What causes wine headaches?

What causes wine headaches?

As we relax and enjoy the warmer temperatures with the company of friends and family, we may lose track of the amount of alcohol we’re consuming in these social settings, causing the dreadful next-day headache. Oftentimes, of all alcohol types, it’s wine that causes the most headaches or triggers migraines.

Dr. Aaron Bubolz, a neurologist at Aurora Health Care, who oversees the Multidisciplinary Headache Clinic, says there are many reasons why people get wine headaches.

“Most of the time, headaches occur from dehydration, or the amount of alcohol or wine consumed,” explains Dr. Bubolz. “While these are the two main reasons, there are other causes of headaches or migraines that people should be aware of that can be associated specifically with wine.”

One cause could be tannins. Tannins are naturally occurring molecules found mainly in plants, bark, and leaves that create a drying, rubbing sensation on the tongue. Wine tannins are extracted from grape skins, seeds, stems, and oak barrels. When grape skins, seeds, and stems soak in juice, they release tannins. The longer they soak, the more tannins they release. Tannins are most common in red wines and can trigger headaches in certain people.

Added sugar and chemicals in your wine could be another cause. Cheaper wines are made with low-quality grapes, then treated with additives to make them taste better. Sugar, chemicals, and synthetic compounds are added to these wines to enhance flavor and boost the alcohol content. If you are not hydrated when you drink wines with these additives, your body starts to pull the necessary water it needs from other parts of your body, including your head. As the liquid in your head starts to deplete, a headache forms.

A final common reason why wine may cause a headache is due to histamines. Recent research has found that food and drinks that have been aged, such as dry-aged meats and red wines, can cause our bodies to release histamines and create allergy-type symptoms. Anytime you encounter something you are allergic to, your immune system detects it as a threat to your body. Our immune systems then send a message throughout our bodies to release histamines. Once released into the circulatory system, histamines turn on the body’s natural defense mechanisms to combat the threat. As an effect, blood flow increases to the parts of your body affected by the allergen so that other chemicals can step in to start the repair work and healing process. This results in inflammation, causing headaches or migraines.

Dr. Bubolz advises to stay hydrated and be conscious of how much alcohol you consume. If headaches or migraines are a common occurrence for you, it’s time to schedule an appointment to understand your triggers.

To measure the impact headaches have on your life, use our free Migraine Risk Assessment tool.

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  1. I am one of the (un)lucky ones that get headaches from both red & white wines. I find that drinking lots of water not only while consuming the wine but afterwards as well definitely helps. Purchasing organic wines also help. I always thought it was the sulfites, especially in red wine, but I understand that is not the case.

  2. Consumption of wine and other types of alcohol have skyrocketed during COVID and tolerance to these drugs have not always been high, creating a variety of mental, emotional, and social problems. The solution to drug induced headaches is fairly straightforward: cut back or eliminate consumption.

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.