Red Wines Headache, Causes, Prevention and Cure

Red wine headache is caused from over consumption of wine. The two potential reasons for the red wines headache are histamines and tyramine, both of which are present in all wines.

Histamine dilates the blood vessels and brings on flushing and inflammatory sensations. Tyramine is responsible for initially constricting and then dilating the blood vessels causing the blood pressure to rise slightly just enough to induce a headache.

Histamines and tyramines are by-products of the fermentation process and of the two, histamine bears more of the responsibility of the red wine headaches or otherwise referred to as RWH.

Because histamines are much stronger in red wine than white wine or champagne, the problem is most often referred to as red wine headache. People who suffer from red wine headaches more often than others may have an enzyme deficiency that does not allow them to metabolize histamines as well as they would like.

Histamines in wine

It is important to keep in mind the amount of histamines present in red wine are much more prevalent than those which appear in white wine. The reason the condition is referred to as RWH is because histamines in red wines have been measured to be in some cases up to 200 percent higher in red wine than what you commonly find in white wine.

The amount of histamines measured in wines varies depending on the grape variety and region so does the amount of tyramine.

Tannins in wine

Grape skins contain plant chemical called tannin, which help to give the wine its flavor. Tannins also prompt the body to release serotonin, which causes headaches. Red wines have more tannins than white wines and Tannins is what gives the red wine a red pigment, bitterness and that mouth drying reaction. It helps the red wine to last long. Tannins in wine causes red wine headache. They are thought to trigger migraines even in people who take preventive treatments. It comes from the skin, seeds and stems of a grape and also from wood.


Sulfites in wine are used to preserve both red and white wines. They cause headaches, but if one is sensitive to Sulfites he or she is likely to experience breathing problems than headaches.

Sulfites are found naturally on grapes and sulfur is commonly added in small amount at the beginning of fermentation.

People with heightened sensitivity to alcohol and yeast should be careful with wine because it contains both alcohol and yeast.

Prevention of Red Wine Headaches

To prevent or cure red wines headache consider following these guidelines:

  • Drink at least one full, glass of water as per the wine. Water is the best friend as drinking alcohol can cause dehydration. The most common mistake that wine drinkers make is dehydration. It’s easy to forget because you are drinking already. Make an habit to chug a glass of water prior to enjoying a glass of wine. It may stress your waiter out but your forehead will appreciate you.
  • Don’t eat sugary things with wine. The only thing worse than a red wine headache is a cake and wine headache. The combination of sugar and alcohol will greatly exacerbate the potential for a headache.
  • Try taking non-drowsy, anti-histamines before drinking the wine.
  • Have a caffeinated beverage.
  • Use a cool compress or ice pack on the pain.
  • Lie down in a dark room.
  • Try taking an Aspirin, Ibuprofen or vitamin B6. Over-the-counter pain relievers are generally safe, but mixing them with alcohol can be dangerous in some cases particularly if you:
  • Take a higher dose of medicine than the recommended amount.
  • Have three or more alcoholic drinks a day while taking the medicine.
  • Have stomach ulcer or any other bleeding disorder.
  • Take blood-thinning medications.
  • If you take OTC or prescription headache medicine, follow the label instructions and warnings regarding interactions with alcohol. Otherwise, by failing to go by the guidelines, you would be exposing your health to not only red wine headaches, but also other serious problems.

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