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Wine and Headaches

Midlife Dec 19, 2006 06:09 PM

This subject has been discussed here before, but I am constantly searching for an answer for people who want to drink wine (especially red) but find that it gives them headaches. I am familiar with the UC Davis material that has lately suggested this may be caused by histamines rather than the more often blamed sulfites. But there are also people with allergy to sulfites who react negatively in varying ways. And sulfites MAY related to headache in spite of the academic direction away from that cause.

Is anyone here aware of definitive research that would give these people a direction to try?

As to the sulfite cause - At one point it seemed to make logical sense that there might be some help in the area of organic and bio-dynamic wines, but that has turned out to be a dead-end. Reason being that these wines may be healthier because of how the fruit is grown, but there is no connection to the winemaking process itself. Sulfites are a natural by-product of fermentation, and even biodynamic wineries can and do add small amounts of sulfites in the process as well. (Got that one from the 'horse's' mouth.... a winemaker at a biodynamic/organic winery.)

Many people who suffer headaches here at home say that they don't get headaches while consuming even larger amounts of wine while vacationing in Italy or France. Since sulfites are not absent from wines there either, it could have something to do with any added levels....... or possibly just that people on vacation aren't likely to be as prone to headaches which have a component coming from stress or tension (not much of that at a village in Tuscany).

So, do any of you Hounds have anything definitive on this subject?

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  1. Robert Lauriston RE: Midlife Dec 19, 2006 06:25 PM

    In my observation, people who get headaches from young red New World wine but rarely or never from white wine can also drink aged red wines and most old-school European and South African red wines without problems. That could reflect a sensitivity to histamines. tannins, or both.

    Some people have an allergic reaction to sulfites, but the usual symptoms are puffiness, respiratory problems, and shock.

    1. z
      zin1953 RE: Midlife Dec 20, 2006 12:35 AM

      As a friend of mine likes to say, "Sulfites are a chemical and you can't have an allergy to a chemical. You can certainly have a chemical sensitivity, but not an allegery."

      Yeah, whatever -- in layman's terms, it's an allergy!

      That said, in my experience, the culprit in WHITE wines generally tends to be sulfites; in RED wines, it's generally histamines. This would tend to make sense, as whites tend to be higher in sulfites than reds, and reds tend to contain more histamines than whites.

      * * * * *

      As far as organic wines and sulfites are concerned, having a wine labeled as "Organic" in no way means "No Sulfites." Sulfites are a natural by-product of fermentation, and have been in wine for over three centuries.

      Back in the 1950s and 1960s, it was quite common for wines to have sulfites added to inhibit oxidation. 150 parts per million (ppm) was not uncommon. (IIRC, the legal maximum permitted back then was 300 ppm, but I'd have to look it up to be sure.) Today, most wines are around 30 ppm, but because the law was changed to require wine labels to read, "Contains Sulfites," many people think they are now added when before they weren't, when wineries the world over are in fact adding less now than ever before.

      Federal law requires the "Contains Sulfites" label on any wine which has 10 ppm or more of sulfites.

      I once asked the driectory of the main laboratory for the (then) ATF about sulfites and "organic" wineries claiming to have zero sulfites. I asked him if the ATF checks to see if in fact they are below the threshhold level of 10 ppm.

      "We take their word for it," was his reply.

      "You don't test them to double-check their claims?" I asked.

      "We've never tested a sample that was below 30 ppm." (This was in the late-1970s/early-1980s.)

      "But -- wait. You just take their word for it?"

      "We've never tested a sample that was below 30."

      * * * * *

      4 Replies
      1. re: zin1953
        Midlife RE: zin1953 Dec 20, 2006 01:28 AM

        So........... is there any source at all from which one could determine the ppm of sulfites in a wine, or the concentration of histamines? I'm sticking with the "no stress" explanation for European travelers, but there are many people who would dearly love a way to predict which wines would be more/less likely to give them a headache.

        1. re: zin1953
          carswell RE: zin1953 Dec 20, 2006 01:58 AM

          >>That said, in my experience, the culprit in WHITE wines generally tends to be sulfites; in RED wines, it's generally histamines. This would tend to make sense, as whites tend to be higher in sulfites than reds, and reds tend to contain more histamines than whites.<<

          How do you know it's the sulfites in white wines that are the culprit, especially when, as Robert (and many others) have pointed out, sulfite sensitivity rarely expresses itself in the form of a headache? And do these white wine-sipping headache sufferers also get headaches when they ingest other foods with high levels of sulfites (certain "baked goods, soup mixes, jams, canned vegetables, pickled foods, gravies, dried fruit, potato chips, trail mix, beer, wine, vegetable juices, bottled lemon juice, bottled lime juice, tea, condiments, molasses, fresh or frozen shrimp, guacamole, maraschino cherries, and dehydrated, pre-cut, or peeled potatoes" according to about.com)?
          http://allergies.about.com/cs/sulfite...

