Breaking Up With Red Wine
Last updated: May 2023
Red wine is a common migraine trigger for many individuals, with or without being chronic. Originally, it was not one for me and I would have a glass of wine every night with dinner. I went through some lifestyle changes that involved a break from my daily glass. Much to my dismay when I started trying to have a glass of red wine again, it never failed to cause a migraine to creep up if I did not have one or intensify if I did already have one. These days I am guaranteed to feel the effects before I even finish a glass.
Why is red wine a migraine trigger?
There are two primary things found in red wine that are generally considered to blame for the red wine triggered migraine. Dr. Frederick G. Freitag is a headache specialist and an associate professor at the Medical College of Wisconsin and he believes that the tyramine and tannins in the red wine is what causes the headache (for some) and migraine (for others) reaction that many people experience.1
What is tyramine?
Tyramine is produced by fermentation and can affect individuals who are unable to break down the amino acid causing a migraine to be triggered and it can affect blood pressure as well.1 Individuals with blood pressure normally on the higher end could acquire a headache by the increase in their blood pressure due to the red wine consumption.
What is tannin?
There is a reason why individuals who are unable to drink red wine can still drink white wines. Most of the blame is placed on tannin. Tannin is a chemical substance found in grape skins and seeds, which are left during the production of red wine but mainly removed during the production of white wine.1
How do I avoid an attack if I want red wine?
The executive chairman of the National Headache Foundation and the director emeritus of the Diamond Headache Clinic, Dr. Seymour Diamond, gives suggestions for trying to avoid the red wine migraine if you are insistent on having a glass. His first piece of advice is to drink the wine with water or to try sipping the wine very slowly, since wine itself can dehydrate you.1 This is logical advice for the consumption of any alcohol since dehydration is part of the hangover. Secondly, he suggests that you consume two strong cups of coffee prior to drinking the red wine in order to constrict your blood vessels and help lower the effect of the tannins.1
Most people choose to simply not drink red wine since they know it will trigger a migraine for them. Personally, if a few glasses of red wine are in my future tonight I will choose to take an abortive medication prior to my first sip of red wine. While this does help me prevent a full forced migraine from occurring instantly, it is not guaranteed that I will not wake up with a killer one in the morning. Due to this, I rarely partake in red wine and stick primarily to various white wines that are available. It is equally important to stay hydrated with white wine as with red, or you may wake up with an old-fashioned hangover.
Do you have a migraine toolbox for when an attack hits?
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