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Red Wine Headaches

Have you ever experienced a pounding headache after enjoying a glass of red wine? You're not alone. Many people have reported this phenomenon, often referred to as "red wine headaches." But what exactly causes these headaches? Recent research suggests that an otherwise-healthy antioxidant found in red wine may be the culprit. In this blog post, we'll explore the science behind red wine headaches and why some bottles are more likely to trigger them than others.

Understanding Red Wine Headaches

Red wine headaches are characterized by a throbbing pain that typically occurs within a few hours of consuming the beverage. While the exact cause is still not fully understood, scientists have identified a potential link to a compound called tyramine. Tyramine is a naturally occurring substance found in various foods and beverages, including red wine.

The Role of Tyramine

Tyramine is an amino acid that acts as a vasoactive substance, meaning it can cause blood vessels to constrict or dilate. In some individuals, the consumption of tyramine-rich foods or drinks, such as red wine, can lead to the release of neurotransmitters that cause blood vessels in the brain to constrict. This constriction can result in the onset of a headache.

Why Some Bottles Trigger Headaches

Interestingly, not all red wines are equally likely to trigger headaches. Research has shown that certain factors can influence the tyramine content in wine, making some bottles more headache-inducing than others. One such factor is the grape variety used to make the wine. Some grape varieties naturally contain higher levels of tyramine, while others have lower levels.

Additionally, the winemaking process can also impact the tyramine content. Fermentation, aging, and storage conditions can all influence the formation and degradation of tyramine in wine. For example, wines that undergo prolonged fermentation or are aged for an extended period are more likely to have higher levels of tyramine.

Reducing the Risk of Red Wine Headaches

If you're prone to red wine headaches but still want to enjoy a glass or two, there are a few strategies you can try to reduce the risk:

  1. Opt for wines made from grape varieties with lower tyramine levels, such as Pinot Noir or Merlot.
  2. Choose younger wines that have not undergone extensive aging.
  3. Drink in moderation and stay hydrated by alternating with water.
  4. Consider taking an over-the-counter pain reliever before enjoying red wine, under the guidance of a healthcare professional.

Remember, everyone's body reacts differently, so it may take some trial and error to find the best approach for you.


While red wine headaches can be a nuisance, understanding the science behind them can help you make informed choices when it comes to enjoying a glass of wine. By being aware of the potential role of tyramine and considering factors that influence its content in wine, you can minimize the risk of experiencing these headaches. So, next time you reach for a bottle of red, keep these insights in mind and savor your wine headache-free!