Is it a sulfite allergy or a headache from red wine?

Is it a sulfite allergy or a headache from red wine?

Is it a sulfite allergy or a headache from red wine?

Some individuals get a severe headache after consuming red wine, despite the fact that the health advantages of red wine seem to be increasing with each passing day. Many individuals incorrectly believe that sulfites in red wine are to blame for severe headaches.

Almost from the beginning of the Food and Drug Administration’s requirement that winemakers declare the presence of sulfites on wine labels, there has been a mistaken feeling of anxiety that the labeling was intended to alert customers who suffer from Red Wine Headaches, also known as RWH.

Although a tiny fraction of the population is susceptible to allergic responses to sulfites, headaches are not a typical sign of a sulfite allergy in the general population.

Although it is probable that red wine headache (an official condition) is induced by anything else in red wine, nothing is known about the exact source of red wine headache at this time.

What exactly are sulfites?

When sulfites (also known as sulfur dioxide or SO2) were first permitted as a food additive in the United States in the 1800s, it was a big deal. Historically, the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans utilized sulfites to sanitize wine barrels and amphorae, and this practice continued till the present.

Sulfites, which are often used as preservatives, restrict microbial development by preventing or destroying bacteria or wild yeast growth, among other things. This procedure promotes the quick and clean fermentation of grapes in the production of wine.

Many people are unaware that sulfites are a natural by-product of the yeast fermentation of grape skins, which occurs naturally in the process of winemaking.

Sulfites are produced in the environment in levels ranging from 6 to 40 parts per million by natural processes (ppm). Sulfites may be found in tiny amounts in even organic wines. Wines that are completely devoid of sulfites are an accident of nature; nonetheless, wines that are low in sulfites or free of added sulfites do occur.

Sulfite Control Regulations

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) established legislation on January 1, 1987, requiring domestic wines, beers, and spirits containing more than 10 parts per million of sulfites to be labeled with a “contains sulfites” warning.

Despite the fact that sulfites are included on the FDA’s “generally regarded as safe” (GRAS) list of food additives, this continues to be the case.

Wines that contain fewer than 10 parts per million (ppm) of sulfites are not obliged to include the statement “Contains Sulfites” on their labels; nevertheless, this does not imply that the wine is “sulfite-free.”

As previously stated, sulfites are present in all wines by their very nature. Although the legal limit for sulfites in wine is 350 parts per million (ppm), most wines with added sulfites have less, often 25-150 parts per million (ppm).

What is the purpose of adding sulfites to wine?

As a result of bacteria and wild yeasts found on grape skins, newly squeezed grape juice becomes contaminated, causing it to deteriorate.

It is possible to add sulfites to wine (both red and white), which not only prevents the formation of mold and bacteria but also prevents the wine from oxidizing (browning) and preserving its original taste.

Without the addition of sulfites, the wine would rot in a matter of months and turn into vinegar. As a result, wines that have not been treated with sulfites should be eaten within 18 months after bottling if they do not contain any.

Symptoms of sensitivity to sulfites

According to the Food and Drug Administration, one out of every hundred persons (less than one percent) in the United States is sulfite-sensitive, with 5 percent of those people suffering from asthma.

The severity of the symptoms may vary from minor to severe, with the most frequent being a skin rash accompanied by redness, hives, itching, flushing, tingling, and swelling as well as other symptoms. Patients suffering from asthma often have more severe symptoms.

Many individuals are unaware that the sulfite levels in most wines are lower than those found in many commonly consumed meals. Fruit juices, dried fruits, fruit concentrates, syrups, jams, pizza dough, frozen potatoes, and numerous prescription medicines are examples of foods that contain acrylamide.

Many people who feel they have an allergic response to sulfites in red wine are unaware that they are eating sulfites in these foods at much greater amounts than they realize. The belief that white wine does not contain sulfites is another common myth. In reality, many sweet white wines may have far higher levels of sulfites than red wines.

