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Here’s Why Even 1 Glass of Red Wine Gives You Headaches

There are those people who can sip endless glasses of red wine, and then there are those people who will end up with a red wine headache even after the smallest glass of Pinot Noir.

What gives? Why only some of us vulnerable to the effects of red wine?

For starters, red wine headaches are different from hangover headaches.

If you’ve ever suffered through a hangover headache, you know it typically goes after a night of heavy alcohol consumption. Hangover headaches aren’t immediately caused by the alcohol itself, but instead of the resulting dehydration and buildup of acetaldehyde, a byproduct your body generates when it metabolizes ethanol, the type of alcohol found in all drinks.

But for those of you who feel the pain after drinking merely a glass or two, your headache is probably a migraine.

If you get a headache after only one glass but have never been diagnosed with migraines before, it’s worth visiting a pain management professional to figure out what’s going on.

Scientists haven’t pinpointed is connection with red wine and migraines, but there are a few potential culprits.

Many red wines contain a high volume of sulfites, a chemical that occurs naturally during fermentation and is also added by producers to prevent oxidation and maintain freshness. Though a lot of people are quick to blame headaches on sulfites — however, experts say that there isn’t enough conclusive evidence to back up that claim. And, in many cases, white wine can contain the same quantity of sulfites or more.

Tyramine, a product of fermentation, and histamines, compounds that are involved in immune responses and are released during allergic reactions, are two other components of red wine that might be guilty of triggering migraines. But, many other alcohols contain similar quantities of both sets of chemicals and aren’t known to cause migraines as frequently as red wine. There was even a study in which 16 people with wine intolerance took antihistamines before drinking red wine to counteract the effects of the histamines, but the treatment had no significant impact on the negative outcomes they experienced.

Tannins, which come from a grape’s skin, seeds, and stems, are the most probable culprit, say scientists. Overall, red wine contains more of these substances than do other liquors, but they’re also present in the timber barrels used to age wine and spirits like bourbon. In fact, migraine sufferers tend to have more trouble with those darker spirits as well.

Even if you are a migraine sufferer, red wine won’t inevitably be one of your triggers.

We urge patients who have even occasional migraines to keep a migraine diary to monitor their triggers and symptoms. If migraine episodes persist, treatment will be critical. Contact Pasadena Pain Management today for a complete complimentary consultation.


Pasadena Pain Management offers pain management treatment for TMJ/TMD, migraine, headaches and neck pain in Pasadena, CA. Our office is conveniently located with extended hours to meet your needs. At Pasadena Pain Management, we offer the exclusive TruDenta treatment therapy — a highly specialized form of care that involves cutting-edge dental technology, without needles or injections. Patient satisfaction is our top priority and we strive to provide the exceptional, affordable pain management care and personal touch that lead to lasting relationships. A smiling patient is our greatest reward and we look forward to keeping our patients happy and pain free.