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Why Does Alcohol Trigger Migraines

How Soon After Drinking Can A Headache Begin

Why does excessive drinking cause a headache?

As we have discovered from looking at the types of alcohol-induced headaches, you may experience one from as little as three hours after drinking alcohol.

However, if you tend to suffer more from a delayed headache, you will usually notice the onset around 12 hours after drinking. Although it has been seen that this headache can start from as little as five hours after drinking.

Is Alcohol Per Se Or Another Component Of Alcoholic Drinks The Headache Trigger

In accordance with the previous reports , red wine was considered the main cause after the fundamental study of Littlewood et al. showing that 300 ml of red wine and not vodka with an equivalent alcohol content provoked headache in red wine-sensitive-migraine patients and not in nonsensitive migraine-patients or controls. These findings suggest that red wine contains a migraine-provoking agent that is neither alcohol nor tyramine . However the blinding of this study is uncertain. Recently another study group reported a high percentage of patients referring red wine as the most frequent trigger between alcoholic drinks but subsequently it did not report any of them as a trigger .

Another study shows that of the 429 migraine patients, 17% are sensitive to all forms of alcohol, 11.2% to red wine but not to white wine or clear spirits, while 28% are sensitive to beer .

However, in other countries white wine is viewed as the major culprit . In addition, another study reported a surprisingly higher correlation of spirits and sparkling wine to migraine attack, compared to other alcoholic drinks. Low doses of alcohol during meals significantly lower the frequency of induced-attacks and the alcoholic consumption during stress was related to higher migraine attack frequency . While some report beer as a trigger , others found no association .

The principal substances of the alcoholic drinks thought to be involved in headache provoked by alcoholic drinks are successively discussed.

When I Talk I Feel Pressure In My Head

Most conditions that result in head pressure arent cause for alarm. Common ones include tension headaches, conditions that affect the sinuses, and ear infections. Abnormal or severe head pressure is sometimes a sign of a serious medical condition, such as a brain tumor or aneurysm. However, these problems are rare.

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Red Wine May Be The Most Common Trigger

Almost 80% of the European studys participants named wine particularly red wine as the most common trigger out of all alcoholic beverages. Red wine consistently led to a migraine attack among almost 10% of participants. The time it took for a quick onset attack to start was quick indeed less than three hours for one-third of participants. And it does not take large quantities of wine to produce these rapid headaches. Only one or two glasses at most need to be ingested.

A delayed hangover headache appears the next morning after alcohol intake. At this time, the blood alcohol level is falling and reaches zero. A delayed hangover headache can be experienced by anyone, but people with migraines are more susceptible. However, red wine may not be the only culprit. Almost 90% of the migraine patients who reported alcohol as a trigger for their migraines experienced symptoms in less than 10 hours, regardless of the type of alcoholic beverage consumed. Therefore, the researchers concluded that alcohol-triggered migraines occur quickly after the consumption of alcoholic drinks in general.

What Is The Interval From Alcohol Consumption To The Start Of Headache

Headache Day After Drinking Wine

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.

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Is Wine Really The Worst Culprit For An Alcohol Induced Headache

It is widely reported that red wine is the worst culprit for causing an alcohol-induced headache, with white wine being not too far behind in second place. The third worst drink for causing a headache was Champagne.

Some of the things that can be found inside wine may cause some sort of reaction in the person drinking it. Histamine, which is essentially something that can cause an allergic reaction in the body can be found in great quantities in wine, with red wine having up to 200 times more than white wine.

Aside from this, there is some evidence to show that drinks that have been through an ageing process are liable to cause more reactions within the body. Wine contains tannins that are found in the skins of the grapes used to make the wine. Whilst many people do not suffer any side effects from ingesting tannins, there are some who find them to be a source of their headaches.

There is a lot of sugar found in wine, which is something else that can play a role in the dehydration associated with alcohol consumption.

Beverage Type And Tendency To Induce Migraine

According to Peatfuld , considering people who are develop headaches from alcohol, most are sensitive to sensitive to all forms of alcohol. Within the total group with alcohol sensitivity, a substantial fraction, about a third, are sensitive to red wine alone. A smaller fraction, about a sixth, are sensitive to beer without much sensitivity to red wine.

Americans and Britons with migraine generally believe that white wine is safer than red wine, while Europeans tend to believe the opposite . The literature supports the red wine being more likely to cause headaches theory .

Interestingly, when patients with migraine are given drinks containing equal amounts of alcohol, one being red wine and the other vodka flavored to taste like red wine, patients develop more headaches from the red wine.

Unproven and suspicious theories:

The amount of sulfites .

According to a wine seller who visited me in the clinic , headache is mainly related to sulfites. “Cheap” wines have more sulfites, and cause more headaches. According to this person, sulfites are added to cheaper wines to accelerate the process of getting them to market. This was suggested to be the reason that cheaper wines have a greater propensity to cause headache. Alternatively, the amount of sulfites is generally attributed to the soil in which the grape was grown.

