Urban Legends on Wine Headaches and Sensitivities Abound
Environmental Nutrition Newsletter
Q: Why are people sensitive to wine?
A: Through the ages, wine has been both praised and cursed for its side effects. For some, those effects go beyond one glass too many: Just a few sips can induce headache, congestion and runny nose. Though the symptoms may be very real, allergy specialists say a true wine allergy is unlikely.
A high prevalence of hypersensitivity symptoms after intake of red wine have been reported, according to a
This preservative, which is added to wine and also occurs naturally during fermentation, has taken the bulk of the blame for RWH since the U.S. the
The flavonoids responsible for the dry pucker that characterize many red wines are also often pegged as the cause of those head pounders. Tannins cause the release of serotonin, which in high levels can cause headaches in migraine sufferers, but usually not in others. Other foods, like tea and red-skinned apples and pears, contain tannins, but you don't hear many people complaining of a headache after eating these foods.
Depending on variety, red wine is 20 to 200 percent higher in histamines than white wine, causing them to be blamed for RWH. Those who are allergic to histamines are deficient in an enzyme that, combined with alcohol, can cause a headache. But a 2001 study of 16 wine-intolerant subjects published in the
There's more than grapes in that bottle of vino, which has some researchers looking to contaminants, both chemical and biological. Some come from certain hymenoptera insects (wasps and bees) that fall into the wine when grapes are processed. Studies show patients sensitive to hymenoptera venom experience allergic symptoms during wine consumption.
We don't yet have all of the answers on how you can enjoy a headache-free glass of wine. While homegrown "remedies" abound, like sipping black tea between glasses, for now the best advice is to experiment with a variety of brands, grape varieties, and origins ("terroir") until you find a wine that agrees with you. And remember, moderation is key.
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