Why do I get a headache when I drink wine?

Updated: Nov 19, 2018

Mudgee wine tour
Wine Headache!

Here at Country Escape Tours we often get asked "why do I get a headache from wine?" It is a well known fact that when you drink too much wine you will most likely end up with a hangover next day and a throbbing headache. It is usually caused by over consumption of alcohol which dehydrates your body but it isn't necessarily the only reason.

A lot of people put their wine headache down to sulphites in wine. Sulphites are used as a preserving agent in wine, particularly red wines. White wine has a lot less sulphites than red wine but both have a lot less than dried fruit. If you can eat dried apricots and not get a headache, it is more than likely that it is not the sulphites in wine which are giving you the headache. It can certainly bring on allergic reactions such as asthma and allergic reactions but it's not what is most likely the culprit for your headache.

Histamines and Tyramine are the demons which are doing the damage! Histamines are present in white wine but they are present much higher in red wines by almost 200%. Histamines dilate your blood vessels and this is what makes you feel flushed or what makes your skin rash. Tyramine initially constricts and then dilates your blood vessels and this in turn causes your blood pressure to rise. It will usually rise just enough to cause a headache.

It's not all bad news though. There are a few simple things you can do if you want to enjoy that glass of red wine! Drink plenty of water prior and during drinking wine to hydrate your body. You can also try taking a non-drowsy anti-histamine to counteract the effects of the histamines in the wine. A little trick I do also is to take a couple of panadol before I enjoy my glass of red.

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