Can alcohol cause migraine headaches? We all know that hangovers produce some of the worst headaches known to humanity. But what if you don’t plan to overindulge in alcohol use this New Year’s Eve? Here are some compelling arguments to lay off the booze, stick to sparkling cider drinks, and have a migraine-free year.
Red, red wine goes to my head…
If drinking dark alcoholic drinks like red wine, champagne, brandy, bourbon, or beer gives you a migraine, then you might be reacting to tyramine, one of the most common…and vicious migraine triggers that occur in food. Tyramine is an amino acid that increases with age, and produces throbbing head pain for many a migraine headache patient. In addition to wine and beer, you should also avoid cured meats (salami, smoked turkey), olives, and aged cheeses (brie, Swiss, Blue cheese).
Other preservatives in alcohol that triggers migraines are tannins (extracted from grape skins) and nitrites.
It’s a rush of blood to the head…
Alcohol causes vasodilation, a widening of the arteries. When this happens, blood flow increases, and rushes to the head, as there is no resistance within the arteries. For some migraine patients, vasodilation triggers migraines.
You left me standing here just high and dry
Alcohol is a natural diuretic. As you drink, your body expels salt, vitamins, and other nutrients. The more wine and beer your drink, the more fluids your body loses. Often, the severe headache you get after a night of binging and alcohol results from dehydration, depletion of vitamins, and chemical imbalance.
It’s a chemical reaction
When alcohol ferments, it produces toxins called congeners that produce hangover symptoms. Certain alcoholic beverages like dark beer, bourbon, red wine, and tequila have higher concentrations of congeners than lighter-colored drinks, like white wine, rum, and gin. Congeners may contain chemicals such as acetone, acetaldehyde, esters, and aldehydes (propanol, glycols, and ethylacetate). Mixing congeners from drinks like beer and whiskey together cause the most severe hangover headaches.
You’re too sweet…
If you’re sensitive to sugar, then alcoholic drinks should be on your list of things to avoid, right next to cotton candy and Coca-Cola. Sugary foods and drinks may trigger migraine headaches for such individuals.
You leave me breathless
Alcohol contains histamines, chemicals that your body releases whenever you have an allergic reaction. Symptoms of histamine sensitivity include sinus headache, stuffy head, runny nose, sore throat, and ear fullness. Other foods that contain migraine-triggering histamines include bananas and citrus fruits. If chronic sinus headaches are an issue, then your doctor might prescribe antihistamines.
Read more about migraine headache triggers:
Top 35 Foods and Preservatives that Trigger Migraines
34 Migraine-Inducing, Stomach-Turning Toxic Chemicals in Perfume
Migraine Headache Frequently Asked Questions- the Top Ten List
How Hangovers Work
Discovery Health- Could alcohol cause my headaches?
Alcohol and Headaches- National Headache Foundation
Image credits, from top:
Philippe Put, KellBailey, Enokson