Wondering why you always get a headache the morning after drinking wine? Many people think that sulfites are the culprit behind wine headaches, but other chemicals are likely to blame. Some studies suggest that a naturally occurring substance in wine called tyramine may cause headaches, possibly due to the way it affects blood pressure. Wine, especially red wine, can also contain histamines, which some people can’t metabolize.
Taking a nondrowsy antihistamine prior to drinking wine may help. Research has also shown that the tannins in wine may boost production of the brain chemical serotonin, and changes in serotonin levels can trigger headaches in migraine sufferers. You may want to try switching to white, given that most of the tannins are found in the skin and seeds of the grape. (In white wine, the skin and seeds are removed during production.) Or, if you really love red, see if you find relief by sipping a lighter-bodied variety, like pinot noir, which will have lower levels of tannins.
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You should also consider other drinking variables. Do you get headaches if you have a glass after a long workday but not while on vacation? Underlying stress could be the real issue. Alcohol is also dehydrating, so you may be left with a pounding head if you’re not drinking enough water before and along with your glass. The best headache fix is, of course, not drinking. But if that’s not ideal this season (I get it—you’re human), then be sure to hydrate, and stick to one 5-ounce glass of wine per day, which is the recommended max for women.
Health’s medical editor, Roshini Rajapaksa, MD, is assistant professor of medicine at the NYU School of Medicine.