Migraines & Wine - Printable Version

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- Sydney2 - 11-26-2005 12:04 AM

When I first started drinking wine, I learned that drinking Merlot would trigger a severe migraine attack. I was told that this was due to the tannins and would be true of all red wines but I never actually researched it. Does anyone know if that is true? I've also heard that sulfites could also be the culprit. I have avoided all red wines out of fear of triggering one of my attacks, but have grown really curious about them and would like to taste a few. Are there any generally 'safe' red wines for migraine sufferers? I am particularly curious about Pinot Noir. Any advice anyone can provide is greatly appreciated.


- Kcwhippet - 11-26-2005 06:46 AM

Welcome to the Wine Board, Syd. I'll give you a partial answer and let some others fill in the gaps. First off, despite some of the sensationalist press on red wine headaches, not enough is known yet by medical professionals to give a 100% accurate answer as to what gives YOU a headache/migraine/rash/itch/flush or whatever. Sulfites could be a problem if you're in the small percentage of steroid dependent asthmatics. Otherwise, that's probably not the case, though it may be contributory. It sounds like you do drink white wine in order to avoid red wine headaches. Well, white wines generally have more sulfites than red wines. The reason is that sulites and tannins both help to prevent wine from rapidly oxidizing and also help prevent microbial action from causing the wine to spoil. Sulfites are present in all wines because they're a natural byproduct of fermentation. You can't make grape wines without sulfites being present. Red wines leach many chemicals from the grape skins as they soak, and among them are tyramines, which are know to to trigger migraines, so that may be one cause. There are also histamines in red wine, which any "hay fever" sufferer knows can cause itching, sneezing, and sometimes headaches. Oh, another tidbit on sulfites. Some people swear that they can drink wines in other countries and not suffer the headaches because only the wines made to export to the USA have all those bad added sulfites. Well, that's just not true, because the only difference between a bottle of wine served in Europe (or elsewhere) and the very same bottle of wine served here is that cute little label the US Government requires. Harrd to say what may trigger your particular headaches, but I suggest you seek out a health care professional near you who has some real knowledge in this area.

[This message has been edited by Kcwhippet (edited 11-26-2005).]

- Thomas - 11-26-2005 08:51 AM

The only thing I would add to what KC posted is to reiterate: don't listen to rumors because, as you can see by KC's informative post, those who told you the rumors don't know what they are talking about. The best response to migraine headaches is to seek medical attention.

- Sydney2 - 11-26-2005 09:40 AM

Thanks so much Kcwhippet and Foodie. I do drink white and rose wines. Sometimes they give me a headache, but not a knock down 3 day migraine like Merlot does. I have been seeing medical specialists since I was a child and Kcwhippet is exactly right that they still don't know enough about migraines to answer a lot of my questions. Generally, in discussions with the doctors I've seen they simply lump all red wines together as being off limits. I'm not sure if that's because they should be or because they're not wine experts. So, I guess my next question for all of you very wine knowledgeable folks here would be- are there red wines with less tannins than others?

- Bucko - 11-26-2005 11:24 AM

Tannins per se do not cause headaches. Drink clear alcohols as much as possible. Studies have shown that red wine, brandy, scotch, tequila, rum and bourbon are more likely to cause a headache/hangover than white wine, gin and vodka.

Why? Colored alcohols have small quantities of congeners, which are by-products of the fermentation and distillation process. Congeners are complex organic molecules such as histamine and methyl alcohol, which contribute to the headache/hangover. Red wine also contains tyramine, an amino acid known to cause severe migraine headaches.

That said, what the hell do I know? ;-)

- Innkeeper - 11-26-2005 07:18 PM

FYI Syd, Bucko is an MD. KC and Foodie are wantabes.

- Kcwhippet - 11-26-2005 08:58 PM

Even though I spent two years in pre-med, I'm not a doc wannabe. I like where I am.

- Innkeeper - 11-27-2005 09:25 AM

Happy Thanksgiving KC.

- Thomas - 11-27-2005 01:00 PM

KC, I chose to let IK have his joke, even if I did not understand it [img][/img]

- winoweenie - 11-28-2005 12:00 PM

Prostrate exams be his life (Buckos' that is). WW [img][/img]