          1. re: carswell
            z
            zin1953 RE: carswell Dec 20, 2006 05:31 AM

            As I believe I said, it's "in my experience." People I know who are sensitive to sulfites (again, no allergy) get headaches more quickly and more severely with wines which are higher in sulfites.

            How do I *KNOW*? I don't. I failed to follow in my father's footsteps; I'm not a doctor.

            OTOH, I know why the sulfite warning label was added to wine bottles, and it nothing to do with wine.

            1. re: zin1953
              Robert Lauriston RE: zin1953 Dec 24, 2006 03:53 PM

              Do these people get headaches from eating cured meat?

        2. Husky RE: Midlife Dec 20, 2006 03:00 AM

          An interesting article:

          http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/heal...

          1. t
            tom porc RE: Midlife Dec 24, 2006 07:56 AM

            As a wine-induced headache sufferer, I have yet to discover the exact cause. Believe me I've experimented. I've tried domestic and imported reds, whites, and sparkling and all produce a blinding headache after 3 or 4 sips usu within two minutes. Yet during a "grand tour" I've had many different wines from 5 countries with no headache at all.
            The only wine I can drink in the US are those labelled "organic no sulfites added" with no ill effects.
            Brandy, scotch, vodka, rum and port dont bother me either.

            6 Replies
            1. re: tom porc
              Robert Lauriston RE: tom porc Dec 24, 2006 03:57 PM

              What do you mean by "grand tour"? Traveling in Europe?

              That could suggest that whatever you're sensitive to, there's a triggering cofactor, such as stress.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                t
                tom porc RE: Robert Lauriston Dec 25, 2006 08:15 AM

                Possibly, I havent been able to rule anything out. Although, that wouldnt explain why only "organic" wine in US does not produce a headache. Is organic wine so very different molecularly or chemically than other wine? My mother and grandmother also experience wine headaches.

                Yes, six european countries.

                1. re: tom porc
                  Robert Lauriston RE: tom porc Dec 25, 2006 05:00 PM

                  Organic wine has no added sulfites, but if that were the problem, then you'd have trouble with some European wines.

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston
                    Midlife RE: Robert Lauriston Dec 26, 2006 08:10 PM

                    Robert,
                    I thought so too, until I had a conversation with the winemaker of a specific winery that is certified organic and biodynamic. He said, straight out, that he adds a minute amount of sulfites to preserve against oxidation and protect against bacteria. His quote: "The 'organic' term refers to the farming process, not to the winemaking process."

                    I know, however, that Frey Vineyards says they DON'T add any sulfites, and I think their labels say that. I'd be interested in others that do the same, as I am familiar with several other wineries that are organic/biodynamic, and do not see labelling that says "no sulfites added". I assume they DO add sulfites, or they would likely say they don't.

                    1. re: Midlife
                      Robert Lauriston RE: Midlife Dec 26, 2006 08:15 PM

                      That winemaker's either cheating on the certification or it's the vineyard rather than the wine that's certified.

                      http://www.organicconsumers.org/Organ...

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston
                        Midlife RE: Robert Lauriston Dec 27, 2006 06:05 PM

                        Thank you for that reference. The difference is obviously totally critical to the issue. The way the winemaker explained it was self-serving, since he knew exactly why I was asking (relation to sulfite levels and headaches). He could just as easily have said that their wine was organically farmed, not organically made. Instead, his wording suggested that only the farming aspect was relevant. I just didn't pick up on the difference.

            2. n
              nutrition RE: Midlife Dec 24, 2006 08:07 AM

              You can debate allergy or sensitivity, but the headache I get almost immediately from red wine is not a favorite of mine. The identical headache comes from the Grape Seed Extract touted for the arteries since Reservatrol is in the news. Ever wonder where all those grape seeds come from. I think they come from the wine industry! I don't get headaches from any other foods or drinks.

              1 Reply
              1. re: nutrition
                Robert Lauriston RE: nutrition Dec 24, 2006 03:58 PM

                Grape seeds are high in tannin. Red wine is, generally speaking, much higher in tannin than white wine.

