Sipping a glass of wine is supposed to make you feel relaxed, but for some people, it can cause headaches, an upset stomach, chest tightness, difficulty breathing, hives, or even anaphylactic shock. It's caused by a sensitivity to something in the wine called sulfites.
It's 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 — one out of every 100 people has it.
Reactions can range from mild to severe.
Most wines contain sulfites, except for ones that are 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 labels like on imported wines.
There are other foods that contains sulfites, and to learn what they are
Sulfites can be found in many foods. Some shrimp and lobster contain sulfites to prevent black spots from forming, and they 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. If you're concerned about sulfites in your foods, check the package for these ingredients: sulfur dioxide, sodium sulfite, sodium bisulfite, potassium bisulfite, sodium metabisulfite, or potassium metabisulfite. If you've noticed symptoms after drinking wine or eating certain foods, you may want to look for sulfite-free alternatives.