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Track Your Alcohol Intake

Youre already using this app go ahead and track your alcohol intake with it. Break down the trigger into specific alcohols, too: wine, liquor, cocktails, beer. Some migraine sufferers are fine with a beer or two, and others are spiraled into pain by one sip. Track your intake to see if alcohol is a trigger for you.

Why Alcohol Frequently Triggers A Migraine

Why are alcohol-free drinks causing headaches

Studies have found that a third of people who suffer from migraines say that alcohol is a trigger for them. In just a minute well talk about why this might be the case, but first we want to offer a warning about alcohol and painkillers.

If alcohol is one of your triggers, what happens when you have a drink and then get a migraine? Obviously, you want to get rid of the pain as soon as possible, which might lead you to take medication. This is where you need to be very careful.

For example, one medication used to treat migraines is gabapentin. But taking gabapentin and drinking alcohol at the same time can be dangerous. While the medication can be used to treat the painful symptoms of migraines, it should never be taken along with alcohol.

Due to potentially dangerous interactions between pain medications and alcohol, other medications like ibuprofen and naproxen are better options for pain relief when youre dealing with a migraine brought on by alcohol.Be sure to talk to your doctor or pharmacist about your migraine medications and potential interactions with alcoholic beverages.

Now lets talk about alcohol and migraine headaches.

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How Little Alcohol Is Enough To Cause A Headache

You may think that a single glass of wine might not be enough to cause an alcohol-induced headache, but this isnt necessarily true. You may find that one day you can drink a lot of alcohol and not experience a headache at all, yet another day just a few glasses will leave you with a pounding head.

There are varying factors at play that will determine how much is enough. These might include the following:

  • The quality of the alcohol
  • Your current general health
  • What type of alcohol you are drinking

Alcohol As A Trigger Factor

Many studies in different countries show that alcohol is a headache trigger in high percentage of migraine subjects, both in the general population and headache clinic population . About one-third of the patients report alcohol as a trigger . However these are retrospective studies, and until recently only a prospective study based exclusively on the subjective patients information exists . Recent studies show that alcohol acts as a trigger at least occasionally in a percentage similar to that of the previous studies , but as a frequent/consistent trigger in only 10% of the patients . Curiously, in some countries, the percentages of alcohol or wine as migraine triggers were negligible, 6.1 and 1.4% , perhaps depending on the degree of alcohol habits.

Fig. 1

Recently, a prospective study examining a wide spectrum of factors related to migraine, by applying a sophisticated statistical analysis, provides evidence for the limited importance of nutrition in the precipitation of migraine , in contrast to a previous report of the same study group . This work considered the alcoholic drinks and other triggering factors taken the day before onset of headache.

Moreover, there were significant trends of decreasing prevalence of migraine and non-migraine headache with the increasing number of alcohol units consumed .

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How Much Alcohol Does It Take To Cause A Headache

Many factors come into play when determining how much or how little alcohol one drinks can cause a headache. One person can drink several bottles of beer or glasses of white wine and not have a headache, while another may take only a tiny amount and get a pounding pain in the head when drinking red wine.

Or one can go on a binge one day and wake up without a hangover. Yet, that same person may have only a small glass at another time and then suffer from one.

When A Headache Results From Alcohol Withdrawal

Revealed! Why Alcohol Causes Headache

Headaches also occur during alcohol detox, which is the initial phase of an alcohol recovery programme. The pain is one of the many withdrawal symptoms that start within 6 to 24 hours after the last drink. These symptoms can develop or change unexpectedly, and without medical assistance, they can be very unpleasant or even life-threatening, such as migraine attacks.

In an alcohol detox timeline, the first seven days are the most severe, although the severity can extend beyond the first week, depending on the length of time the alcohol misuse has been going on.

A professional inpatient rehab programme can be the best option because of the dangers of withdrawal from alcohol drinks and alcohol habits. Medical doctors, therapists, counsellors, and nurses will be on hand to help the patient get through the withdrawal symptoms and move on to the succeeding interventions to achieve a successful recovery.

A treatment course in an outpatient or inpatient rehab will use medications prescribed by physicians to reduce the withdrawal symptoms and make the patient more comfortable. The medications will help keep the system in balance and minimize the likelihood of a relapse.

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To Drink Or Not To Drink

It would seem that alcohol is simply a bad idea if you want to avoid migraines, but theres actually very little proof that any compound in alcohol is worse than other trigger foods. In some ways, a little bit of alcohol may even be a good idea for migraine sufferers.

Regular, low doses of alcohol can lower your risk of cardiovascular disease. Migraines increases your risk of developing certain cardiovascular conditions. Therefore, those who suffer from frequent migraines could benefit from a drink a day, such as a small glass of red wine .