Many wine consumers have been misled into believing that sulfites in wine are the source of their headaches, despite the fact that only a tiny fraction of the population has an unpleasant response to sulfites.

Despite popular belief, the typical complaint of a headache is not caused by sulfites in wine, whether they are added or naturally formed. Instead, it is most likely caused by another element in red wine.

There are many other probable causes of RWH. A terrible headache, typically accompanied by nausea and flushing, happens in many individuals after consuming even a single glass of red wine, according to the RWH website.

This sickness may manifest itself within 15 minutes of consuming the wine in some cases, but not always.

No one knows for certain why RWH arises, however it is known that sulfites are not the source of the condition. It’s conceivable that RWH is a result of a combination of numerous different variables.


Tannins are flavonoids found in wine that contribute to the amount of mouth-drying bitterness that one perceives. For individuals who are prone to migraines, the tannins in red wine may be the source of their headaches, which are caused by the release of serotonin from the grapes.

Headaches may be caused by elevated levels of serotonin. Tannins may be found in a variety of foods, including tea, chocolate, and soy.

A possible cause of RWH might be the secretion of prostaglandins, which some individuals are unable to digest properly.

There are other options. Another theory is that RWH is caused by a strain of yeast or bacteria prevalent in red wine, which might lead to the disease. In addition, it is likely that a number of circumstances might lead to RWH.

Solutions that could be considered
If you are sensitive to sulfites, you should stick to dry red wines, with dry white wines serving as a middle-of-the-road option. You should try with tiny amounts of various wines to identify the one that is most suitable for you as well, it is recommended. If you take an aspirin before you drink wine, it may be beneficial.

Another key point to note is that RWH should not be confused with the horrible headache that occurs the morning after overindulging – this is referred to as a “hangover.”

Myths about sulfites in wine: Sulfite-Free Wine Isn’t What It Used to Be Because sulfites are naturally present in the wine-making process, the term “wine” is a misnomer.
Organic wines do contain sulfites, as do non-organic wines.

Sulfites are present in white wines. Fruitier white wines have a higher concentration of tannins than most red wines.

Wines from Europe include sulfites (about 80 mg/L), however not all nations are compelled to mark their products with a “contains sulfite” warning label (in Australia a label is required indicating “Preservative 220”).
In most cases, an allergic reaction to the sulfites in red wine does not result in a headache.

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The prospect of choosing wine for others presents a special challenge because you can’t make decisions based on your own preferences. Here are some strategies for choosing wines for others that they will love, whether you’re buying for gifts, weddings, another member of your household or a dinner party. Be Informed The first question when shopping for another person is “what do they like to drink?” The more specific information you have, the easier it will be to make a decision. If you learn that they like white wine, for example, it’s less helpful than finding that they like Chardonnay, or better yet, California Chardonnay. You can get this helpful info by asking them directly or by asking someone close to them. You can also pay attention to the wines they serve when entertaining, or the bottles on their wine rack if it’s openly displayed. The Safe Bet If you want to play it safe, try to buy them something similar to the brand they already enjoy, but don’t get exactly the brand they already like. If they already have a cellar stocked with a particular wine, giving them an additional bottle is nice but not memorable. Instead, look to surprise them with something they haven’t heard of or tried before. That way, you have a good chance that they’ll love the wine and learn something new in the meantime. A new experience is worth a lot in and of itself, especially if you take the time to do some research to be sure it’s still enjoyable. If you’re not sure what to choose, call or email your favorite wine seller. The best ones have knowledgeable people on staff who will happily recommend wines similar to anything you care to name. For the More Adventurous If your giftee or guest is more adventurous and prone to trying new things, you’re in luck. There are thousands of wines available that will delight them with exotic tastes and interesting stories. Look for wines from unusual wine regions made from grapes you’ve never encountered. If you’re lucky, the wine will be opened at an occasion where you’re present, and you can share the adventure for yourself. Still, you might want to keep general categories in mind. Some people might like to try any type of sparkling or white wine but don’t care for red or dessert wine. Keep your selection within the bounds of styles they like, and you’ll still have plenty to choose from. Wildcard Exceptions As stated above, you should try to buy wine that’s within the bounds of what your giftee already enjoys, but you can make an exception if you buy them more than one bottle. For example, let’s say your friend likes spicy reds from the New World. This gives you a huge range of options, from Australian Shiraz to Zinfandel from California. If you buy them a second bottle, you can throw a wildcard into the mix with something less certain. So, you could buy a bottle of Shiraz from Australia’s Barossa Valley and add a bottle of Negroamaro from Sicily. Even though the second wine is not from the New World – and therefore outside of the known parameters – it’s still a spicy, full-bodied wine from a warm climate. You can present the two bottles like this: “Here’s a Shiraz from Australia since I know you like that style of wine. I also bought you something that tastes similar from Italy. I don’t know for sure if you’ll like it but I thought it might be fun to compare them. Maybe you’ll discover a new favorite.” If you want more detailed ideas on what to buy for someone who likes a particular wine, see our series of posts on the subject and feel free to reach out if you have specific questions.

