Does Alcohol Always Trigger Migraines?

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Do small amounts of beer, wine, or alcohol mixers cause migraines, and are you sure? The science regarding alcohol and its triggering effect on migraines is not always clear cut. A drink of whiskey can either trigger a migraine, or it may relieve it, depending on your migraine type.

Does Alcohol Always Trigger Migraines?

Just as certain foods trigger migraines in some but not all migraine patients, certain types of alcohol can trigger a migraine attack, while others may not. And believe it or not, for some, alcohol can actually help to ward off or soothe a migraine headache. The same is true of coffee and chocolate- one migraineur’s panacea can be another’s nightmare.

Alcohol lets it all loose

Alcohol contains ethanol, which has the function of being a “vasodilator,” meaning that it causes the blood vessels to stretch, widen.  Migraine headaches are often caused by vasodilation in the cranial blood vessels. So, for migraine patients who have sensitivity to vasodilation and use anti-vasodilators to prevent migraines, drinking any type of alcohol can result in migraine.

Will you have beer or wine?

For migraine patients who are sensitive to alcohol, beer and wine are usually the biggest culprits. Red wine contains tyramine, while beer contains yeast, both of which are strong migraine triggers.

To prove the effects of alcohol on migraines, tests have been done in which some participants ingested red wine and others ingested vodka. In both cases, the amount of alcohol ingested was the same.

  • Results showed that those who drank red wine were more likely to experience a migraine following alcohol ingestion, whereas those who drank vodka did not report any sign of migraine.
  • The same test was conducted using beer instead of red wine, with similar results, leading scientists to believe that it is not alcohol per se that triggers migraines, but the type of alcoholic beverage.
  • Scientists still aren’t certain why alcohol can sometimes help to relieve migraines in people who aren’t sensitive to yeast, tyramine, or vasodilation.

6 Reasons to Avoid Alcohol if you Suffer Migraine Headaches

Keep a migraine diary

Since the effects of beer, red wine, and other kinds of alcohol seem to be different from one person to another, it is a good idea to record your eating habits, including what you drink in a migraine diary. Take note whenever you get a migraine attack, as well as days when you are migraine-free.  In this way you can discover patterns and take steps to avoid food or drink which appear to be triggering the migraines.

Please tell us…

Have you found that even small amounts of alcohol trigger migraines, or does alcohol have no effect whatsoever?

Do you have any questions or suggestions?  Please leave your comments below.

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