From time to time, many drinkers of wine get headaches. In fact, this is so common, it is often referred to as red wine headaches, or RWH. While some of those headaches are caused from over consumption of wine, meaning the alcohol found in the wine, that is not the sole cause. That is not to say that there are not also potential benefits from drinking wine. For details on the potential, important health benefits from drinking wine, calories and nutrition found in most wine, please read: Health and Nutrition Facts of Drinking Wine However, from time to time, many people experience a red wine headache when tasting wine.
Sulfites in red wine: A lot of people blame allergies to sulfites on their suffering. While that does happen, that is not the cause of red wine headaches. Sulfites are used in almost every type of wine as a preservative agent. The percentage of sulfites in wine is really quite low. White wines contain between 250 and 450 parts per million of sulfites. Red wine has even less sulfites, with a range of between 50-350 parts per million. The truth is, dried fruit, which is the common, agreed upon litmus test for sulfite allergies contain much higher degrees of sulfites with a range of between 1,000 to 3,000 parts per million.
The truth about the amount of sulfites in red wine when compared to other popular food items is, there are lower levels of sulfites in wine than you experience in most candy, jam, canned soda, packaged meats, canned soup, frozen juice or as we mentioned previously, dried fruit.
While sulfites can bring on typical allergic or asthma symptoms. But they are not the culprit responsible for wine, induced headaches. This is a good thing as close to 1% of the world’s population is allergic to sulfites. So, if it’s not sulfites that cause the famous red wine headache, or RWH, what is it?
The cause of red wine headaches or RWH: It would appear that there are two potential reasons for the red wine headaches. Histamines and Tyramine, both of which are present in all wines are the guilty parties! The simple medical explanation for red wine headaches is, Histamines dilate your blood vessels and bring on the flushing and inflammatory sensations. Tyramine gets credit for two effects. Tyramine is responsible for initially constricting and then dilating your blood vessels causing your blood pressure to rise slightly, just enough to induce a headache.
Histamines in wine: It is important to keep in mind the amount of Histamines present in red wine are much more prevalent than those which appear in white wine. That is the reason the condition is referred to as red wine headaches, or RWH. In fact, Histamines in red wine have been measured to be in some cases up to 200% higher in red wine, than what you commonly find in white wine.
While the amount of Histamines measured in wine varies, depending on the grape variety and region, so does the amount of Tryamine. For example, the levels of Tyramine present in Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay are quite low, which is the reverse of what is found in Riesling. Bordeaux, fortunately for me, is also very low when it comes to Tyramine, as are most of the famous Bordeaux, red wine grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc.
Histamines and Tyramine are by-products of the fermentation process. Of the two, Histamines seems to bear more of the responsibility for red wine headaches, or RWH. Yes, this is so common, RWH or red wine headaches is how medical professionals refer to the problem. Because Histamines are much stronger in red wine, than white wine or Champagne, the problem is most often referred to as red wine headaches. People who suffer from red wine headaches more often than others can have an enzyme deficiency that does not allow them to metabolize Histamines as well as they would like.
To prevent or cure the red wine headache, drink at least one full, 8 ounce glass of water per glass of wine. Water is your best friend as drinking alcohol can cause dehydration. You can also try taking non drowsy, anti-histamines before drinking wine. Other potential aids for headaches are easily found in your medicine cabinet. Before drinking, try taking an Aspirin, Ibuprofen or Vitamin B6.