              2. Robert Lauriston RE: Midlife Dec 25, 2006 05:02 PM

                If the problem is alcohol, you'd get headaches from beer and spirits.

                If the problem is sulfites, you'd get headaches from cured meats.

                If the problem is tannins, you'd get headaches from strong tea.

                If the problem is histamines, you'd get headaches from strawberries.

                If you don't have problems with any of those things, but get headaches from wine ... it's a puzzle.

                Here's one person's theory:

                http://www.wineintro.com/basics/healt...

                4 Replies
                1. re: Robert Lauriston
                  m
                  marlie202 RE: Robert Lauriston Dec 25, 2006 07:24 PM

                  thanks for the info and the thread--very helpful--white wine I am told does not cause headaches as the reds do..

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston
                    t
                    tlegray RE: Robert Lauriston Jan 2, 2007 07:06 PM

                    The above makes sense. Daughter has an allergy to sulfites. Doctor told us so. She also can't stomach cured meats. She doesn't get headaches though, she has stomach aches, joint pain and swelling.

                    I on the other had get headaches from most white wines and also from most spirits except top-shelf vodkas. I don't care for beer so I don't drink it. I guess I'm a puzzle, but I'm happy with red wines.

                    1. re: tlegray
                      t
                      tom porc RE: tlegray Jan 3, 2007 09:30 AM

                      There are many compounds in wine and spirits so its difficult to pinpoint what causes the headaches. Enjoy the reds!

                    2. re: Robert Lauriston
                      Midlife RE: Robert Lauriston Jan 27, 2007 11:12 AM

                      Robert,

                      That link couldn't have been more relevant to my questions. Thanks!!!!!
                      I've started another topic to ask if anyone's found any 100% Organic wines that taste like anything at all good.

                    3. hreisig RE: Midlife Dec 26, 2006 03:49 PM

                      Does anyone know of good solutions to the problem? Does an aspirin or anti-histamine before drinking help (histamine and other allergic reactions can often be blocked, but are harder to treat after symptoms begin)?

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: hreisig
                        n
                        nutrition RE: hreisig Dec 27, 2006 09:34 AM

                        THe only solution is to avoid, that which makes you sick, rather then adding another chemical to the body!

                        1. re: nutrition
                          t
                          tom porc RE: nutrition Dec 27, 2006 09:42 AM

                          Agree, why start taking aspirin, prednisone and anti-histamines just to drink wine? There are alternatives to wine.

                          1. re: tom porc
                            Robert Lauriston RE: tom porc Dec 27, 2006 04:09 PM

                            A French or Italian dinner without wine is like breakfast without coffee. I would go to great lengths to avoid having to give up my favorite vices.

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston
                              t
                              tom porc RE: Robert Lauriston Dec 28, 2006 08:57 AM

                              Then be grateful you can drink wine without pain.

                              But for some of us the risk isnt worth it. Pain killers and alcohol dont mix well.

                      2. m
                        marlie202 RE: Midlife Dec 28, 2006 02:15 PM

                        Are the white wines bothersome ie, allergies,headaches,etc??

                        7 Replies
                        1. re: marlie202
                          Robert Lauriston RE: marlie202 Dec 28, 2006 05:59 PM

                          As discussed above, that varies from person to person.

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston
                            t
                            tom porc RE: Robert Lauriston Jan 27, 2007 01:47 AM

                            I am surprised the wine industry doesnt sponser a study to determine the exact causes, testing and possible safe remedies. Perhaps a unique RAST for the individual causes.

                            Since sensitivites are genetic more and more people are/will be unable to drink wine.

                            I wonder if this is one of the reasons for decreased wine sales.

                            1. re: tom porc
                              Robert Lauriston RE: tom porc Jan 27, 2007 09:38 AM

                              I don't think those sensitivities are understood well enough to say that it's genetic, and even if some of them are, that doesn't necessarily mean they'll get more common.

                              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                t
                                tom porc RE: Robert Lauriston Jan 28, 2007 12:28 AM

                                Another explanation for the difference in domestic and imported wines is the oak barrels. I suppose European Oak can be different than American.

                                Is any wine stored in chestnut barrels?

                                1. re: tom porc
                                  z
                                  zin1953 RE: tom porc Jan 28, 2007 07:48 AM

                                  Stored? No. Aged? Yes.

                                  1. re: tom porc
                                    Robert Lauriston RE: tom porc Feb 5, 2007 03:13 PM

                                    American oak adds distinctive characteristics to the wine.

