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Why Does Red Wine Cause Migraines

Wines Low In Histamines And Tyramines

Sulfites – Why Red Wine Gives You Headaches

Histamines and tyramines are amines, or organic compounds. According to a Wall Street Journal article, the first dilates blood vessels and the second constricts them. When both are present in the same wine, the potential exists for headaches. Red wines contain histamines far more often than white wines do. Chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and sauterne are low in tyramine.

Wines With Lower Tannins

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.

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.

Also Check: How To Get A Migraine

What Drink Gives The Least Hangover

But a study by the British Medical Journal found that vodka is actually the least likely drink to give you a hangover: its so pure that it contains virtually no congeners. Mixing vodka with soda or fruit juice is ideal, as sugary soft drinks can contribute to a headache the morning after the night before.

Breaking Up With Red Wine

Does Red Wine Really Cause Headaches
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Red wine is a common migraine trigger for many individuals, with or without being chronic. Originally, it was not one for me and I would have a glass of wine every night with dinner. I went through some lifestyle changes that involved a break from my daily glass. Much to my dismay when I started trying to have a glass of red wine again, it never failed to cause a migraine to creep up if I did not have one or intensify if I did already have one. These days I am guaranteed to feel the effects before I even finish a glass.

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What About The Sulfites In Wine

Sulfites, aka sulfur dioxide, are preservatives found in wine and in some foods. While many people claim that the sulfites in wine can cause headaches, they are more associated with allergy and asthma symptoms, Dr. Elliott says.

“Sulfites tend to cause more allergy and asthma symptoms in select people who have a sulfite allergy, rather than headaches,” Dr. Elliott says. “Histamine is present in those foods in addition to wine and is likely more responsible for headaches than the sulfites.”

Wine and beer, dried fruits and vegetables, pickled foods, shrimp and packaged potatoes are some of the biggest culprits of sulfites, which can make asthma and food allergy symptoms worse, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America reports. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration banned the use of sulfites in fresh fruits and vegetables in 1986 because of the number of severe allergy cases related to them.

For this reason, wine labels must disclose that they contain sulfites if they meet a certain threshold. According to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, all wine that has sulfur dioxide or a sulfiting agent with a level of 10 or more parts per million are required to declare on their label that the wine “contains sulfites.”

Reducing Your Risk Of Bringing On A Migraine Through Drinking

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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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

Here Is The Advice Of One Wine Expert

Why Does Wine Give Me a Headache?

I turned to Barb Gustafson, a sommelier for some insight on the qualities of wine that might be associated with headache.

Barb comments:

As far as red wine, often Im told by consumers they cannot drink red wine or wine with sulfites. This to me is not accurate. I cannot be of absolute certainty but my circle would disagree. It is often the quality of the red wine that seems associated with headaches. Of course, quantity can certainly play a role regardless of quality. As well, highly processed wines should be of concern. Low input winemaking relies on native yeasts that live on the vine, adding very low amounts of sulfur dioxide, and allowing the wine to ferment in its own time. This type of wine seems less likely to affect our heads.

With 30 years of paying close attention to consumption and the boundaries, I have evolved to limiting high alcohol, highly tannic, and heavily processed wines. With the huge focus on organic foods and what we all eat, there should be as much attention put on what we drink.

Read Also: How To Cure Migraine Naturally

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.

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.

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    Does Red Wine Really Cause Headaches And Should You Switch To Pinot Grigio

    Red wine season is well underway. While Merlots, Cab Sauvs, and full-bodied Malbecs are preferred by many during the chillier months, others stay far, far away from these bottles. But why?

    Horrible, debilitating headaches.

    Red wine has long been a victim of blame for headaches, specifically migraines but is the beverage actually deserving of this bad rep?

    For starters, it’s important to know that red wine isn’t a cause of headaches, but is actually classified as a trigger.

    “A trigger is anything that can bring on a headache,” Dr. Joey Gee, DO, FAHS, a neurologist with Mission Hospital in Orange County, California, explains.

    “Common migraine triggers include food, aged cheeses, chocolate, and weather, just to name a few. However, one person’s trigger is not necessarily another person’s trigger they are not universal.”

    That means one migraine sufferer can swear red wine triggers their aches and pains, while another can drink a glass without any issues whatsoever.

    So what makes red wine specifically a headache-triggering substance? Surprisingly, there really isn’t an exact answer. In fact, according to the American Migraine Foundation, while migraine sufferers commonly report red wine as their trigger, studies have shown that other alcoholic drinks are just as likely to cause a headache.

    Other preservatives, like nitrates, nitrites, and monosodium glutamate, are also known triggers, Dr. Gee notes.

    Is Red Wine A Migraine Trigger

    Why Does Red Wine Give You Headaches? There

    Most people find that any alcoholic drink can cause a migraine, but others may find that particular drinks are more of a problem for them.

    Many people believe that red wine is a migraine trigger for them, and there is some scientific evidence to suggest that ingredients in red wine could cause issues for people with certain sensitivities or intolerances2.

    For example, some people have an intolerance to histamine, which is contained in red wine and can be associated with migraines.

    Red wine can contain 20 200 times the amount of histamine as white wine.

    Red wine can also cause a rise in the level of serotonin in the blood3, which has been linked to migraine headaches. Sulphites are often blamed for causing headaches too, although in fact, white wine contains higher levels of sulphites than red wine.

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    Can Wine Filters Remove Histamines Or Sulfites

    As more people notice their sensitivity to wine, wine filters have emerged, claiming to remove the histamines and sulfites. While it doesn’t hurt to try these products, Dr. Elliott says to proceed with caution.

    “You can give it a try but don’t expect it to be a magic wand,” she warns.

    “I’m very wary of the science behind these wands and aero filters. Unless there’s something on that wand that binds to the histamine, that could make sense,” Dr. Elliott says. “But these wands need microfilters to catch these particles in the wine, and there isn’t any real indication that they have them,” she explains.

    Goodson says that most of the wine filters out there are actually oxygenators that claim to reduce sulfites. “

    This occurs by adding oxygen to the wine. Oxygen catalyzes several chemical reactions that allow for the release of compounds, such as sulfites,” she explains. Still, there isn’t scientific evidence that adding oxygen to wine will reduce sulfites, and it doesn’t eliminate the histamines in wine that can cause headaches and allergy-like symptoms.

    These wine filters also don’t decrease the alcohol content in a drink, which can also lead to headaches.

    York agrees, stating that you’re better off saving your money and investing it in a high-quality bottle of wine.

    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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    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.

    Alcohol Consumption In Migraine

    Winebird’s FAQ: Why does red wine give you headaches?

    Since alcohol can trigger a migraine attack, in a sense only a small number of migraineurs should drink alcohol. Population-based studies performed in various countries show that fewer migraine sufferers consume alcohol than those without headaches. Moreover, the more alcohol consumed the less likely the drinker reported migraine and non-migraine headache. This fact may be explained by sufferers of headache giving up alcohol since it is a trigger factor for their headache attacks.

    However, an Italian study seems not to support this explanation. In this study, only a very small percentage of non-alcohol consuming female migraineurs reported that alcoholic drinks were a trigger. They concluded that this fact could not explain the large difference in alcohol consumption between migraine and the general public.

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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.

    What Happens If You Drink Too Much Wine

    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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    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.

    It’s All In The Genes

    So THAT

    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.

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