Why Does Wine Give Me A Headache?

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Creating a Fining Slurry out of Bentonite Clay *Photo credit to Robert Pitkin*

This is a “sensitive” topic. A good friend of the blog, Jaa from HelloJaa mentioned she often gets headaches when drinking wine and it deters her from drinking. Let’s explore the question “Why Does Wine Give Me A Headache?”┬áThere are actually quite a few reasons!

1. Hydration! You can actually feel a wine’s effect pretty fast when you aren’t well hydrated. This can include a headache.

2. Gluten sensitive people may have reactions when drinking wine. Many cooperage’s use a wheat paste to seal their barrels and some wineries use gluten protein to clarify the wine. Many people think all wine is gluten free because it’s made of grapes but this just isn’t the case. While many wines come in under the gluten danger zone, some can sneak up there! Plus, if you actually have Celiac disease, just a hint of gluten can cause you to react. If you are sensitive, you’ve got to stick to steel tank fermentation when making selections at restaurants unless you know for sure. You can also call your favorite wineries and ask if their wine is gluten free. Many companies are testing their wine or trying to offer gluten free selections, even those aged in wood. Please don’t give up on wine, just know your limits and make those calls. I’ve got a very minor sensitivity to gluten and while I don’t always get headaches right away, occasionally I will about an hour or so later.

3. Egg and Fish allergies are often set off by wine. Finning agents (used to filter out particles in the wine so it’s clear and silky) can be ┬áproteins from egg whites and fish bladders. Yup, I said fish bladders. It’s most often egg or clay or wheat but it’s up to the discretion of the winemaker. Many people don’t know they have food allergies or sensitivities until they get checked or go on an elimination diet. If you ever feel really bad post eating and you don’t think it’s food poisoning, it’s worth getting checked.

4. Sulfides are naturally occurring in wine but many times there are added sulfides to help keep the wine from fermenting with the wild yeast on the grape at the time of harvest. There is a lot of conjecture over how one might react to sulfides but doctors generally rule headaches out. Many people are actually allergic to them or sensitive. I don’t know about you, but I often get a headache when I’m allergic to something. Taking a daily allergy medicine can help with this reaction if you don’t have a severe allergy. You may avoid a lot of the pain of a reaction if you try to look for wines that have no added sulfides (it will say on the label) or buy wines from the west coast of the United States. West coast wines usually are lower in sulfides overall. Whites also tend to have less than reds.

5. Vitamin B6 deficiency can really make your allergic reactions to anything worse. They are part of the histamine metabolism and without enough you will react more violently. Here is my favorite Vitamin B Supplement!

So, what can you do? Stick to steel tank fermented white wine from the west coast and get an allergy test. Take some B6 and hydrate. If you are able to handle that, then move on to calling your favorite producers and finding out exactly what is in your wine. Once you’ve found a few good ones, stick to them for the majority of your drinking. Don’t feel bad about bringing that wine to parties with you. Just bring another bottle to share!

Comments

  1. 5

    says

    Oh wow, thank you so much for this post, Erin! It makes more sense now. I know for sure it’s not #2 and #3 for me, so I’m going try the rest of your suggestion! I’m pretty confident it’s either the hydration or the Sulfides issue but we’ll see. You are such a very knowledgeable woman!! :D

    • 6

      Erin says

      You are welcome! Sorry it took me so long to get it on the web site, wanted to make sure I had all the facts!

  2. 7

    says

    My head is as fussy as my ears – the latter demands nothing less than 24k gold (so I don’t wear earrings a lot, heh), and the former will only drink certain kinds of real champagne – other sparkling wines give me a headache instantly!

  3. 8

    says

    its also good to mention that some people have a grape sensitivity. I’m highly sensitive to grapes (and grape products) and get a migraine and sinus issues the next day.

    • 9

      Erin says

      Yes, anyone who might have an diagnosed grape allergy should avoid wine too. Hopefully, if they get tested they will have a clear picture. I’d assume that most grape allergies are caught in the USA due to the prevalence of grape products in childhood. I know there a lot of people like me who didn’t develop allergies until much later in life. It’s good to get tested every couple of years!

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