Why Do I Get a Headache When I Drink Red Wine?

Why Do I Get a Headache When I Drink Red Wine?

For some, as much as they enjoy their red wine, they may have a negative experience associated with it: a pounding headache.

While some of us can go about our wine-drinking adventures with smooth sailing, others may have a different take on wine.  For those who experience headaches after red wine, they’re not alone.  For many, it is a sign that these individuals are allergic to one (or both) compounds that are part of red wine: amines and sulfites.

The most common culprit when it comes to headaches after drinking a glass of wine (outside of the headache and hangover that occurs after drinking a whole bottle of wine…) are sulfites.  Sulfites are added to wines to keep them fresh and keep the vinegar bacteria naturally in grape skins from ruining new wine.  Sulfites are used to keep bacteria and mold from growing, preserving the flavor of wine, and keep the wine from browning due to oxidation.

Sulfites can be found in other foods such as canned tuna, baked goods, olives, pickled foods, potato chips, and shrimp.  These are commonly paired with sulfites to keep these particular foods fresh.  If you have an allergy to sulfites, these other foods may trigger headaches as well.  However, if they don’t, then you might be having a reaction to the amines.

Amines are a compound that is found in foods and beverages that have been fermented, as well as foods such as horseradish, flour tortillas, aged meats, chocolate, and certain types of cheeses.  If you get a headache from wine, as well as after consuming any foods with amines in them, then you may have found your target.

There is really nothing you can do if you have an aversion to amines except to limit your intake.  However, if you are allergic to sulfites, you may want to speak with your doctor about taking an allergy pill before you enjoy your wine.  Over the counter allergy medications such as Allegra or Claritin can help—just make sure that the allergy medications you are choosing are non-drowsy formulas).  This will allow you to enjoy your evening—and your wine—without the negative side effects!


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