Why Do I Get a Headache After Alcohol intake?

No one can deny that sharing a glass of wine or a pint of beer with a group of friends or family is enjoyable. Alcohol consumption is a joyful experience until you wake up the following day with a severe headache. Have you ever wondered why drinking alcohol causes you to get a headache?

If you suffer from migraines often, you’re probably familiar with this issue.” For people who are prone to migraine headaches, even a little quantity of alcoholic beverages might set off an attack.

While suffering a terrible hangover after a night out with a few drinks is natural, it is not recommended. The fact that you have a nasty headache the same evening, and that too immediately after drinking a cocktail, is not usual.

But why does alcohol cause me a headache, and why does it make certain people’s headaches so much worse? Examine the reasons why alcohol causes headaches in further detail.

What causes a bad headache after consuming alcoholic beverages?

Heavily intoxicated people often complain of having headaches after they drink. The primary reason for this is that alcohol has an impact on the kidneys, causing them to become dehydrated. When you drink, the amount of water in your body decreases, which might result in a headache.

Additional elements such as hormones, Acetaldehyde, dehydration, sleep deprivation, and other factors might increase your chances of developing a headache after consuming alcohol.

After drinking, you will need to go to the toilet more often, and the amount of fluid in your body will decrease. This is the most common cause of headaches caused by alcohol.

There are two sorts of headaches that you may have after taking alcohol: tension headaches and migraines. Take a look at the examples below.

Hangovers The majority of individuals have hangovers in the morning after they consume alcoholic beverages. Typically, a hangover begins roughly 10 hours after your blood alcohol concentration reaches its peak.

However, it may differ depending on the individual’s gender, weight, and temperament. A hangover may linger anywhere from a few hours to many days. When you have a hangover, you may experience symptoms such as a headache, fatigue, disorientation, and, in some cases, nausea.


If you suffer from migraines on a regular basis, you should avoid drinking too much alcohol since it may provoke migraines, tension headaches, and cluster headaches.

It is possible to have a migraine while you are drinking or within a few hours after you have had alcohol – even if you have just had one drink.

What is the source of headaches after consuming alcoholic beverages?
In addition to the causes listed below, there are numerous more factors that might contribute to alcohol-induced headaches.


Alcohol has diuretic properties. In layman’s terms, it implies that it has an impact on the kidneys, causing you to pee more often and therefore decreasing the amount of fluid in your body.


However, although some individuals find it simple to fall asleep after a night of drinking, others find it difficult to sleep and wake up with a headache the following morning.

Imbalance of Hormones

Alcohol may raise the amount of the stress hormone in the body, causing significant tension and anxiety, as well as headaches and dizziness.


