Why wine gives you a headache – and how to avoid it

There could be a legitimate reason for your brain pain, aside from drinking too much

Sarah Young@sarah_j_young
Saturday 10 December 2016 11:18
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Ask any expert the best way to avoid an infamous wine headache and they’ll simply tell you to lay off the booze, but it turns out there could be a legitimate reason for your brain pain, aside from over doing it.

If that feeling when your head starts pounding and you’re desperate for a glass of water is all too familiar you might be falling victim to some of wine's major culprits.

Some believe that post-wine headaches are caused by sulphites but this myth has since been debunked by experts. Instead, we should be pointing the finger at tannins, histamines and sugar, according to Vinepair.

A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims

Tannins are antioxidants which naturally occur in grape skins, seeds and stems, and are the reason for that drying sensation in your mouth after a healthy swill of wine.

For the majority, tannins will have no effect but for some they could be the cause of a heavy head.

Another malefactor is sugar. When mixed with alcohol, the body requires a great deal of water to be able to process the combination of substances so if you’re not keeping hydrated, you’re likely to suffer from a nasty sting.

The third culprit is histamines; a chemical that’s released when you have an allergic reaction. According to Vinepair, studies have revealed that certain aged foods and drinks, such as ripened wines, can cause our bodies to release histamines and suffer from allergy-related symptoms like dry eyes and a thumping headache.

So, other than taking a complete sabbatical from booze, how can we avoid wine headaches?

One expert says that drinking two cups of strong coffee beforehand helps. Dr Seymour Diamond of the National Headache Foundation, told the Chicago Tribune that caffeine constricts blood vessels, in turn alleviating wine’s nasty effects.

Another also suggests taking an antihistamine prior to a heavy night out to thwart potential allergy-like effects.

The most obvious of course is to drink more slowly and to swig a glass of water for every glass of wine.

Surprisingly, the type of wine you choose will make a difference too – dry wines are low in sugar so are less likely to give you brain pain while dessert and red wines should be consumed sparingly, especially if you’re sensitive to tannins.

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