I had heard for years that sulfites in wine give people headaches but new research shows that, unless you are allergic to sulfites, they will not cause headaches. They can, however, cause asthmatic symptoms and even asthmatic attacks! The real reason for you headache from wine could be one or a combination of any of the following:
- Grapes contain natural compounds called tannins. Other foods and beverages also contain tannins; black tea contains a strong amount of tannins. If you are wondering if it may be the tannins in the grapes, try a strong brew of black tea and see if you get a headache. Tannins also cause dry mouth but most alcohol does anyway because it dehydrates you. (NOTE: dehydration is usually the root of any hangover!)
- The sugar in the wine could be causing your headaches. When alcohol and sugar mix, it can cause worse dehydration than drinking alone. When a part of your body is dehydrated, it will leech water from other parts of your body. This includes the water in your head and surrounding your brain!
- Wine is made of grapes that have been aged (fermented). Your body may not react well with either the plant (grapes) or the fermentation and may cause your body to release histamines (just like flowers and pollen with seasonal allergies). If you have any form of seasonal allergies (or even if you don’t) this may be your problem. Try taking a form of loratadine (the ingredient in Claritin) before you drink wine.
- Another substance in wine called tyramine could be the cause of your headaches as this substance can cause increased blood pressure. Tyramine can cause increased blood pressure because this substance is known to constrict and dilate blood vessels.
All of the causes above can possibly be reduced by simply drinking water before, during, and after drinking wine.