Red Wine Headache: Real Answers About Sulfites and Red Wine Headaches

The Red Wine Headache is really giving sulfites a bad name, but almost all wines have sulfites - even white wine. Most people that get wine headaches do so solely with red wine. Only a minute percentage of people have an allergy to sulfites, like 1% - but it was enough people that the FDA mandated wines warn people of the sulfite content.

While sulfite allergy sypmtoms don't include headache, many people saw the warning and assumed that was the case. In fact, lunch meat, lettuce and packets of dried fruit have more sulfites than wine. (A sulfite is just a preservation agent added to food. See inset). Only true organic wine, certified organic by the FDA will be sulfite free.

Sulfites is a word to describe sulphuorous acid and sulphur dioxide. It's a preservation agent added to food. But the reason it is used more often than other agents is its antimicrobial characteristics. In wine making these properties kill bacteria, quell some of the yeast growth and allow the grapes to cleanly ferment.



Do Tannins Cause Red Wine Headaches?

The quick answer to this question is no. Tea, chocolate, grapes and soy all include tannins - but very few people get headaches like they do with red wine. Tannins are flavonoids in wine that give wine its 'bitter' taste, and are partially responsible for the grape's color. Unfortunately no test have linked a tannin and a red wine headache, yet.

Do Amines Cause Wine Headache?

Amines is not a familiar word at all, but I bet you've heard of histamines. Histamines and tyramines have also been studied in conjunction with the red wine headache, but no links have been made. Taking an anti histamine prior to drinking red wine has not staved off the headache for most sufferers of the red wine headache (RWH).

However, researchers at the University of California, Berkley have created a device to measure these amines in wine. Their device is not ready for personal use yet, but they hope to finish a new handheld model you can take with you to restaurants. While its use for red wine headaches is one application, amine sufferers will be able to use it for other things as well.

A Guide To Red Wine Headache Cures

So the bottom line is no one knows why red wine headaches occur. Currently there is no official red wine headache cure. But that has spawned thousands of people to try and come up with their own cures. Take it slowly and see if any of these will work for you.

Red Wine Headache Cures Official Program:

  • Take a prostaglandin-inhibitor, namely Ibuprophin, Nuprin or aspirin, 45 minutes before drinking red wine (which is not very convenient), Some believe it is the prostaglandins in wine that cause the headaches and many report this technique works.


  • Take an antihistamine prior. If this headache cure doesn't work, then you've knocked out two possible causes.


  • Switch to an organic wine (see our organic wine reviews). If the organic wine doesn't work, then you've also eliminated sulfites as a possible cause.


  • Try drinking a cup of black tea before you begin the evening. If you will be drinking over the course of an evening, have another cup or two of black tea during the evening. Black tea contains the antioxidant, Quercetin, which inhibits the headache/flush feeling response you sometimes get from histamines. I'm not sure why this works because red wine contains quercetin.


  • There is a product you could try called the Wine Enhancer that guarantees results. Not only does it claim to eliminate your wine headache, but also to make your wine taste better.


  • Many bloggers seem to think their headaches stem from young U.S. wines, and further indicate they do not get the nausea or headaches from older French wines. While it's more expensive, it may be worth knowing for yourself. Get yourself an older wine and see. We've got a list of the healthiest wines to get you started.
  • If you're drinking red wine for the health benefits, then you're in luck. There are great supplements that do not cause headaches - take a look at them.


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