as any alcoholic drinks, as these are all things which can be linked to migraines. Stress can play a big part in migraines4, so you might notice youre more prone to getting one after a difficult week at work, and for women, your period could also be a factor.

Eating Well The Puzzling Red Wine Headache

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FOR some people, a glass of red wine is an invitation to a roaring headache. After a few such episodes, which usually include a feeling of queasiness, those who suffer them may banish wine from their tables for life.

The symptoms are part of a syndrome known as Red Wine Headache, or R.W.H.

”The red wine headache is a real if poorly understood phenomenon,” says an article in the June issue of the Harvard Health Letter. That is a masterpiece of understatement.

There are many theories about what causes the syndrome, but few facts. Dr. Fred Freitag, associate director of the Diamond Headache Clinic in Chicago, said no one really knows what leads a patient to develop this type of headache.

It may be caused by ”compounds found in the skins of grapes and they are either naturally occurring or produced through fermentation,” Dr. Freitag said. He would postulate no further. ”It’s not as if there are hundreds of thousands of dollars for funding” studies to determine the cause, Dr. Freitag said. There is actually a stigma to studying the subject.

”I’ve entertained the idea of looking for grants to study this and I’ve been told, ‘Don’t go there, it’s bad P.R.,”’ Dr. Freitag said. Bad publicity comes to those who would study drinking? Carry Nation is with us yet.

Sulfites can cause an allergic reaction, Dr. Freitag said, but they give headaches only to asthmatics. The more common reaction to sulfites is a breathing problem.

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How Important Is Alcohol As A Trigger Of Migraine

Migraine patients consider many foods capable of triggering migraines. The food-trigger relationship is frequently equivocal. In fact, lists of triggers induce the migraineur to equate their migraine attack with a food just consumed. This is similar to crediting a new symptom to a drug they are taking at that moment. With full review, the cause and effect may or may not be true.

A food may be likely considered a trigger of a migraine attack If a) a strict time relationship exists between the consumption and the start of headache, or b) that this link is not occasional. From retrospective patient reports, it is very difficult to make sure a link exists. In fact, especially in the drug-new symptoms example, a possible link to other frequent triggers must be considered. When chocolate was studied to assess a chocolate trigger-headache link no connection was found with migraine and tension-type headache. Many consider alcohol to be a sure migraine trigger, but its importance is still debated.

In a forward-looking study published in 2007, Austrian researchers examined a large number of factors related to migraine. After an advanced data analysis, they found limited importance of nutrition, including alcoholic beverages in the precipitation of migraine. This work considered alcohol and other nutritional factors taken the day before onset of headache.

Wines With Lower Tannins

Sulfites – Why Red Wine Gives You Headaches

It is believed that the tannins in red wine are one of the possible causes for wine headaches. Tannins are found in different parts of the grape like seeds, stems, and skins. Red wines typically are higher in tannins, so if youre a red wine lover, you may want to opt for one thats lower in tannins, or switch over to white.

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Our Wine Columnist Talked To Experts In The Fields Of Headache Medicine And Enology In Search Of Strategies For Avoiding The Dreaded Rwh

    I KNOW PLENTY of people who suffer from headaches that they believe are triggered by drinking red wineincluding, occasionally, me. Red Wine Headache is such a common complaint that it has both an acronym and its very own Wikipedia page, albeit with a disclaimer noting a lack of medical evidence regarding the condition and its causes. As Dr. Alexander Mauskop, director and founder of the New York Headache Center in Manhattan, said, We dont know anything for sure.

    Wine-related headaches are one of the centers most common complaints, especially among migraine sufferers, said Dr. Mauskop. He has heard many theories as to the cause. One posits that the type of oak used in the fermentation and aging of wine triggers headaches, though Dr. Mauskop couldnt recall if French oak or American oak was said to be worse. Hes also heard theories about the sulfites in red wine as contributing factors, but he sees very few headache patients who are truly sulfite-allergic. That condition is actually quite rare, and besides, red wines have a lower concentration of sulfites overall than white wines do.

    Hangover Vs Red Wine Migraine

    The first thing to know is the difference between a hangover headache and a red wine-induced migraine.

    Hangovers symptoms include headache, nausea, vomiting, thirst and dryness of mouth, tremors, dizziness, fatigue, and muscle cramps happen because the body is digesting alcohol. According to Scientific American, wine is a type of liquor that can produce severe hangovers.

    Head pain caused by red wine is different from a hangover in one crucial way: it does not take place after heavy drinking. Those who get migraines from red wine can get pain after just a single serving and its usually triggered by a sensitivity to the wine.

    One drink of red wine can trigger a migraine if youre sensitive to it, but one glass of red wine probably isnt going to give you a hangover, Lawrence Newman, neurologist and director of the division of headache medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center, told SELF.

