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What gives you a headace from drinking Wine?


Does anyone know the ingrident(s) that gives you a headace from wine?

  1. That really depends on a couple of things. For me, too much sugar in a cheap sparkling gives me a headache to such an extent I simply won't drink it. Also, for me, if a cabernet is too young there are histamines that I react to and a headache is one of the symptoms.

      1. Primarily it's the fusel alcohols formed by quick fermentation to keep cost down.

        Well, that and sheer quantity!

        1. It can also be from sulfites, which occur in small concentrations in all wines, but are added by some vintners...they can make for a crippling headache even if you've enjoyed in moderation!

          11 Replies
          1. re: sunshine842

            Sulfite headaches are an urban legend, a zombie myth that will not die.

            There's been a lot of discussion about this on the board, most informedly by maria lorraine. For example, see http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/4885... and check out the links it contains, in particular http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/455977 which includes the following passage:

            "Sulfites have been completely ruled out in medical studies out as causing wine headaches or the redness/flushing courtabella describes. Sulfites in wine cause a reaction only in those persons with existing asthma (5% of the population) of those with a rare disorder called sulfite oxidase deficiency (1% of the population). If sulfites were a problem when consuming wine, then eating dried fruit would cause an extreme reaction, as would lunchmeat, salami, etc. The litmus test is if you don't have a reaction to those foods, you don't have a sulfites sensitivity. Bear in mind that a glass of wine contains, IIRC, 40 mg of sulfites and the human body itself produces about 1000 mg/day."

            For more discussions, plug sulfites or headaches into the search engine.

            1. re: sunshine842

              While they are a natural by-product of fermentation, almost all vintners add more sulfites to help stabilize their wine. From what I've learned here (see posts on this by maria lorraine, like the one in Brad Ballinger's link above) sulfites do not generally cause a reaction in people unless they have a specific type of migraine condition, and then it's usually a rash or flushed skin and not a headache.

              1. re: Midlife

                Glad to know that my coworker's black tongue and crippling migraines were all nonexistent....

                1. re: sunshine842

                  Unnecessary sarcasm aside............................. I think you should read my post again. I didn't suggest that the symptoms weren't real. What I said was that I've read material that suggests the cause may not be the sulfites. Sheesh!!!!!

                  1. re: Midlife

                    when you've been a firsthand observer to it (my coworker AND my mother)...and have seen them go through a full repertoire of doctor and specialist visits (blood tests, MRIs, the whole gamut), only to have both of them come up with sulfites (different doctors) as the clinical cause, it tends to lend some veracity to the theory.

                    1. re: sunshine842

                      I'm not a doctor and didn't extend my thoughts as if I were. What I said was "From what I've learned here ............... sulfites do not generally cause a reaction in people unless they have a specific type of migraine condition, and then it's usually a rash or flushed skin and not a headache." That sentence doesn't preclude the symptoms or diagnosis of your coworker or mother, nor does it deny the truth of their conditions.

                      While I understand you have a personal relationship to the subject, you might consider understanding that the words "generally" and "usually" are intentional qualifiers in that sentence. They're inserted specifically to leave room for the possibility that some people DO react to the sulfites in wine but that it's "USUALLY with a rash or flushed skin". I have no way of knowing if either person in your life has the type of migraine situation referred to in what I'm referring to, but it sounds as if it might at least be possible.

                      I'm going to back off now and chalk this up to an emotional response. I've just spent too many years hearing people claim that the sulfites in wine cause headaches and then reading piece after piece of research contending that it's other tings beside the sulfites.

                      1. re: Midlife

                        I get migraines and a doctor once told me to avoid red wine and chocolate. wonder if there's a resveratrol connection? the lifesaving element-du-jour? she also mentioned blue cheese. it's probably a combination of things in certain fermented foods, a subtle interplay not easily communicated. whatever. pass the pinot noir.

                        1. re: bakersdelight

                          The tyramines in red wine and chocolate are the migraine trigger. Tyramines are one family of biogenic amines. Histamines, another headache trigger found in food and wine, are another type of biogenic amines. I've written about this elsewhere on Chowhound.

                          1. re: maria lorraine

                            huh. do histamines make allergies worse too? oh my, this is huge!! found a list:

                            1. re: bakersdelight

                              sorry if i;m repeating what you may already have written elsewhere, ml, but I just read that Beaujolais reds have fewer histamines because they are made with "little or no oak treatment":

                              1. re: bakersdelight

                                My sense is that the writer in your linked article is presenting a complex issue far too simplistically. Surely, increased histamine consumption can exacerbate allergies, but many other reactions that appear to be allergic reactions (but are not) can also occur. Many factors cause a reaction to drinking wine: tyramines, differences in lactobacillus strains found in Europe vs. the US, percentage of alcohol, your individual alcohol processing (dehydrogenase and acetaldehyde), wine rootstock, what you've consumed *with* the wine, and on and on. Yes, oak is a factor but in the grand scheme of things, I'd say it's a small one in terms of causing a reaction. But if you think it is, try some stainless-steel-only wines (sometimes marked INOX), or Italian wines made in neutral Slavonian barrels (botti). If your problem with wine is with histamines, taking half an antihistamine before drinking might help.

            2. I'm thinking it MUST be the sleep because I always feel good when I go to bed after drinking a couple glasses of excellent wine!

              1. This is interesting-I am not a big wine drinker at all but when I went to italy I drank wine almost every night- barely got a buzz and NEVER felt bad the next day- we were told b/c they didn't have sulfites- I have no idea but I am going back in June and looking forward to wine and no headache!!