This is a poisonous substance that accumulates in your body as a result of alcohol use and may cause severe headaches.

Which kind of alcoholic beverages causes headaches?

Red wine is the sort of alcoholic beverage that is most often reported to cause severe headaches. There is even scientific evidence to show that some components of red wine might cause migraines in certain individuals.

White wine has greater quantities of sulfites than red wine, and as a result, it may also be to blame for headaches.

Headaches may be triggered by a variety of alcoholic drinks other than wine. These include beer, whiskey, brandy, and Vodka, among others.

Alcohol has greater concentrations of certain substances such as histamine, sulfites, and tyramines, all of which contribute to headaches.

People who are sensitive to histamine and sulfites are more prone to suffer from headaches after ingesting alcoholic beverages, according to research.

What is in the alcohol that causes migraines? What causes migraines in the first place?

If you suffer from migraines, you may already be aware that a variety of factors may precipitate them, ranging from stress to weather conditions, high-pitched voices, and bright lights. Another common migraine trigger is alcohol, which is consumed by around 80% of the population.

Congener is an alcohol byproduct that acts as a migraine trigger by activating certain receptors in the brain. Congener concentrations are greater in dark-colored alcoholic beverages such as red wine, whiskey, and brandy.

Alcohol contains another molecule called histamine, which stimulates your immune system, causing inflammation throughout your body.

Migraines are caused by a substance called ethanol, which enters your bloodstream. It causes you to urinate more often, and as a consequence, the amount of water in your body decreases.

It is the presence of all of these compounds in alcohol that causes individuals to have headaches, particularly those experiencing periods of alcohol use.

What is the earliest time when a headache might occur after consuming alcohol?

A headache caused by alcohol may occur between 30 minutes to 3 hours after consuming alcohol, which is referred to as a ‘cocktail headache.’

Patients with cocktail headaches will be experiencing headache discomfort on both sides of their heads. The duration of this sort of headache is up to 72 hours.

However, you will notice the beginning of delayed alcohol-induced alcohol roughly 12 hours after you have consumed alcohol. This kind of headache is often referred to as a ‘hangover’ headache.

What Is the Maximum Amount of Alcohol That Can Cause Headache?

You could believe that a glass of red wine would not give you a headache. This is completely false, particularly if you suffer from migraines on a regular basis.

The amount of alcohol that causes a headache is completely random. A glass of beer may leave you with a pounding headache one day, while another glass of beer may leave you with a non-existent headache the next.

In certain cases, however, there are specific circumstances that might contribute to the development of a migraine.

Your general well-being
The quality of the alcoholic beverage
How much water do you consume in the intervals
What type of alcoholic beverage are you consuming?

How Can I Avoid Getting a Headache When I Drink Alcohol?

If you are aware that alcohol causes your headaches, the most effective strategy to prevent them is to avoid consuming alcohol altogether. However, we are well aware that it is not that simple. Alcohol consumption may be reduced to reduce the frequency and severity of your headaches.

Reducing one’s intake of alcoholic beverages provides a number of advantages, one of which is a reduced risk of developing a migraine. Take it easy on yourself. Consume alcoholic beverages at a slower pace.

Another piece of advice is to drink lots of fluids. Immediately after each alcoholic beverage, consume a glass of water. This will assist you in keeping your body hydrated.

Eating honey before ingesting alcoholic beverages may help to lessen the likelihood of getting a migraine. Also, avoid consuming alcoholic beverages on an empty stomach. Make certain that you drink alcohol with a full meal before you go out.

Concluding Remarks
Headaches are one of the numerous health-related concerns that may be caused by alcohol use. This may be a really unpleasant experience.

Gaining a better knowledge of these headaches, on the other hand, might aid you in your battle against them.

If nothing appears to be working, you should visit a doctor. Some drugs to prevent migraines and severe headaches may be available from your doctor, which you should inquire about.

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