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    Sulfites Are Not To Blame

    Wines contain varying levels of sulfites a preservative with antioxidant and antibacterial properties. Kitchn has previously reported that in the EU, the regulations implement a cutoff for how much sulfites can be present in wine: 210 parts per million for white wine, 400 ppm for sweet wines, and 160 ppm for red wine. When a bottle has contains sulfites on its label, it means it has more than 10 ppm of sulfur dioxide in it.

    An urban legend is that sulfites are responsible for the mysterious headaches, but theres no scientific evidence linking the connection. A neurologist even told SELF that white wine can contain the same, if not higher, levels of sulfites.

    Cause Of Wine Headaches

    How to Avoid Red Wine Headaches

    All signs point to Tannins as the culprit. Does this mean you should stick with white and sparkling wine if you suffer from red wine headaches? Not necessarily. Some grapes contain higher tannins such as Cabernet Sauvignon while others contain low levels of tannins like Pinot Noir. The production process also affects the amount of tannin in wine.

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    Ask The Doctor: What Causes Red Wine Headaches
      Tannins are plant chemicals that impart flavor to red wines and contain antioxidants. But they also spur the release of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which at high levels can cause headaches in some people. Other plant chemicals may be involved. Some experts think that sulfites, a preservative in wine, are to blame.

    The Red Wine Headache Syndrome

    Various studies produced conflicting results on the type of wine that triggers migraines. A European study showed 11% of sufferers claimed red wine as the most common cause, while a French study found 54% of attacks were caused by white wine.

    • Red wine contains up to 200 times the amount of histamine than white, which some patients arent able to metabolize easily. This causes an enzyme insufficiency that leads to a vascular syndrome that can trigger a headache.
    • Tannins are also present in red wine. These are flavonoids that create the drying effect in the mouth when you sip it. Tannins are believed to enhance serotonin levels, which is a brain chemical associated with migraine in some people. You can test the effect of tannins on yourself by steeping a cup of black tea for a long time, then drinking it. This will flood your system with a higher dose of tannin than usual. If it leaves you migraine-free, then the tannins in your wine are not to blame for your headaches.
    • Red wine contains tyramine, which is found in foods such as figs, chocolate, avocados and cheese as well. It consists of the chemical monoamine, and is broken down in the body by an enzyme called monoamine oxidase . Various anti-depressants contain MOA inhibitors, which prevents your system from metabolizing the tyramine properly. Its wise to limit your consumption of products containing tyramine if youre taking MOA-inhibiting drugs.

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    Red Wines With Lower Tannins

    Although some types of wine are characteristic of their low tannins, like Merlot, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel, you are better off hunting the labels or asking your local wine store which wine they would recommend that is low in tannins. Use these wines as a guide, but make sure you know if they are truly low in tannins or not. Certain grapes and certain types of wines can vary in tannin levels depending on where they are from and how they are made.

    How Our Diets Affect Migraine

    Red Wine Headaches – w/ Joe Roberts for TV

    Many things can trigger a migraine attack, including what we eat and drink.

    According to the Migraine Research Foundation, foods that trigger migraine may only do so when combined with other triggers. But this combination and any trigger in general is highly individualized, making research difficult.

    Theres no such thing as a universal migraine trigger. But there are some common triggers that can cause or contribute to migraine episodes in some people.

    Too much caffeine and experiencing caffeine withdrawal can cause migraine or headaches.

    But according to the American Migraine Foundation, caffeine can actually help stop oncoming migraine attacks. It can also offer headache relief with occasional use.

    Foods and drinks with caffeine include:

    one study , over 35% of the participants with migraine reported that alcohol was one of their common triggers.

    Red wine in particular was reported as a trigger in over 77% of the participants who reported alcohol as a trigger.

    Alcohol can cause dehydration, which is a significant contributor in developing headaches.

    According to the American Migraine Foundation, chocolate is thought to be the second most common trigger for migraine attacks after alcohol. They say it affects an estimated 22 percent of people who experience migraine.

    Chocolate contains both caffeine and beta-phenylethylamine, which may trigger headaches in some people.

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    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?

    What Is The Culprit

    SELF reports that tannins a stabilizing agent present in grape skins, seeds, and stems are likely responsible for the migraines. Generally speaking, red wine has a higher concentration of tannins since the skin is kept in the fermentation process, unlike white wine where it is removed. There are some studies that link drinking alcohol with higher levels of tannins and bad hangovers, but more research needs to be done to prove tannins are solely responsible.

    Dr. Frederick G. Freitag, a headache specialist and associate professor at the Medical College of Wisconsin, told the Chicago Tribune last year that tannins are responsible for migraines, as is tyramine an amino acid that is produced by the fermentation process of wine. This naturally occurring substance has been known to trigger migraine headaches in individuals unable to break down the amino acid.

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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?



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