Health, Effects of Wine Consumption on: Headaches

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

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Biogenic amines in wine, such as histamine and tyramine, can trigger migraines for some migraine sufferers. Red wine generally contains more biogenic amines that white. It has also been suggested that phenolic compounds could be a trigger. In the test tube phenolics liberate serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine) from cells; this is the chemical messenger that plays a part in the initiation of migraine.

Additionally, the alcohol in wine and its breakdown product, acetaldehyde, act on the brain. The pain of headaches is referred via pain receptors to the surface of the head from deep structures such as the brain and its related tissues. The headache experienced after consuming alcohol is generally related to blood alcohol concentration (BAC). Alcohol and acetaldehyde readily diffuse from the blood into the fluids of the brain and spinal cord where they directly irritate the brain’s cells and tissues, causing pain at the front surface of the head. The more wine consumed, the higher the BAC, the more the brain will be irritated, and the more severe the headache.