The truth about sulfites in wine

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There are many theories about the relationship between headaches and wine. Many people say that red wine causes them headaches. Some people blame white wine. Others say it is the combination of the two that causes the problem. Still other people blame wines that have sulfite warnings.
Interestingly enough, scientists say sulfites are one of the least likely reasons for wine to give you a headache. Sulfites are actually present in all wines. It comes from the grape skins, and some wine producers may add sulfur dioxide to the wine as a preservative and to prevent oxidation. According to doctors, the only people who will have a problem with sulfites are those in a small percentage of the population allergic to sulfites. Even if you are allergic, the reaction is more like asthma symptoms than a headache.

There are other more likely suspects in wines that may induce headaches. One possibility is histamines. Wines have histamines, which dilate blood vessels in the brain. This can cause a headache if you lack the enzyme that allows you to metabolize histamines. Taking an antihistamine before drinking may assist. This may go along with the theory that headaches are caused by red wines, because red wines tend to have more histamines than white wines.

One of the major causes of headache after drinking wine is, of course, hangover. Headache is one of the major symptoms associated with a hangover. There are ways to combat this as well. Make sure to drink plenty of water in between drinking alcoholic beverages. The headache caused by a hangover is usually because of the dehydration the alcohol causes. It’s best to drink more water than you think you need to then make sure to drink even more water before going to sleep. If you wake up with a headache, continue to drink water.

Enjoying wine or any alcohol in moderation can be achieved and having a glass of water in between glasses of wine can also help combat negative reactions. If you have a bad reaction with a particular wine, and you haven’t completely overindulged in it, you may want to give the wine a second chance. There are many variables unique to each person, which affect how they enjoy wine including their health, diet and how they’re feeling at the time. But if you’ve come across a wine that just doesn’t agree with you, it may be time to step up from the bargain barn wines and select a better quality wine next time.

Comments 0

  1. SO your entire article was to debunk that sulfites cause wine headaches, but in your last sentence you mention stepping up from a cheap wine to a better quality wine to prevent headaches. It was my understanding that cheaper wines have higher sulfite levels than costlier ones to help improve their shelf life. If sulfites are not to blame then what is in cheap wines that is not in expensive wines that are more likely to cause headahces, as is the case for myself at least?

  2. Good question Katie! Cheap wines may not necessarily contain any more or less sulfites. If you’re noticing more headaches from cheaper wines, then it could be related to how the wine was made. In some cases, if grapes aren’t ripe enough, sugar can be added before fermentation to achieve proper alcohol levels in a finished wine. Some doctors say this is a less “pure” alcohol which may be a factor in headaches. You may want to find a different wine that you can enjoy without the headache, maybe try with food and stay hydrated by drinking more water. Certainly, if headaches are getting in the way of enjoying wine, you may also want to talk to your doctor. Hope this helps!

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