                                    However, most oak barrels I see in California wineries are imported from Europe.

                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                      h
                                      HLing RE: Robert Lauriston Apr 2, 2007 07:23 PM

                                      One of the reason I started to reach out for wine was from a trip to Milan on Air France about 15 years ago. I was pleasantly surprised that the small bottle of wine they offered with the meal tasted good (unlike what I've tried in the US up to that point) and didn't make me feel short of breath. All the wine I've had while in Europe back then tasted good to me, without the undesirable harsh edge the wine in the US had. My recent trips to China were also the same way. The moderately priced Chinese traditional spirits were all good to me. The beers, too. No problem. Puzzling, indeed. I don't know what that edgy element is with alcohol we get here in the US.

                                      As for the comment from Robert Lauriston: ".....most oak barrels I see in California wineries are imported from Europe...." I wonder if the strict fumigation rules on wood also apply to the oak barrels? Just a thought.

                          2. z
                            zin1953 RE: Midlife Jan 27, 2007 06:01 AM

                            *** I wonder if this is one of the reasons for decreased wine sales ***

                            ?????

                            Consumption of wine in the U.S. for 2005 was 2.37 gallons per capita; the figure would be higher if taking into account only those of legal drinking age. This was the highest per capita figure since 1987 (2.39 gal.), and the 4th highest since the end of Prohibition (1985 and 1986 are tied for 1st with 2.43 gal.).

                            The total volume of wine consumed in the U.S. for 2005 (rounded) was 703 million gallons, the highest since Prohibition ended, period.

                            For more information:
                            http://www.wineinstitute.org/industry...

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: zin1953
                              t
                              tom porc RE: zin1953 Jan 28, 2007 12:00 AM

                              I'm sorry I meant worldwide consumption.

                              http://www.winespectator.com/Wine/Fre...

                              Of course, these statistics dont list who is drinking the wine. The only study I can find that breaks it down somewhat (and is not paid by the wine industry) is one from 2004 that says 10% of the US pop. consumes 86% of the wine. And over 50% of these are baby-boomers with high education and income. Could this explain the increase in the premium wine market?

                              So there is still a huge market for the industry to tap into. Perhaps, they should re-play the 60 minutes "French Paradox." A 2005 Gallup poll showed liquor to be the fastest growing market for young adults.

                              Interesting article ...
                              http://www.napavalleyregister.com/art...

                            2. z
                              zin1953 RE: Midlife Jan 28, 2007 08:29 AM

                              There is no doubt that the U.S. is *not* a wine-drinking country. It never has been. The Euroean origins of our "Founding Fathers" were primarly England -- beer and rum (along with some Madeira) were important in colonial days, but let's not forget the Puritans. As domestic production developed, it was rum, whiskey and beer -- when wine started in the 19th century, it was erased and re-started with Prohibition. In some sense, the wine industry here is less than a century old, whereas throughout Prohibition therewere illegal breweries and stills, and it was always much more profitable to smuggle in liquor than wine . . .

                              According to a paper published by Iowa State University, and citing the USDA Economic Research Service, the U.S. population consumed 1.3 gallons of wine per capita in 1970; that had increased to 2.0 gallons by 2000. (Keep in mind a case of 12/750ml bottles of wine is 9.0 liters, or 2.3775 gallons.) Compare this to beer (which rose from 18.5 gallons in 1970 to 21.7 gallons in 2000) and soft drinks (from 24.3 gallons to 49.3 gallons in 30 years). Even consumption of bottled water, which was not tracked in 1970, was a respectable 18.5 gallons per capita in 2000.

                              See http://www.agmrc.org/NR/rdonlyres/62C...

                              Figures from the Wine Institue are, regardless of who pays for the reseach, easy to obtain. MarketWatch is owned by Marvin Shanken, the owner of Wine Spectator; Marketwatch wants $3,950 for their research report (or $4,250 for the report on CD-ROM).

                              So, going back to figures obtained from The Wine Institute, in 2001, the United States ranked 35th in the world with a per capita consumption of wine equaling 8.77 liters (2.316 gallons), or slightly less than one case per year. Compare this to Luxumbourg (59.22L), France (57.17L) and Italy (52.92L), which rank 1, 2, and 3 respectively. But the U.S. also lags considerably behind nations like Croatia, 5th with a per capita consumption of 43.20 liters; Uruguay, 13th with 29.50 liters; New Zealand, 24th with 15.86 liters; Ireland, 30th with 12.38 liters; and Norway, 32nd with 10.85 liters.

