The Pain of the Red Wine Headache

Posted by on Feb 28, 2012 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

The Pain of the Red Wine Headache

I’m going to ven­ture a guess: you’re not over there munch­ing on aspir­ing, curs­ing last night’s deci­sion to engage in a bot­tle (or six bot­tles) of red wine too many. A red wine headache fits some­where between the painful, and migraine cat­e­gory and usu­ally shuts you down all together. It’s a nasty curse, and usu­ally when you have it you’re not perus­ing wine blogs. But I digress…

While you cur­rently have the abil­ity to inter­pret text intel­li­gently, and the lights don’t feel like sen­sory upper­cuts from some unseen oppo­nent, I urge you to read this blog wherein we’ll inves­ti­gate as to whether or not there is a secret behind the pain that so many of us know and fear—sometimes as much as wak­ing up to strange bed­ding and unknown person(s), and the larger headaches that sig­ni­fies.   But I digress again…

Let’s start with the good news, which is that not every­one seems to get headaches from red wine, at least not all the time; con­versely, some peo­ple can feel a headache com­ing on after con­sum­ing only a small amount. So what gives?

The Truth Behind Red Wine Headaches:

No one really knows.

That is the sober hon­esty. No one can really say for sure, but there are, of course, sev­eral the­o­ries which pur­port to know the truth of the mat­ter. We’ll explore them now.

Sul­fites: We’ll men­tion this one first because it makes the least sense in my opin­ion. It used to be com­mon belief that sul­fites caused headaches, but this seems false when you con­sider that many whites have more sul­fites than red and don’t seem to give peo­ple headaches. This is not to men­tion other foods which con­tain the same amounts or higher, which do not give peo­ple headaches.

Tan­nins: Some peo­ple believe that tan­nins in red wine are to blame. Tan­nins cause the release of sero­tonin. High lev­els of sero­tonin can cause headaches; how­ever food that con­tain tan­nins such as, say, tea, soy, and choco­late. None of these other foods are known to pro­duce headaches.

His­t­a­mines: It seems some­what intu­itive to try and place the blame on his­timines, as red wine has in the range of 20%-200% the con­tent of his­t­a­mines that white wine does. Some indi­vid­u­als are aller­gic to his­t­a­mines and are so defi­cient in cer­tain enzymes, which could act to cre­ate a headache.

Alco­hol con­tent: A higher level of alco­hol con­tent in a lower qual­ity wine could cause headaches; how­ever this claim, if true, may relay on other fac­tors in part.

The Red Wine Headache Cure

My best advice for a cure is to get pre­ven­ta­tive: try out some wine from var­i­ous dif­fer­ent regions and keep a (men­tal) record of which ones seem to be immune to the afflic­tion. In case of a prior-bottle headache emer­gency, these regions will be known as your ‘safe areas,’ and you should pro­ceed to them in a calm and orderly man­ner.  In all seri­ous­ness, though, if we can’t (as a com­mu­nity of enthu­si­asts) pin down the cause, then at the very least you still have the lux­ury of sim­ply going with that works.

The logic behind con­sum­ing 100% organic wine in this con­text should be fairly obvi­ous: fewer chem­i­cals mean less of a chance that one is going to get wise to try and test your pain thresh­old. After all, one of them could be the mys­tery com­po­nent that is caus­ing all this trou­ble in the first place.

If you find that you sim­ply can­not escape the throb­bing head even­tu­al­i­ties described in this blog, and have reached your wit’s end, then my advice is to sim­ply switch to white. White’s do not cause headaches unless you con­sume too much, but that is an entirely dif­fer­ent story.

About Dave Keighron

Dave Keighron has writ­ten 63 posts in this blog.

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