Does red wine give you a headache? Some people certainly find that it does, but just why has been a recent conversation starter.
A Huffington Post article back in November (Why Red Wine Gives You A Headache (And What To Do About It)) tells the story of one person’s search for answers – and the answers turn out to be several possibly conflicting ideas. It must be sulfites, right? No, can’t be. Could our “perception” influence our headaches? Or maybe the histamines – or just plain higher alcohol content in certain wines. Should we only drink wine from thinner-skinned grapes?
An then an article in June presented another confident headline – What’s really causing that red wine headache. Debbie Carlson of the Chicago Tribune confirmed the belief that sulfites are probably not to blame. After all, sulfites are common in dried fruit and salad bars – but how common is the “salad bar headache”? (Actually, there may be reasons why you hear about one and not the other – but we’ll leave that alone at the moment)
Tyramine is also common in aged cheese, making the wine and cheese combination a particular (potential) problem. Tannins are especially high in grape skin and seeds (once again hinting that thin-skin wines are a better option).
As with any migraine trigger, the connection ends up being very complex and different with every person.
Two studies done using the Curelator app showed a curious pattern. Yes, various types of alcohol certainly triggered migraine attacks in some people. But over 3x that number found that some type of alcohol was a “protector” – decreasing their chance of having an attack!
But again, the results aren’t so simple. Many people “relax” with a glass of wine or beer – and so there are many other factors involved beyond the alcohol. Time to relax itself could help avoid an attack.
On the other hand, one woman was interviewed who found sparkling wine to be a trigger. As it turns out, she only drank sparkling wine at formal events – no doubt different food, higher stress – perhaps different shoes – again, so many factors beyond just the alcohol.
We may still discover that certain chemical combinations in certain wines greatly increase your chance to have a migraine attack. But for now, the bottom line is that every person is different. Moderation, and watching your body’s reactions, will always be a good starting point. It’s far better to keep track and know your own body than to believe what “everyone” says should be your triggers.