Many wine drinkers experience headaches from time to time. This is so common that it’s often called red wine headaches or RWH.
Some headaches can be caused by excessive wine consumption, meaning alcohol in Wine. However, this is not the only cause.
It is important to note that drinking wine can also have some benefits. Please read Nutrition and Health Facts about Drinking Wine for more information on potential health benefits.
Allergies to sulfites are often blamed for red wine headaches. Sulfites do not cause red wine headaches. As a preservative, sulfites are found in nearly all types of Wine.
Sulfites are very low in Wine. Sulfites are found in white wines between 250 and 450 parts per million. Red Wine contains even fewer sulfites. It ranges between 50-350 parts/million.
Truthfully, dried fruits, which are the most common and agreed-upon litmus test to determine if you have a sulfite allergy, contain much higher levels of sulfite, ranging from 1,000 to 3,000 parts/million.
When comparing the sulfites found in red wine to those in other food products, you will find that they are much lower than in candy, jams, canned sodas, packaged meats and soups, frozen juice, or dried fruit.
Sulfites may cause typical allergy or asthma symptoms. They are not responsible for headaches caused by Wine. It’s a good thing, as sulfites are allergic to close to 1% of the population of the globe. What, then, is the cause of red wine headaches or RWH?
Cause of red wine headaches: There are two possible causes of red wine headaches. The culprits are Histamines and Tyramine, which can be found in all wines.
Histamines are the simple explanation of red wine headaches. They dilate blood vessels, causing flushing and inflammation. Tyramine is credited with two effects.
The Tyramine causes your blood pressure to rise slightly, causing a headache.
Histamines found in Wine: The amount of Histamines that are present in white Wine is much less than the amount in red Wine.
This is why the condition is called red wine headaches (RWH). Histamines found in red wines can be up to 2000% higher than those in white Wine.
The amount of Tryamine in Wine also varies depending on the grape varieties and regions. Tyramine levels are low in Sauvignon Chardonnay and Blanc but higher in Riesling.
Bordeaux is very low in Tyramine as well, which is good news for me.
Tyramine and Histamine are both by-products of the fermentation process. Histamines are the more responsible of the two for red wine headaches.
RWH, or red wine headaches, is what medical professionals call the problem.
Red wine headaches are most commonly referred to because Histamines in red Wine are stronger than those found in white Wine or Champagne. Red wine headaches are more common in people who have a deficiency of an enzyme that prevents them from metabolizing histamines properly.
To cure or prevent the red wine headache, Drink at least 8 ounces of water for every glass of Wine. Drinking alcohol can dehydrate you, so water is your best friend.
Before drinking Wine, you can take antihistamines that are not drowsy. You can find other possible headache remedies in your medicine cabinets. Take an Aspirin or Vitamin B6 before drinking.