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Can Wine Cause Headaches or Stomachaches?

You Asked: Could Wine Give Me a Headache?

Dear Fit,
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.

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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.

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Join The Conversation
Spectra Spectra 7 years
Red wine usually has more sulfites than white, so if you're a hard-core wine drinker, maybe switch to white for a while and see if that helps.
Soniabonya Soniabonya 7 years
Got a headache this morning ;) I forgot to drink my pint of water for every glass, that usually keeps me clear of headaches.
jocelyn2 jocelyn2 7 years
Wine always makes me sleepy and I get a headache! I will try sulfate free wine, thanks!
Happsmjc Happsmjc 7 years
I cannot drink wine because of the headaches as well! I want to seem more sophisticated then always ordering a beer or mixed drink, but I just cannot! One glass and I have a headache, more and a migraine (I'm prone to them).
syako syako 7 years
Yeah it could be bad wine like mamasita said. Especially if you don't get a headache every time you drink wine, but only certain times. I also agree with drinking water and/or just make sure you're properly hydrated before you start drinking any alcohol.
mamasitamalita mamasitamalita 7 years
wine also has tons of added chemicals in it (unless its organic). the FDA doesn't monitor what people put in wine, and many vintners will add whatever chemicals necessary to alter taste, etc (for example if its a bad batch of grapes they'll add something to make the finalized product taste better).... so it may be sulfites, and it may just be alcohol/dehydration/hangover headache, but it very well may be heavy doses of chemicals
flavacrisp flavacrisp 7 years
I have found that drinking water along with the wine will help to prevent headaches.
Autumns_Elegy Autumns_Elegy 7 years
I get a slight headache when I drink red wine, but it usually goes away with a glass of water. :S
chloe-bella chloe-bella 7 years
This is really interesting, Fit! I know someone who swears that hot dogs always gave her bad headaches as a kid. It sounded bizarre, but since hot dogs (and a lot of other processed red meats) have sulfites, it sounds like there is actually a scientific reason behind it. Wine gives me headaches, too, but not until the next morning ;)
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