Red wine headaches

"The researchers, including Prof Andrew Waterhouse, an expert in viticulture at the University of California, Davis, ran lab tests on more than a dozen compounds in red wine. One stood out. A flavanol called quercetin, found almost exclusively in red wine, is processed in the body into various substances. One of these, quercetin glucuronide, turned out to be particularly effective at blocking the enzyme that converts acetaldehyde into acetate.

This could be key to solving the mystery. With the crucial enzyme suppressed, toxic acetaldehyde builds up in the bloodstream, the scientists believe. At high levels, this causes headaches, nausea, facial flushing and sweating. In fact, a drug called disulfiram blocks the same enzyme and is used to treat alcoholics by producing the same miserable symptoms if they drink.

According to the researchers, when susceptible people drink red wine with even modest amounts of quercetin, they can develop a headache, especially if they are prone to migraines. Why some are more affected that others is unclear: their enzymes may be easier to block, or they may simply be more susceptible to toxic acetaldehyde."

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Interesting. Many vegetables (including kale), fruits, and spices (e.g., coriander, dill) contain quercetin. Capers, actually, have very high levels. And most have levels that are higher that a glass or two of red wine.


This is interesting, yet I doubt it accounts for the entire scope of adverse effects. I suspect, SO2 plays a role as well as tannins and their associated compounds.

I don’t often get headaches but one of the worst I can remember was from a glass of pet nat made from organic grapes (no pesticides, etc) and no added sulfur.

I tried a little bit more the next day, same thing!


There were other studies posted that the lack of adding SO2 early on may lead to a higher level of hystamines being created . . .


As I get older, the headaches are becoming extremely annoying (and they persist, sometimes for two days). Dry white wines are ok for the most part though.

I remember another theory about the headaches, that they were caused by biogenic amines. Malolactic is also a culprit?

Malolactic in and of itself is usually not the problem - but there are some lactic acid bacterias that may be problematic…

Zbiotics has been a complete game changer for me. It is a GMO probiotic that breaks down acetaldehyde in the gut. No more flush, no more histamine reaction, no more headache the night of drinking, and no more hangover the next morning.

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and I thought it was Burgundy pricing that caused the headaches.


Interesting that it notes that people who suffered from migraines tend to have worse symptoms. As a kid I used to have them really bad and now I have an intolerance to certain things. If I drink a Budweiser I will have a splitting headache in about 20 minutes. I had read that was an allergy to a certain yeast they use.

With Red wine, most anything cheap with a bunch of junk in it will have me down for a day. I drank most of a bottle of a Rutherford Cab yesterday by myself thanks to my father in law and I woke up today feeling great from the extra sleep I got it.

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My fool proof way of getting a headache drinking alcoholic beverages is to have a Belgian beer of the brand La Chouffe. 1-2 is enough for the little gnome to keep slamming around a sledgehammer inside my head for 1-2 days. Or something like that. Here he is:

I used to assumed it related to the yeast (and same might apply to wines).

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i can’t say i have a lot of pet nat as you’ve described, but i have had this experience before as well.

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It was very surprising – it was the first and last time it’s happened – and I wouldn’t have thought that would be the type of wine to trigger it. I didn’t have more than a few gulps , so it didn’t take much to get a reaction.