                              Although U.S. figures did represent a steady increase over the previous years (1997-2000), it is certainly true that many of the nations of Europe showed a decline during the same period. France, Italy, Spain, Portugal and others all showed a decline over the same period of time. Only Switzerland, Greece, Germany, the U.K., Ireland and the Netherlands -- along with some of the nations formerly behind the Iron Curtain showed gains.

                              See http://www.wineinstitute.org/industry...

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: zin1953
                                Melanie Wong RE: zin1953 Jan 30, 2007 12:34 PM

                                Here are three different takes on the 3% growth in US wine consumption, 2006 figure of 300million cases reported at the Unified symposium last week. Some forecast that the US will be the largest wine-consuming market by next year, that is by total volume (not per capita).

                                http://www.decanter.com/news/107933.html
                                http://winesandvines.com/head_jan07_g...
                                http://www.recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dl...

                                1. re: Melanie Wong
                                  t
                                  tom porc RE: Melanie Wong Jan 31, 2007 01:28 AM

                                  Yes, certainly 3 different views from the same conference. Conflicting summaries.

                                  I guess the wine industry is like the stock market ...no way to predict outcome.

                              2. l
                                lyn RE: Midlife Jan 28, 2007 03:05 PM

                                I am sorry I can offer no research, just my own experience. Us and Aussie red wines give me the worst headache-sometimes within minutes...other times a blinding headache later and then hangover. French Bordeauxs are the best then the other French and Italians. it is not in my head-I am a good sport accepting wine at parties, but as soon as I get the headache I casually make my way over to the bar and sure enough. California. Very interested to try the Africans someone mentioned.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: lyn
                                  t
                                  tom porc RE: lyn Jan 28, 2007 09:44 PM

                                  During a trip to Adelaide (AUS) I was given something sparkling at a BBQ and not wanting to be insulting I accepted. The Aussies are very proud of their wine industry. After 2 sips I had an incredible headache. You wouldnt think it could possibly happen that quickly. Later that night I took 1000mg of ibuprofen to find relief.

                                2. l
                                  lyn RE: Midlife Jan 29, 2007 04:29 AM

                                  yup. I hear you. but you know ibuprophen (as well as many other pain killers, as mentioned above, don't mix with alcohol...esp 1000 mg. Thats 5 capsules!) I find it very hard to give up wine, easier said then done. That is why I swear the french and italians work well for me.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: lyn
                                    b
                                    bcrall RE: lyn Jan 29, 2007 10:37 PM

                                    Thought it was Tylenol (acetaminophen) that you are to avoid while drinking. Tylenol and alcohol are both processed by the liver, while ibuprofen (and most other OTC painkillers) are processed by the kidneys. Thus taking Tylenol and alcohol at the same time can overwhelm the liver.

                                    If there is another reason to avoid mixing ibuprofen and alcohol, though, I'd like to know about it because it is my standby hangover tx.

                                    1. re: bcrall
                                      t
                                      tom porc RE: bcrall Jan 30, 2007 02:25 AM

                                      Yes, acetaminophen and alcohol is to be avoided as is aspirin and naproxen (Alleve).
                                      Ibrofen can cause GI bleeding if taken regularly. So far the FDA has omitted ibuprofen on its alcohol warning labels.
                                      I just avoid wine because it's not worth it ... until science can determine the cause using a diagnostic test, perhaps.

                                    2. re: lyn
                                      t
                                      tom porc RE: lyn Jan 30, 2007 02:11 AM

                                      Then stick with the French and Italian wines, lyn. You still have a huge selection at good prices.
                                      I usu order a mixed drink on the few occasions I go out. Never got the chance to enjoy a glass of wine. I had to take something at that BBQ. I was the guest and had a whole evenings of conversation and questions ahead of me with my hosts. Plus, the headache would have kept me awake all night.

                                    3. j
                                      jimtak RE: Midlife Feb 5, 2007 01:31 PM

                                      As an Asian, I get all sorts of interesting physical responses to alcoholic beverages, my body lacking inthe enzymes which handle the transformation of alcohol to acetaldhyde. And I used to get headaches, until I started practicing - equal volumes of water with the alcoholic beverage. And I maintain a high level of B vitamins as a daily routine. Seems to work.
                                      As for a difference between French and Italian wines and US and Aussie wines - the US and Australia frown on chaptelization - the addition of suger to achieve the alcohol level to make "table wine". The US and Aus growing seasons and microclimates allows for the current trend of "big wines" - alcohol levels above 14% - due to high natural sugar levels in grapes allowed to "ripen". The old joke is that the French declare a vintage year when their grapes actually reach 22° Brix - which should yield a 12 % v/v alcohol wine.
                                      Check the alcohol level of the wines you are drinking - there is a difference between the old world table wine at 12% and the "fruit bombs" at 14% and higher....

