why wine gives headaches

We’ve all experienced that blistering headache that can happen after a night of drinking wine, but why do some wines give you a headache when others don’t? And why does the headache sometimes happen while drinking, and other times it happens the next morning.

There are may different reasons our body experiences hangover symptoms after drinking alcohol, but the main reasons that we experience headaches during a hangover is because alcohol is a diuretic. This means that drinking alcohol makes you urinate out more liquid than you’re taking in, which in turn, can lead to you becoming dehydrated, and one of the symptoms of dehydration is a headache.

But hangover headaches can be different than the headaches some people experience while drinking wine. Wine has certain properties and elements about it that can cause a headache while drinking as well as making you more susceptible to hangover headaches the next day.

Let’s take a look at why drinking wines, and in some cases certain wines, give people headaches.

Wine and Headaches

It may surprise you to learn that some people can develop severe headaches after just a single glass of wine, while others can drink an entire bottle without experiencing this sort of pain. It’s understandable to expect some degree of headache the day after drinking a lot of alcohol, but if you’re not one of those people that experience headaches while drinking wine, you may have never known it was a condition that some people go through.

One of the main chemicals in wine that causes headaches for some people are the tannins. Tannins are the naturally occurring compounds in the skin of the grapes which help create that dry feeling in your mouth. The higher the concentration of tannins, typically the drier the wine is going to be.

This would explain why red wines typically give people headaches when compared to white wines. The tannin levels found in red wines and the skin of the red grapes, is higher than those found in the green grapes. Of course, you can always find dry white wines as well, but in general, you’ll find a higher level of tannins in red wines.

When digested, tannins can disable enzymes in your body, which in turn can release serotonin into your brain, which can then cause excruciating headaches in some people. However, tannins are not the only cause of headaches when drinking wine, and tannins actually don’t affect a majority of people.

Sugars are another element that can cause headaches in people.

The idea of sugar causing headaches follows the same idea as alcohol in general causing headaches. Sugars require a lot of water in order to properly digest and process as they enter your system, which means that you need to be consuming larger amounts of liquid in order to help that process. In addition to that, alcohol, as we mentioned, is a diuretic that makes you expel more liquid from your body than you’re ingesting.

The combination of these two elements can cause you to become dehydrated quicker than you might have if you were just drinking an alcohol with a low sugar content.

If you notice yourself starting to develop a headache after drinking sweeter wines, then we suggest upping your water intake and switching to a less sweet wine. This will help replenish the water in your brain and help reduce the headache as it forms.

In addition to sugars and tannins in the wines, you may also be semi-allergic to the compounds in wines. If your body is sensitive to these compounds and chemicals, it can cause the histamines in your body to react in order to fight off this foreign presence it sees as a threat.

This is similar in the way that pollen, mold, peanuts, and more, affect those that have allergies. Antihistamines found in allergy medicines might help reduce the headaches you might experience when drinking wine, but if you’re allergic to wine, it might just be best to reduce your wine intake or switch to a different beverage of choice.

What About Sulfates?

Some people believe that the sulfates found in wine, which are used to help preserve freshness and prevent oxidation, are the cause of headaches, but this is not the case.

There are some people that are truly allergic to sulfates, that number is around 1 in 100 people, so sulfates can affect them, but in general, wine has always had naturally occurring sulfates in it that present themselves during the fermentation process, so any sulfates used to preserve the wine have not been found to affect those people that are not allergic to them.

The next time you’re out drinking wine and you feel a headache come on, the best thing you can do is to drink more water. Increasing your water intake will help give your body the liquids it needs to prevent dehydration and allow your body to replenish the water it’s losing due to the diuretic nature of wine.