Wine Headache Explained (Cause & Cure)


Let’s talk about wine headaches-not hangovers, but migraines that you get from drinking too much wine. If you, like most people, enjoy a good bottle of wine from time to time, then you must have experienced them.

Some can drink a whole bottle and wake up the next morning okay and ready to go on with their day. For some of us, things are quite different, and a few glasses are enough to bring about these wine headaches.

Wine headaches are not to be confused with hangover headaches

Hangover headaches are brutal. You swear never to touch alcohol again and wish you didn’t get drunk in the first place. It’s not the alcohol that makes you feel this way, though. Those piercing hangover headaches are due to acetaldehyde, a byproduct your body produces when it metabolizes ethanol. This, together with dehydration as a result of drinking, are enough to cause raging headaches.

You can get a hangover if you threw back a bottle of wine in the same you would get one over other types of alcoholic drinks, but this is not the same as a headache that you get after only a few glasses. This shows that you are sensitive to wine.

Why do I get headaches when I drink wine?

1. Sulfites

Science has not established what exactly causes wine headaches. Though we cannot pinpoint what really causes these headaches, there are several suspected causes. One of the main culprits for these headaches has been sulfites. Many people are quick to blame these compounds, which occur during fermentation for red wine headaches. Red wine has a high quantity of the compounds because they also help preserve freshness and keep the wine from oxidizing. However, there is not enough evidence to show that this is actually a cause. In most cases, white wine has about the same number of sulfites.

2. Tyramine and histamine

Tyramine and histamine are the two other culprits that researchers are focusing on. These are compounds that the body produces during allergic and immune responses. These can also be found in red wine and might be the triggers for red wine headaches. The amount of tyramine and histamines in the wine depends on the grape and the region; not all wines have the same amounts. For instance, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc are low on these compounds. Riesling, on the other hand, has high levels of both. The two compounds are found in other liquor types as well and might be the reason you can’t have too much wine.

3. Tannins

Tannins are compounds that occur on the skins, stems, and seeds of grapes. These are a great source of antioxidants and do not affect most people. You can tell the amount of tannins in a wine by the dry sensation it leaves in your mouth. It’s why most tannic wines go well with greasy dishes. Wines like Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon are prime examples of reds with high amounts of tannins. These compounds can also be found on the barrels used to age liquor. That’s why people who get these headaches might suffer the same with darker spirits, such as Bourbon.

There is a way to know for sure if it is the tannins that you have a problem with. Brew some black tea and let it steep for about five more minutes than suggested on the package. Black tea has high amounts of tannins, and these are released better when you over-steep the tea. Drink the tea, and if it gives you a migraine, then you have your answer. Your solution would be to stay away from tannic wines, and you should be fine.

4. Sugar

Alcohol and sugar are a perfect combination if we are talking headaches. The two substances take a lot of water to process. This is one of the reasons you need to drinking water as you drink your beverage of choice because the alcohol will drain your body of water and cause a fluid imbalance in the body. This causes your body to draw water from the head and other parts of the body. By keeping away from sweet wines, you can avoid this problem. If you like dessert wines such as Riesling, then you may have to stick to the dry variety only.

Even if you have migraines, it doesn’t mean necessarily make red wine a trigger

We ought to get one thing clear before we proceed any further. There are people who are sensitive to red wine due to some of the reasons we have just talked about. However, some have a history of suffering from migraines and wonder if red wine will cause these. Experts have anecdotal accounts of this connection. There are those who report having the migraines irregularly. Sometimes, the migraines come, and other times they don’t even when drinking the same bottle. Red wine is probably not a problem for you if you are not affected by the compounds in the wine that trigger headaches.

Treating your wine headache

Wine headaches can end your evening on a dull note even though you were having a lovely time. It would be best if you dealt with these as soon as they come, and we have a few suggestions for treatments.

1. Stay hydrated

Our livers demand a lot of water to flush out alcohol from our bodies. You should incorporate water into your boozing. You can stay on your feet and handle your liquor like a pro just by staying hydrated. By this, we mean consuming at least a glass of water for every glass of alcohol you take. Remember that the liquor is drawing water from your body faster, so you need to replenish supplies just as quickly.

2. Try Allegra or Claritin

One of the reasons red wine will give you a headache is the presence of histamines and tyramine. This can quickly be cured by taking an allergy pill. In this case, the solution is to take the pill as soon as you feel that headache before it becomes any worse. You could also take the Claritin or Allegra pill before you start drinking, and it should work just fine.

3. Don’t take too much sugar

Sugar is the other substance that will draw water from your body. Don’t make it even harder for your system to get things back into balance by taking in sugary foods. This also means that you should probably stay away from wines like sweet bubblies or Sauterne or Moscato.

One cure you should not turn to 

Understandably, you want to stop that debilitating headache, but we advise against the use of painkillers. This is a solution that you should only go to when everything else fails. The main reason you are to stay away from painkillers is not to overwork your liver. The drugs are processed by the liver as well.

Note that some people are allergic to yeast, and this may be one of the causes. This means no wine and cheese pairings for you.

For many people, a wine headache is usually an indication that you may have had more than you were supposed to. Know what wines are good with you and keep yourself hydrated, and you should be fine. It also helps if you don’t guzzle a few bottles by yourself.

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