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: jimtak
                                        z
                                        zin1953 RE: jimtak Feb 5, 2007 01:41 PM

                                        Good advice on wine and water in equal amounts . . . as long as I do that, I rarely (if ever) get a headache.

                                        1. re: jimtak
                                          Melanie Wong RE: jimtak Feb 5, 2007 02:03 PM

                                          Actually the flush comes from the build up of excess amounts of acetaldehyde. It's not a lack of enzymes to convert alcohol to the more toxic acetaldehyde, but instead a super-efficient ability to make this transformation. The imbalance of this reaction with the speed of the subsequent breakdown of acetaldehyde to acetic acid is the problem. Some gastroenterologists I've talked to have alluded to the possiblity that the enzymes might be inducible, meaning that your liver can be "trained" to produce an appropriate amount if you have small amounts of alcohol on a regular basis.

                                        2. l
                                          lyn RE: Midlife Feb 5, 2007 03:07 PM

                                          uh, "training" the liver? Love it. Anyhow while I understand that US and Aussie wines may have higher alcohol, it still does not explain the insta- headache some of us get. It does explain why after a bottle (or even less) you would have one.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: lyn
                                            Melanie Wong RE: lyn Feb 5, 2007 03:18 PM

                                            Hey, don't bother me, I'm "exercising"!

                                            1. re: lyn
                                              t
                                              tom porc RE: lyn Feb 16, 2007 12:40 AM

                                              I'm with you there, lyn. Those instant headaches after 3 sips within a minute or two just wipe me out. You wouldnt think it could be physically possible for it to happen so suddenly and intensely. How much sulfites, tannin, histamine even alcohol can there be in 3 sips?
                                              Since I am fine with hard liquor the alcohol content isnt the cause for me. Nor is dehydration as I stop after a few sips.

                                            2. t
                                              Tboy RE: Midlife Feb 15, 2007 08:55 AM

                                              My penny's worth on this:

                                              It's my belief that the Red Wine Headache is due to a mixture of the tannin, astringency, and sulphites found in the Red wine, which "together" generates an histeminic/allergic reaction.

                                              Yes, sulphites are found in white wines, and some other wines have an astringent effect....however ONLY in red Wine will you find that heavy mixture of all three.

                                              I've found that drinking the less-tannic, stereotypically less astringent Red's is the answer. I'm talking here Gamay/Boujalais, and Pinot Nior. These berries are the thinnest skinned grapes, and give you a wine with less heaviness, and a less tannic aftertaste. Gamay, in the end of the day, is really a white grape pretending to be a red grape. You can chill a Gamay just like you would a white wine, for example.

                                              So, if you know you get Red Wine Headaches, maybe try a Gamay or Pinot Noir, and see if that is better for you.

                                              1. m
                                                matthewbrooklyn RE: Midlife Feb 15, 2007 02:10 PM

                                                I am suffering these days from killer headaches brought on by alcoholic beverages--red wine (almost always), white wine (frequently), and beer (sometimes). These are intense, behind-the-eyes headaches, and usually start gearing up at the start of a second glass of wine or beer (and yet I somehow manage to choke down that second glass). I am 33, and have been a moderate to heavy drinker for the last 8-10 years, and only in the last year or so have I started getting these non-hangover headaches. Advil usually helps if I can take it immediately and don't try to "sleep it off", which will only result in having to wake up hours later and take the Advil anyway. In the past week, I've had headaches from red wine, white wine and beer-- never more than 2 glasses of each. So maybe the solution is...don't drink? Is there an Allen Carr book for that?? I suppose there is life after booze, but it kind of depresses me to think about future dining experiences/social occasions without it. Going to google "brain tumor" now. Peace.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: matthewbrooklyn
                                                  t
                                                  tom porc RE: matthewbrooklyn Feb 16, 2007 12:43 AM

                                                  Do you experience headaches after a martini or other cocktail? If so, then you may have a metabolic issue as Melanie mentioned earlier.