                9 Replies
                1. re: hlsess

                  all wine has naturally-occurring sulfites...but large commercially-prepared wines tend to have *added* sulfites, which may not be present in small-scale production.

                  1. re: hlsess

                    «we were told b/c they didn't have sulfites»

                    Don't know where you got your information but it's wrong. With the exception of a few producers of so-called natural wines, most if not all Italian winemakers use sulphur in one form or another when making wines. And even if a wine has sulfites, it's not going to give you a headache.

                    1. re: carswell

                      at the risk of re-opening the not-very-pleasant conversation upthread, beware of handing out all-encompassing terms. There ARE people with real medical diagnoses from real medical doctors that say otherwise.

                      1. re: sunshine842

                        It's called sadoequinonecrophilia

                        1. re: sunshine842

                          You know, after my upthread post, I dropped out of the discussion because I'd made my point and you didn't appear open to persuasion. Far be it from me to play the sadoequinonecrophiliac, especially since I'm not an MD. I have discussed the issue with several MDs though, including a migraine specialist, and I've read a fair bit on the subject, albeit not as much as maria lorraine.

                          However, since you insist on reopening the debate, I'll chime in with this: the migraine specialist stated outright that THERE ARE NO CURRENT PEER-REVIEWED STUDIES LINKING WINE HEADACHES TO SULFITES. I've read and heard other researchers and medical professionals who say the same, and I've read or heard no one with credentials who says otherwise. In view of that, until the doctors or specialists you mention provide a coherent explanation of the science behind the supposed sulfite-headache connection, I view their diagnosis with scepticism. Am I claiming no one ever gets a headache from sulfites? No. But if such a reaction occurs, it is extremely rare and the odds of two people close to you experiencing it are infinitesimally small. This only increases my scepticism.

                          You refer to the connection as a theory. What exactly, in scientific terms, is the theory? Who reputable is advancing it? What evidence supports it? Until you can provide answers to those questions, your claim is at best anecdotal. And, with all due respect, anecdote doesn't give you ground to brush off a large body of medical research or to lecture those who are doing what they can to bust the biggest myth in the modern-day wine world.

                          1. re: carswell

                            Amen, I don't think any one of the voluminous number of threads on this has ever failed to mention that very small percentage who actually may be allergic, but inexplicably and inevitably seems to fall on unresponsive auricular receptors.

                          2. re: sunshine842

                            What I think has happened, sunshine842, is that you have misheard or received bad information. Your co-worker and mother may have misheard or misinterpreted what the doctors told them, or you may have misheard or misinterpreted what your co-worker and mother said the doctors told them. Or the doctors themselves may be the source of the incorrect information.

                            There are many, many medical sources that refute what you are asserting.
                            In June, 2008, a study titled "Adverse reactions to wine: think outside the bottle," was published in Current Opinion in Allergy and Clinical Immunology. It said -- clearly -- "Challenges were negative with sulfites." There are many other scientific studies that say the exact same thing.

                            The facts remain:
                            If your co-worker and/or mother can eat dried fruit, packaged fruit juices or cured meats (bologna, saucisson/salami, mortadella, coppa, etc.) without a reaction, then it's not the sulfites in wine causing the reaction. All those foods contain far more sulfites than wine.

                            A glass of wine contains 10 mg of sulfites but the human body itself produces 1000 mg/day of sulfites -- or 100 times more per day than the amount of sulfites in a single glass of wine. Read more about this from the UC-Davis wine school: http://waterhouse.ucdavis.edu/winecom...

                            There is the very rare Sulfite Oxidase Deficiency, but this is an extremely serious condition that begins in infancy, in which the body is essentially allergic to itself or, more precisely, to the sulfites the body produces normally. If your coworker or mother have this illness, they would have had an extremely serious illness since birth.

                            You are blaming sulfites and in so doing blaming the wrong culprit. No doubt your co-worker's and your mother's symptoms are real. The tyramines in wine often cause headaches or migraines, and tyramine headaches are dose-related (they are in food as well). Many other substances may also be the culprit, as I wrote upthread, and in many other threads on Chowhound.

                            P.S.: The black tongue you mention upthread is a clue. It usually means that lots of red wine has been consumed (enough to stain the teeth and tongue), meaning that over-consumption is the first culprit that should be eliminated. Black tongue can also indicate a reaction with bismuth (Pepto-Bismol), which points to other digestive issues.

                          3. re: carswell

                            The last sentence should be edited to read; "And even if a wine has sulfites, it's not going to give you a headache because of them."

                            1. re: carswell

                              the blackest tongue my coworker arrived at work sporting was after eating commercial salad dressing...and no wine.

                              Both medical diagnoses said specifically "sulfite sensitivity - avoid red wine" -- I even saw it in black and white on the doctor's stationery with both people - I shared a very small office with the coworker...and she was so miserable so often, especially before her diagnosis, that she later showed me the diagnosis in relief that she wasn't dying or something similar. My mother's I saw because, well, she's my mother.

                              And no, my coworker could NOT eat any of the things you describe -- it was one of the most restrictive food sensitivities I've ever seen -- far more difficult to manage than a nut or seafood allergy, as an enormous percentage of commercial products contain sulfites, and she spent an awful lot of time absolutely miserable.

                              Not entirely sure why you folks are so dead set on assuming I'm an idiot liar.

                        2. Folks, it's clear no minds are being changed here on either side, and the discussion is getting nasty, so we're going to lock this thread now.