In college, I was more into sipping cocktails and drinking beer, but recently I started drinking wine with dinner. I love the taste and how it pairs with more complicated dishes I have started to cook. I've noticed that I get this dull headache when I drink it though. Is this common? Is there a way to prevent it?
— Whining About Wine
As Thomas Jefferson said,"Good wine is a necessity of life for me." Although Jefferson's "necessity" is considered a relaxant and offers a variety of health benefits, drinking wine can cause some unfortunate side effects, including headaches. To find out why, continue reading.
When sipping a glass of vino, along with headaches, some people also experience an upset stomach, chest tightness, difficulty breathing, hives, and in extreme cases, anaphylactic shock. These side effects are caused by a sensitivity to sulfites, a sulfur-based preservative that occurs naturally or can be added to food such as wine. According to the FDA, sulfite sensitivity is pretty common — it affects one out of every 100 — with reactions ranging from mild to severe.
Most wines contain this preservative, except for those specifically labeled "sulfite free." Yeast used in the production of wine naturally produces sulfites during the fermentation process. Winemakers also add sulfites to wine to prevent microorganisms from growing. In the US, it's required that wines contain a sulfite warning label, but you won't find these labels on imported wines. I'd give sulfite-free wine a try and see how your head feels.
You can also find sulfites in food. Some shrimp and lobster contain sulfites to prevent black spots from forming, and the preservatives are also used to condition dough and maintain the stability and potency of certain medications. Sulfites may also be found in baked goods, soup mixes, jams, molasses, grape juice, pickled foods, bottled lemon and lime juice, maraschino cherries, and dried fruit. Since wine gives you a headache, foods with sulfites may also be the culprit. So check food packages for these ingredients: sulfur dioxide, sodium sulfite, sodium bisulfite, potassium bisulfite, sodium metabisulfite, or potassium metabisulfite.