Lets Do Wine Posting Page
Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Q. It seems whenever I drink wine I get a headache. What causes this?

A.It has been widely publicized that wine is beneficial for our health. In moderate amounts, a glass of wine can benefit our hearts as well as HDL cholesterol levels. However, some people have an adverse reaction and experience a migraine-type headache shortly after consuming a glass of wine. In general, most headaches are experienced after consuming red wine rather than white wines. Researchers still have not pinpointed an exact cause for the headaches but there are a few components in wine that may be the culprit.

Tannin, a component in grapes, is the most likely cause of wine headaches. Tannins are found in grape skins and stems. The tannin gives some wine that dry, puckery sensation in your mouth while drinking. They’re not only found in wine, but also in cheese, nuts, chocolate and tea. The tea industry has been recently publicizing the health benefits of the antioxidants found from its tannins. Unlike white wines, red wines are in contact with their skins and stems during the fermentation process causing higher levels of tannin. Tannin consumption can affect serotonin levels. Serotonin is a chemical found in our brain. High levels of serotonin have been known to cause headaches

A common belief is that the sulfites found in wine are the common reason for wine headaches. Sulfites are natural byproducts of fermentation and are also used by most winemakers for their antioxidant and anti-microbial properties. If sulfites can cause headaches, then why add it to wine? Sulphites are truly helpful in wine by keeping it bacteria-free and safe to drink. Without any sulphites, wine would turn to vinegar in a quick amount of time. One of the advantages of making your own wine is that you can add much less sulphites than commercially made wine.

Histamines could be another cause of wine headaches. However, some researchers don't believe there are enough histamines to be considered problematic. Histamines are more common in red wines than in white wines. Over-the-counter non-drowsy allergy medication block histamines. Taking an allergy medication an hour prior to consuming wine, may help prevent a headache.

The problem of the wine headache is far from being solved. If you are one of the lucky individuals that does not experience wine headaches, consider yourself lucky! If you do suffer from wine headaches, keep a journal and experiment. See how you react to white versus red wines. If red wines seem to trigger headaches more, try reds that have less tannins such as Pinot Noir, Beaujolais, and French Reds from the Burgundy region also have less tannins.

As always, moderation is the key.

Written by: Wendy Kielar, Owner Let's Do Wine

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by: Lets Do Wine