In many cases, its not the alcohol itself that triggers a migraine, but rather a combination of stress, anxiety or other intense emotions with the drinking. And in charged situations, you may find that you drink more quickly or consume more drinks in a short time, which can certainly lead to dehydration and hangover headaches in anyone.

Keep track of what you drink, when you drink it, and what food you consume along with it, in order to discover exactly how alcohol affects your migraines. You may be surprised to find some other triggers that have been hiding behind alcohol for years.

Alcoholic Beverages Are Frequently Considered Migraine Triggers

A study of 2,197 patients who experience migraines, alcoholic beverages were reported as a trigger by 35.6 percent of participants.

In a European Journal of Neurology study of 2,197 patients who experience migraines, alcoholic beverages were reported as a trigger by 35.6 percent of participants.

Additionally, more than 25 percent of migraine patients who had stopped consuming or never consumed alcoholic beverages did so because of presumed trigger effects. Wine, especially red wine , was recognized as the most common trigger among the alcoholic beverages however, red wine consistently led to an attack in only 8.8 percent of participants. Time of onset was rapid in one third of patients, and almost 90 percent of patients had an onset in under 10 hours independent of the type of alcoholic beverage consumed.

The authors noted that it can be debated if alcohol is a factual or a presumed trigger. Additional studies are needed to unravel this relationship.

“Alcohol-triggered migraine occurs rapidly after intake of alcoholic beverages, suggesting a different mechanism than a normal hangover,” said senior author Dr. Gisela Terwindt, of the Leiden University Medical Center, in the Netherlands.

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How Do You Tell The Difference Between A Migraine And A Headache

Headaches cause pain in the head, face, or upper neck, and can vary in frequency and intensity. A migraine is an extremely painful primary headache disorder. Migraines usually produce symptoms that are more intense and debilitating than headaches. Some types of migraines do not cause head pain, however.

When To See A Doctor

Why Does Wine Give Me a Headache?

Therefore are cases where you may need to see a doctor especially if you are prone to migraines. In most cases, alcoholic-related headaches may not require you to see a doctor because most of them go away on themselves after some time or after having some painkillers.

However, if you experience serious reactions or severe pains, its crucial that you see a doctor. Also, if you on medications, its essential to consult the doctor because the condition may be related to an allergy with the medication.

As said earlier, the best way to avoid these headaches is by avoiding it entirely. Despite effects such as headaches, alcoholic beverages are usually associated with other high-risk conditions such as liver disease, and therefore it should be avoided. An alcohol headache after one drink may not have serious effects, but continued use of alcohol is not good for your health.

Catherine is a dedicated freelance health and science writer committed to excellence and professionalism. She specializes in health topics including diet and nutrition, immune-related diseases, surgery, and cancer.

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Whats The Best Way To Treat A Migraine Headache From Alcohol

If youve identified alcohol as a trigger for your migraine headaches, avoiding it altogether is probably best. The same is true if you find that some types of alcohol trigger your migraine headaches more than others. Avoiding migraine triggers is one of the only sure-fire ways to avoid migraine symptoms.

If you do develop a migraine headache while drinking alcohol, or immediately after, you can try the following techniques to relieve your symptoms:

  • use medication that may be prescribed to you to treat migraine headaches
  • try over-the-counter pain and headache relief
  • relax or sleep in a darkened room

Which Alcohol Is Good For Headache

Theres good news for all you alcoholics out there. Instead of taking prescription medications, try gulping down two pints of beer the next time you get a severe headache. A new study proves that drinking two pints of beer relieves headaches by 25% more effectively than taking paracetamol. The answer is yes, you read it correctly.

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Types Of Headaches Associated With Alcohol

When investigating whats triggering your headaches, its important to know exactly what kind of headache youre experiencing. Alcoholic drinks are usually associated with certain types of headaches like:

  • migraine without aura
  • cluster headache
  • tension headache

While people who have these headaches report a connection to alcohol, theres no real consistency in how alcohol causes these headaches to develop, according to studies that have been done. Instead, researchers suggest that alcohol as a trigger is more of a personal reaction common in certain types of headaches than a general effect.

The number of drinks you have, what you are drinking, and whats going on in your life may be the primary culprits, rather than alcohol itself.

What The Research Says

Why does excessive drinking cause a headache?
  • The French seem to be able to drink red wine without hangovers and poor health. (Scientists explore the mystery: Moderate red wine consumption and cardiovascular disease risk: beyond the “French paradox”. Seminars in Thrombosis and Hemostasis, February 2010.
  • Alcohol isn’t a Migraine trigger for everyone all the time.
  • Scientific rigor is lacking to prove what patients have reported for centuries about wine triggering migraine attacks. More study is needed.
  • Red wine is the usual suspect beer less often. Yet there’s no solid proof.
  • Stress plus drinking is more likely to trigger an attack.
  • There’s a gap between what patients report and scientists can prove. But if you’re food-sensitive, then avoid those triggers.

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