                                                  1. re: matthewbrooklyn
                                                    l
                                                    lexpatti RE: matthewbrooklyn Mar 27, 2007 06:11 AM

                                                    You may be suffering from migraines but also rebound headaches from the advil. Google rebound headaches because advil and many other over-the-counter meds will actually cause terrible headaches - I suffered terribly from them until I was diagnosed. I now manage the migraines (best I can) but alcohol is a terrible trigger (can't tie one on anymore at all).

                                                  2. minigourmet RE: Midlife Feb 16, 2007 02:13 AM

                                                    Hi there.. dont know if this will help but there is something called tyramine, (a substance that forms from the breakdown of protein in certain foods)... Is found in red wine. The longer a food ages, the greater the tyramine content is... however then again in aged red wine certain chemical levels dissipate such as tannins and become smoother and easier to take.. although I do tend to get a headache or two with very aged wines but it could be from other reasons.. Often, foods are triggers only when they are combined with other triggers. For example, they may act as triggers only when stress or hormonal changes are also at work. Researchers used to suspect that wine was a headache trigger because it contains the amino acid tyramine as i have said above. But newer research shows that phytochemicals called phenols, which are found in red wine, may be the real triggers. For some people, drinking any kind of alcohol can bring on a migraine or nasty headache. As well if you are a "thinker" or get stressed out quickly ..there is compounds wine that deplete levels of serotonin in the brain which could also be triggering your headaches. As well there is a nitrate facor... maybe its the nitrates??? They do use nitrate additives in new world wines and actually some areas in europe which are used to suppress mercaptans and other nasty sulphurous wine odours... but thats mostly in whites.. I am thinking... ok I could go on forever... have you ever tried to just stick to pinot noirs and maybe an aged merlot and just try and avoid cabernet franc and sauvignon?.. Pinot noirs do have a bit of an acidity which I believe are almost marvelous with any dinner...but then again I love em and am a bit biased. I used to get nasty headaches as well but it is mostly from new world wines that I have experienced this displeasure. Hope this helps..

                                                    1. d
                                                      drobbia RE: Midlife Feb 16, 2007 10:47 AM

                                                      -a while back a neurosurgeon informed me during a plane trip, when I ask the red wine headache question, that the anthrocyanin ( makes up the color in red wine) in red wine was his best guess for the headaches - A Anthrocyanin medicine is sometimes used during brain surgery to shrink very tiny veins to minimize bleeding.
                                                      His supposition was that in some people the Anthrocyanins have a similiar reaction and their capillaries shrink causing the headache. --- Sounded plausable to me!
                                                      Anthrocyanins are present in most veggies, So I guess someone would have to check the parts per billion in red wine and then compare the result with veggies to verify - I'm to busy enjoying a glass of Syrah right now to delve much more.

                                                      1. Midlife RE: Midlife Feb 20, 2007 11:28 AM

                                                        After a few months of trying to figure out the headache issue I have pretty much concluded that there are at least half a dozen plausible 'substances' in wine that could be involved, and that the 'answer' is likely to vary widely from individual to individal...... if there is an answer at all. Until wineries are required to place chemical analysis on their labels (or at least make it available) it would seem that trial and error, combined with some common sense practice, is the only way for someone to navigate their way to 'headache-free' wine drinking.

                                                        I recently attended a tasting/seminar dedicated to entirely organic and biodynamic growing, and to traditional winemaking techniques that involve minimal additives/stabilizers in the winemaking process. At this point I am concluding that the best advice I can give someone who gets headaches from wine is to try their own experiments and keep good notes. It seems logical that the 'purer' the wine, the fewer contaminates one would encounter, so organic/biodynamic is a place to start. But more leisurely drinking, while consuming more water and eating healthier food, and lower alcohol % are also potentially helpful.

                                                        1. t
                                                          tom porc RE: Midlife Feb 22, 2007 12:50 AM

                                                          Very sound advice, Midlife. Thanks. I'm sure it will help others.

                                                          As for me, sadly, experimenting is too painful. The risks of the high dose of ibuprofen I need to take to remove the headache are high.

                                                          3 Replies
                                                          1. re: tom porc
                                                            l
                                                            lyn RE: tom porc Apr 10, 2007 04:43 PM

                                                            I hear you. I can still experiment-a little. I have a friend who no longer will touch red wine and take the chance of a 3 day headche.
                                                            I went to a dinner party last week where many bottles were floating around and sure enough...headache. In this situation, I am going to start putting my French Bordeux in a flask and refilling in the bathroom. Never get a headache from this stuff unless I accidentally over-indulge. As a ide note I have found that small micro breweries (beer) that DO NOT bottle their product for sale have no ill effects on my system. we have several breweries around here and I have found that the ones that only sell the product in house never give me a headache. I can drink way too much of the stuff.

