Have you ever had a glass of wine and then found you start to feel a rather dull headache coming on?

You may feel an onset of sinus, watery eyes like hayfever and you know this could be a migraine headache on its way. Or perhaps you can feel it when you get out of bed the next morning and start your day. It slowly changes as you get up and move around. That localised head pain turns into a whopping huge migraine!

Have you ever considered if you might have a red wine migraine trigger!

Ask yourself these questions?

  1. Have I ever had a migraine headache after a drinking wine before?
  2. What did I drink, red wine, white wine, beer or spirits?
  3. How much did I drink?

If you didn’t drink very much at all, maybe a glass or two at the most, could those couple of drinks really be the cause of a migraine headache.

It can be very difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of our migraine headache, especially in this day and age when so many additives and preservatives are used in food and drink. Let us take a closer look into that glass of red wine and see what it contains that could have possibly caused a migraine headache.

The “RED WINE” Migraine

You may have heard someone say that red wine can be a cause of a migraine headache. Is this true, and if so what is it in wine, particularly red wine, that may be a migraine trigger?

I am not talking about a case of having a sore head and a HANGOVER headache when you have had one too many glasses last night and ended up with an awful headache. A hangover headache is due to the effects of the alcohol, and the main cause for this kind of a headache is usually dehydration from the alcohol itself.

I’m talking about only one glass of red wine and now you have a terrible pounding in your head, around your eyes and sinuses.

What Is In Red Wine That Can Trigger a Migraine Headache?

There are 3 well-known substances contained in wines that are some consider to have an effect and perhaps might be the trigger for some migraine sufferers. But are they all bad news and do they deserve this reputation?

These substances are:

  • Sulphites
  • Tannins
  • Tyramine and Histamine

Red Wine Sulfites Allergy

Sulphites are preservatives that are widely used in winemaking. Some people who suffer from Red wine allergy symptoms are aware of a strong migraine that follows a glass of their favourite red.  Sulphites are naturally occurring and some are an added preservative, used to help maintain the freshness and antibacterial properties of the wine.

All wines contain sulphites which naturally occur during fermentation. Wines with more than 10 mg/litre of sulphites must be labelled “contains sulphites”. This is usually because they are an added preservative.

Sulphites are not just in wine and are also added to many other foods we eat. So, perhaps check out the ingredient list on your food packaging next time you are in the supermarket to see where else you might be getting these sulphites.

If you are looking for these on your product labels, they should be labelled as the following on the ingredients listing.

220 sulphur dioxide
221 sodium sulphite
222 sodium bisulphite
223 sodium metabisulphite
224 potassium metabisulphite
225 potassium sulphite
228 potassium bisulphite

Some people are sensitive to sulphites and this may cause them to feel unwell especially after drinking wine with added sulphites. They may experience symptoms of a runny nose, sore or itchy throat or even rashes and hives.

The general thought is that sulphites are not considered to be the cause of a migraine. It is more likely other things in the wine that are the cause of a migraine, but if you think you have a sulphite sensitivity then you can always reduce this in your diet and see how you feel after a few weeks.

Organic Red Wines No Sulphites

If you think you are sensitive to sulphites and would like to try to limit your intake of sulphites then some organically produced wines contain fewer sulphites.

If you look at the labels you usually see the statement “no added sulphites”. Organically produced wines, in general, tend to have fewer additives altogether.

What are Tannins?

Most people have heard of tannins. They are in your tea and coffee drinks, but did you know these are also in your wine.

High levels of tannins have been thought to contribute towards the onset of migraines in some people. Some wines have higher tannin levels than others but its not something you will find listed on the label?

Tannins add to the dryness of the wine and have a slight bitterness. These tannins are what makes the wine taste more complex to the wine drinkers palette. The dryer the wine tastes, the more likely it is to contain a higher level of tannins.

So how do Tannins contribute to a migraine headache?

High levels of tannins can increase levels of serotonin. Changing levels of serotonin may contribute to a migraine by narrowing the blood vessels in the body.

These red wines are generally higher in tannins:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Red Bordeaux
  • Barbaresco
  • Malbec
  • Shiraz
  • Monastrell
  • Nebbiolo
  • Sangiovese
  • Zinfandel

These red wines are generally lower in Tannins:

  • Pinot Noir
  • Merlot
  • Lambrusco
  • Burgundy
  • Dolcetto

Red Wine Migraine Trigger

Tyramine and Histamine

Tyramine and histamine are both created through the fermentation process and are present in high levels in red wine. These amines are both considered to be linked to the red wine migraine headache. White wine does not contain these amines at the same levels as red wine.

If the body cannot effectively break down the excess tyramine and histamine then this could be the cause of your migraine.

Excess Tyramine can cause an increase in blood pressure along with an excess of histamine from red wine can cause your blood vessels to dilate which then contribute to a migraine.

There are also some foods that contain high levels of tyramine, such as chocolate, cheese, avocados and bananas. These are often referred to as migraine trigger foods and if you are a regular migraine sufferer then it is usually recommended that you avoid these foods, especially bananas which are particularly high in tyramine.

Any aged or fermented foods have high levels of histamine.

If you think you may be intolerant to these amines, you can seek help from your health care professional on how best to manage these conditions.

Keep A Migraine Diary To Discover Your Triggers!

Always remember safety first. Consult your professional healthcare provider if you are having any regular headaches symptoms so you can check that there is no underlying cause. Never mix medications or herbal remedies without talking to your

Migraines can be caused by many things and finding what your triggers are can take some time, but documenting your experiences and keeping a journal that outlines, what food, drinks and activities you have had prior to any migraine onset can help you find what your triggers might be.

If you like to drink wine but don’t like the after effect then keep a note of what you drank, what happened after, and you may be able to find something to enjoy that doesn’t cause you a migraine headache.

Always remember safety first. Consult your professional healthcare provider if you are having any regular headaches symptoms so you can check that there is no underlying cause. Never mix medications or herbal remedies without talking to your professional healthcare provider prior. And most importantly, always be kind to yourself!

 

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  1. Thanks for a very informative article! I know I have gotten the red wine migraine before, but still I hate giving it up. However, thank you for you list of lower Tannin wines. I will be sure to try those and see if the results are different!

  2. Oh wow, thanks for such an informative article, I’m going to take in mind all these advices and will check the labels on products to see what other products have one of these elements. And will also look for “no added sulphites”. I’m not really a drinker but for a special occasion I might have a cup.
    Also thanks for the good idea of keeping a diary to discover what triggers migraine. Great work!

    • Hi Guillermo, I’m very happy that my post gave you some helpful information regarding sulphites in wine and other substances that can contribute to a Migraine Headache. Thank you for your comment. Gratitude & Blessings

  3. Wow… I never knew. I always heard that red wine was good for you as well as your heart. To hear that it could raise your blood pressure is not something I expected to read. I too have migraines, and I eat a lot of bananas. Again, never heard that they are trigger foods for migraines. Definitely going to look into this much deeper to see if any of these items in my diet may be having n issue with my body.

    Thank you for the awesome information.

    • Hi there Sabrina, Thank you for taking the time to comment on my post. Red wine does have a reputation for some positive health benefits but unfortunately, some people who have allergy or intolerances to some of the substances in red wine will suffer a side effect, one of those side effects may be migraine headaches. If you keep a health Journal or migraine diary it can help you to discover what your triggers might be. Blessings and I hope you keep healthy and migraine free.

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