Why Does Wine Give Me Headaches, and How Do I Avoid Them?

Posted May 24, 2018 in

Why Do I Get a Headache After Drinking Wine?
There are a number of pieces to the wine headache puzzle. Depending on your physiology, any of the following could be contributing to your wine headaches …

Histamines: Wine and other foods that are fermented or aged cause our bodies to release histamines, which cause inflammation and wakefulness. These are the same histamines that are a cause of allergy symptoms, so taking an anti-histamine allergy medication before drinking wine can be a solution to wine headaches if this is the cause for you.

Dehydration: Just like any alcoholic drink, wine can be a serious dehydrator. If you’re already dehydrated when you start sipping, it’s possible for just one glass to give you a headache. Make sure to be hydrated before you start drinking wine. If you are a bit parched to begin with, drink water alongside your wine to keep hydrated.

Tyramine: This amino acid naturally found in wines causes blood vessels to constrict, causing your blood pressure to rise slightly – inducing a headache. Headaches can be more common if you’re drinking wine alongside a food containing tyramine such as cheeses and cured meats.

What About Sulfites in Wine?
It’s a common belief that sulfites are the main reason for wine headaches, but science hasn’t identified a direct correlation between the two. Sulfites occur naturally in grapes, and therefore in wine, though some winemakers do add additional sulfites to their wine for improved shelf life. A whole industry of sulfite-free wines was built on the belief that headaches and sulfites were tied, but there’s still no confirmation that it’s true.

The Roundup: How to Avoid Wine Headaches
Wine headaches, or at least many of them, are actually avoidable if you consider these points …

  • Drink plenty of water – This is absolutely the most important thing you can do to avoid wine headaches. Water not only keeps you hydrated but also decreases the likelihood of wine headaches happening from other causes.
  • Take an antihistamine – Over-the-counter allergy medicines with antihistamines can prevent your histamine-induced wine headache. Try taking a dose an hour before drinking wine.
  • Avoid tyramine-filled foods – Telling you not to pair cheeses and charcuterie with your wine feels a little sacrilegious but that said, if you get bad wine headaches we do recommend trying it out.
  • Try different varietals – Headache-causing compounds are found in differing quantities from one varietal to the next, so try sticking to one type of wine each evening to see how your body reacts. Keep track of wines or varietals that don’t give you headaches and focus on drinking those!

Headaches are no fun, especially when they come from your beloved glass of wine. If you suffer from wine headaches, we hope these tips will help you get back to drinking wine, headache-free!

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