Wine headaches suck, there’s no doubt about it. If you experience headaches every time you drink wine, it may be time to figure out why. Wines are made with a variety of grapes, preservatives and other ingredients. It’s possible that you could be sensitive to certain types of wine because of what they’re made of, and that’s why experimenting with different wines is key. Dry, natural wines are usually a good bet, as they’re free of sugars and other additives. Sticking to these wines, along with using other preventative tips can stop a wine headache in its tracks. Take a look at our best tips to prevent a wine headache!
What Causes Wine Headaches?
Although there’s no single explanation for what causes wine headaches, there are a number of theories as to why wine makes your head hurt, especially red wine.
Histamine is a compound found in grape skins. Red wine contains more histamine than white wine or champagne because it’s made from the whole grape, including the skin, not just the juice. Some people have a shortage of the enzyme that breaks down histamine in the small intestine. Alcohol also inhibits the enzyme, so the combination can boost histamine levels in the blood, dilating blood vessels and causing a headache.
Tyramine is an amino acid produced during fermentation and if not broken down properly, can affect blood pressure in a way that leads to headaches. The body needs a specific enzyme to process tyramine, so if it doesn’t have enough of that enzyme, tyramine will constrict then dilate your blood vessels. This can lead to slightly higher blood pressure, which often triggers a headache.
Tannins are another compound found in grapes. They’re plant chemicals that give flavour to red wines and contain antioxidants. However, they also prompt the release of serotonin, which in high levels can cause headaches in some people.
Headaches can also happen if you drink wine that’s high in sugar. This causes your body to use a large portion of its water supply, which ends up dehydrating you and causing a headache.
Sulfites, a preservative in wine, may also be to blame. Sulfites are either naturally present in wines or added to it by winemakers as a preservative. Although experts say sulfites are more likely to cause breathing problems like asthma and allergic reactions than headaches.
How to Prevent a Wine Headache: 8 Tips
1. Drink Water Before and As You Drink Wine
If you’re already dehydrated before you start drinking wine, it’s a recipe for a headache. Wine is a diuretic and can dehydrate you, which in itself can lead to headaches. Drink plenty of water throughout the day before you start drinking wine, and have a glass of water between your glasses of wine. You can also sip water as you drink your wine to ensure you stay as hydrated as possible.
2. Coffee Before Wine
Caffeine constricts blood vessels, which can weaken the vascular symptoms caused by the wine. Drinking two cups of coffee before you drink wine has been found to reduce your wine-induced headache.
3. Figure Out Your Trigger
Pay attention to the types of wines that give you a headache. If wine has become a common headache trigger, you may have to avoid certain types of wine. If you always get a headache when you drink red wine, but you feel fine when you drink white, it may be time to take red wine out of the equation. Experiment with different types of wine so you can find some that don’t trigger a headache and stick to those.
4. Opt for Dry Wines
If you drink wines that are high in sugar, you’re more likely to get headaches. Avoid dessert wines, white wines labeled sweet or semi-dry and mass-produced red blends. Stick with drier red and white wines and see if your headaches persist.
5. Go Natural
When you reach for wine, make sure it’s natural and not full of chemicals and additives. Natural wines contain a variety of polyphenols, including Resveratol, which lowers inflammation, Procyanidins, which are strong antioxidants, and Ellagic acid, which helps regulate blood sugar. Natural wines are often a bit more expensive and you may have to go to a specialty wine store to find them, but it’s worth it to go headache-free.
6. Don’t Eat Sugary Foods
While the thought of cake or chocolate with wine might sound like a delicious combination, mixing sugary foods with wine can exacerbate the potential for a headache. If you’re already sensitive to wine, steer clear of desserts or any other type of sugary foods while drinking vino.
7. Don’t Drink on an Empty Stomach
Make sure you’ve eaten well throughout the day and eat a good dinner on the nights you have wine. When you drink on an empty stomach a lot of the alcohol passes quickly from the stomach to the small intestine, where most of it is absorbed into the bloodstream. This intensifies all the side effects of drinking, including headaches. Having food in your stomach causes the alcohol to be absorbed more slowly.
8. Some Final Thoughts
Other ways to prevent wine headaches are to sip your wine slowly and stop drinking at the first sign of head pain. If you’re going to have a second glass of wine, try to wait an hour between glasses and drink a full glass of water before your second glass. Don’t mix wine with other alcohol and avoid drinking wine if you’re not feeling well or if you feel stressed or upset.
Wine headaches are no fun at all. Use this information and these tips to steer clear of wine headaches at all costs.
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