Why Does Wine Give Me A Headache? And 5 Tips to Cure Your Wine Hangover
Updated: Dec 8, 2020
If you’ve ever had more than a couple of glasses of red wine, you’ve most likely had the unpleasant experience of the red wine headache (RWH.) As a woman who loves red wine, I can attest to the immense pain of the morning after RWH. They can be excruciating, for sure.
But why does red wine cause such horrible headaches? Most other alcoholic drinks don’t have the same consequences. I’ve had hangovers before, but nothing compares to the RWH.
Most of the science points to a couple of culprits in red wine that cause monster headaches. Histamine and tyramine, by-products of the fermentation process, are most likely the root.
Histamine is found in the skin of the grapes. Histamine causes your blood vessels to dilate, which will give most people headaches.
Red wine is made using the whole grape, including the skin, stem, and seeds. Since red wine is made with the whole grape, histamines' presence is also higher than in white wines, which are made with only the grapes' meat.
That’s also why red wine is higher in tannins, natural plant chemicals found in the grape skin that give the wine its rich flavors. Tannins also contain antioxidants and give the wine its mouthfeel and dryness.
Many people think it’s the tannins responsible for the RWH. But it’s more likely than not tannins have just had a bad rep.
Tyramine is another probable cause for the RWH. Tyramine is an amino acid found in fermented foods like cheese and wine. Tyramine first constricts, then dilates your blood vessels, which jacks up your blood pressure slightly. That will give you a headache, for sure.
Let’s not overlook the most obvious reason for RWH – alcohol. Alcohol dehydrates you and dilates your blood vessels. And it will definitely cause excruciating pain when you’ve over-done it. Amirite?
So, what’s the best way to alleviate the pain when one of those nasty headaches wrenches you out of your slumber the next morning? I’ve put together 5 of my favorite ways just for you!
1. Water, water, water, and coffee.
Yes, you have to help your body rehydrate. You’ve depleted your water, and you need to replace it. You should go drink some water right now.
However, as you’re drinking all the water, you might throw in some caffeine along with it. You can drink tea instead of coffee, but I still like my coffee in the morning to wake me up.
It still works when I have a headache from my wine-drinking the night before. And the caffeine helps get my blood pumping.
Many people like to take an NSAID here like ibuprofen, aspirin, or acetaminophen. But I would caution you to be careful with these pain relievers. They’re actually tough on your liver.
And since your liver is very busy at this moment, if you can avoid taking anything until you’ve at least tested out these other remedies, your liver will definitely thank you.
2. Avoid the Greasy Spoon
In my younger days, my friends and I would hit up the Denny’s the morning after a night of drinking. Or worse, we’d stop at the Waffle House and load up on pancakes, bacon, and eggs on the way home from a night out. These days my stomach can’t take that. Ugh!
Truthfully, avoiding all the heavy, difficult-to-digest foods will help your body recover much faster. Go for a soft-boiled egg and toast instead. You can even add avocado if that’s your jam. Eat light so your body can get replenished but still have the energy to focus on detoxing.
If you’re like me, you’re going to feel pretty ravenous the next day. You’re going to think you want to eat that greasy burger and fries. But your body is just responding to dehydration. You think you’re hungry, but you’re more thirsty than hungry. Drink Vitamin Water before you eat that burger.
3. Get Moving
This may sound counterintuitive, but take a nice walk or do yoga for 20 minutes when you first get up. Force yourself to get your body moving. That will get your blood flowing and give your body a jumpstart to working the toxins out of your system.
4. Drink Up
Try drinking some warm liquids like herbal tea or broth. I love chicken broth when I feel depleted. Ginger is really great for queasy stomachs.
You can easily make some ginger tea with fresh ginger, lemon, honey, and hot water. It’s magical, I promise. I also like miso soup if I can get it.
5. Take a Caffeine Nap
When I first heard of this, I thought it was crazy. But after doing it, I absolutely swear by it. The way it works is, you down a cup of coffee (I prefer iced coffee or room temperature coffee so I can get it down fast). Then, find a nice quiet spot to take a quick 20-minute nap.
What this does is it lets you get a quick nap. Then, the caffeine kicks in after about 20 minutes, waking you up and boosting your energy levels. You don’t feel groggy or tired after that quick 20 minutes. How cool is that?
I absolutely LOVE caffeine naps! And after a night of overindulging in my sacred chalice of red wine, I inevitably get that afternoon slump and feel like I have to take a nap. The quick caffeine nap is a great way to get a bit of rest while not losing the rest of the day.
So, the next time you overdo it with your wine, I hope you put these tips to work for you. I’ve scoured the internet, and these are my personal favorite ways to treat my red wine hangovers. Let me know if you try any of these and how they worked for you.
One thing you can do is experiment with lots of different red wines. Some have more histamines and tyramine than others. So, some red wines may be less painful the next day. Keep trying them and find the ones that you like best.
Remember, you’re not wrong when it comes to wine. You like what you like!
BONUS: I recently found this amazing product – Morning Recovery. When you know you're going to overdo it at your Wine Down Wednesday chardonnay party with the ladies, try this "proprietary blend of electrolytes and more to help you hydrate and feel good the next morning" to prevent your nasty headache altogether. Take one before you drink, and presto, it's like a magic pill!