                                                            A further side note, I can eat aged cheese and meat with no issue. go figure.

                                                            1. re: lyn
                                                              t
                                                              tom porc RE: lyn Apr 11, 2007 01:11 AM

                                                              You couldnt have chosen a better pain-free wine than a Bordeaux :o)

                                                              One almost wonders if its a conspiracy to keep ppl buying imports or visiting Europe for the wines.

                                                              1. re: tom porc
                                                                l
                                                                lyn RE: tom porc Apr 11, 2007 01:42 PM

                                                                I know and the raised Bordeaux prices are killing me. whats funny though is the cheapest bottle of Bordeaux at Trader Joes is still better headache wise than an $80+ Cali wine.

                                                          2. hitachino RE: Midlife Apr 30, 2007 11:13 AM

                                                            old thread but i'm someone who doesn't do so well with wine - red, white or pink. and i've sworn off chamgagne. nearly instant headaches, stomach aches, flushing -- never fails. and whatever is in those nasty wine cooler things is even worse -- horribly painful indigestion after about a half of one of those flavored smirnoff things one time. that once was enough for me and i've never tried one since.

                                                            i do have an allergy to sulfa (at least i did as a child and as a young adult i had a really bad (vomiting) reaction to a sulfa-containing antibiotic.

                                                            i have a bit of a tummy issue (gotta go) every time i eat an egg and/or shrimp that has been preserved with sulfites.

                                                            are they connected? i haven't a clue. lots of learned sounding people are saying that there are very few people with actual reactions to wine, but i sure do see a lot of info about it online.

                                                            for me, it's not asthma or rashes or swelling - it's all gastro.

                                                            i have never had these problems with lunchmeats, liquor or beer.

                                                            though i always feel rather left out -- ok, just plain jealous (as a bit of a beer snob) when i see that there are a gazillion wine shops all over the place and very, very few places carry wonderful selections of beer. (in FL)

                                                            4 Replies
                                                            1. re: hitachino
                                                              t
                                                              tom porc RE: hitachino May 1, 2007 03:03 AM

                                                              Sulfa drugs and sulfites in food are unrelated compounds so there is no connection. Actually noone can be allergic to sulfur as its essential to life but its a sulfa drug-protein complex that forms in the body that people have problems with.
                                                              And from what I gather some show a wine sensitivity to sulfites but they (as in your case) also display other hypersensitivites so it's difficult to pinpoint. While some may tolerate sulfite-reduced wines and assume that's the answer. It's possible it could be the difference in wine that was the reason for their non-reactivity.

                                                              Sorry, but it seems science/medical community doesnt have the answers at this time.

                                                              1. re: tom porc
                                                                hitachino RE: tom porc May 1, 2007 01:24 PM

                                                                yes, people tell me that all the time -- still, it'd be interesting to know if other people with reactions to wine have a sulfa allergy or had one as a child.....they may be unrelated compounds, but there still might be something to it (since no one really knows what's going on)

                                                                not being a chemist nor a physician, i don't have a clue!

                                                                1. re: hitachino
                                                                  QueenB RE: hitachino May 1, 2007 03:18 PM

                                                                  I have a sulfa (drug) allergy. Yet, I have no issues with any red, white, or pink wine, with the exception of Franzia Chillable Red (in the box), which gives me gigantic headaches.

                                                                  There are chemical structural differences between sulfa drugs and sulfites in wine. Sulfa drugs contain a molecule called sulfonamide, which contains an amine group (NH2) and two oxygen molecules attached attached to sulfur.
                                                                  Sulfites in wine contain three oxygen molecules attached to sulfur. Usually, the sulfites added to wine contain potassium as well.

                                                                  So, the compounds are related, but only in that they contain sulfur and oxygen. I'd have to know exactly how the body breaks down each to know if the allergies could be related, but my guess would be no. I'm thinking that since the two molecules are distinct, that the allergies are as well.

                                                                  1. re: QueenB
                                                                    hitachino RE: QueenB May 1, 2007 06:10 PM

                                                                    "So, the compounds are related, but only in that they contain sulfur and oxygen"

                                                                    well, oxygen obviously isn't a problem for any of us. *big grin*

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