Wine Questionary:

Headaches from wine: Why?

Headaches resulting from wine are almost certainly not the result of sulfites, which occur naturally in all wines and are added to wines as a natural preservative by wine makers around the world. You can't buy a wine without sulfites; and if you were one of the 1 in 1 million people who has an allergy to sulfites, you wouldn't suffer headaches but serious, life-threatening breathing difficulties if you consumed any product containing them.

If you suffer headaches after drinking wine, here are some thoughts to consider:

Have you noticed any relationship between headaches and the amount of wine you consume? Even if you're only having a glass or two, sometimes a second or third glass will leave you with a headache aftereffect even if you didn't drink enough for impairment. Many people tell me that they get wine headaches at home but not when traveling. If you're like me, the sense of excitement and fun while traveling is sufficient to give you an extra shot of adrenaline that might carry you through that third glass without feeling the effects as much as you might at home.

Do your wine-consuming habits vary? For example, if you normally get headaches after drinking wine as a cocktail, without food, try having your wine with dinner instead; consuming wine and food together will certainly make a difference in its effects on you.

Finally, do you have seasonal pollen allergies? If so, you may be sensitive to "histamines," which also occur naturally in wines. Histamines are more concentrated in red wines than whites, so you might try switching to whites to see if this brings relief.

Friends who are highly sensitive to histamines tell me that common over-the-counter antihistimane allergy products work well to alleviate their symptoms. I would recommend carefully reading the cautions, particularly as they may relate to mixing the medication with alcohol (!), and if you're the cautious type, you might even want to seek your doctor's advice -- assuming your doctor approves of wine.

In fact, any time you have questions about your health and the effect of food and drink on your body, a chat with your family doctor is always a good idea.

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