Many people believe that alcohol is a trigger for migraine. Although there are not too many studies that prove the fact, experts believe that if a person is prone to migraine, drinking even a small amount of alcohol can give an attack.


In studies across different countries, about one-third of the migraine sufferers reported alcohol as a migraine trigger, if not on a regular basis but at least occasionally. In these studies, only 10% reported a frequent link.


Migraine is a neurological condition that manifests in multiple symptoms. The most common one is an intense, debilitating headache along with or without nausea and vomiting. While migraines can be hereditary, it can affect all ages but women are more likely than men to get migraines. Many things can trigger a migraine such as stress, weather changes, and foods like aged cheese, and also alcohol.

It is said that either alcohol or alcohol byproducts called congeners are linked to headaches. Dark-coloured alcohols like red wine, brandy, and whiskey may contain more of congeners. Hence, they may have more chances of triggering migraine.

Studies that shown that red wine, but not white wine and sparkling wines, triggered headache in about 30% of the people, who participated in the studies. Lower quality wines have higher chances of causing headaches due to the presence of molecules known as phenolic flavonoid radicals. These phenolic flavonoid radicals react with serotonin, a molecule in the brain that signals migraine. However, in some studies, even spirits and sparkling wines were associated with migraines significantly.

Alcohol also contains a chemical called histamine, which can also stimulate our immune system to make more histamine. This boosts inflammation in our body.

The main ingredient of alcohol, that is, a chemical called ethanol, once gets into our system, gets converted into a chemical that triggers migraine. Ethanol is also a natural diuretic, which makes you pee more than normal. All these lead to migraine.


Alcohol and two types of headaches

Alcohol can cause two different kinds of migraine headaches. The first type is the headache you get within 30 minutes to 3 hours of drinking. You don’t have to drink a large amount to get this type of migraine. Some people may just sip a glass or two of wine and start getting a throbbing headache.

The second type is when you get the headache the next morning after you drink. This is when your blood alcohol level returns to normal. This is called delayed alcohol-induced headache (DAIH). This type of headache can happen to any drinker, and not necessarily people with migraines, although they are more prone to get them.

What can be done?

Drinking a small amount of alcohol is good for the health as it lowers the risk of heart diseases, as well as ischemic stroke. This is a type of stroke that happens when a blood vessel gets blocked and blood fails to reach your brain.


But if you have chronic migraine problem, then that small amount of alcohol can give you headache. For such people a glass of wine occasionally may be ok. If it still gets you headache, then the only solution is to stay away from alcohol completely.

If you want to be sure which type of alcohol is giving you the headache, each time you drink, write down the type of alcohol you had, the amount, and if and when you have a migraine. This way you will know which alcohol you need to avoid and how often you should have alcohol.

Make sure that you do not drink of an empty stomach. Have alcohol with a meal or with snacks. This may lower the chances of getting a migraine.

Don’t drink when you are stressed. Stress and alcohol have higher risk of migraine headaches.

Sip your drink in moderation and slowly.

Adding your alcohol with fruit or vegetable juices helps because fructose, the naturally occurring sugar from fruits, helps to balance the body’s chemical back to normal after alcohol is consumed.

If you have alcoholic drink along with non-alcoholic beverages, it not only minimize alcohol consumption, but will also help to keep you hydrated. For example, have a glass of water after you have a glass of wine or other types of alcohol.

Have two tablespoons of honey before you drink alcohol. Honey also supplies fructose and is rich in vitamin B6, which helps to reduce hangover symptoms.


Have greasy food before drinking alcohol. Greasy foods help to line the intestines that will help the alcohol absorption take longer

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