Lots of things in life give us a headache. Does wine need to be one of them?
Not everyone finds that drinking wine gives them a headache. But if you are one of the ones who do, you may wonder why.
Actually there is quite a lot of argument about why some people get headaches after drinking wine. Some people insist that headaches are caused by the sulfites in wine, which may cause a reaction in some people. Others are equally insistent that it is nothing to do with sulfites!
Again, some people argue that it is a reaction to the histamines in wine – that is, substances that cause allergic reactions. It is true that red wine in particular can trigger migraines in people who are that way inclined. But actually, wine containes about 10 times LESS histamines than that measured in foods such as fish, eggplant, spinach and tomatoes. So this doesn’t seem likely either.
The most likely cause seems to be the alcohol in the wine. Alcohol can move easily from the blood to the fluids of the brain and spinal cord. Once there, it irritates the membrane that covers the brain and spinal cord, so it causes pain at the front of your head. The higher your blood alcohol level, the worse your headache will be.
So how can you reduce or avoid getting headaches after drinking wine?
One thing you absolutely should NOT do is take an aspirin! This will combine with the wine to cause serious damage to the lining of your stomach.
There are three measures you CAN take to avoid headaches.
1. Drink the wine with food, not on its own. This will slow down the rate at which the alcohol reaches your brain. This is because the alcohol only gets to your brain if your liver has been unable to break down the alcohol in your blood. Food will reduce the alcohol that is presented to your liver and make it easier to break it down.
2. Drink plenty of water. The headache is basically a “hangover" headache, which is largely due to dehydration. Drinking plenty of water will avoid the hangover effect. Some people suggest matching each glass of wine with a glass of water. Good advice – but easier said than done!
3. All good things are best in moderation. And this certainly applies to wine. Don’t overdo it! If you stick to your recommended daily allowance (3-4 glasses for men, 1-2 for women) you are most unlikely to get a headache.
Wine is one of the pleasures of life. You don’t want to wake up in the morning wishing you hadn’t drunk that wine the night before! Drink it sensibly - there’ll be no headaches and no regrets!
Elaine Berry is the owner of Vintage Wine Associates, a small company for those who love wine and everything to do with it. For information about all aspects of wine and a selection of unique and original wine gifts, come and join us at http://www.myvintagewine.com