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Alcohol-induced headaches: Evidence for a central mechanism? PMC

It is intended for general informational purposes and is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your physician or dial 911.

does alcohol cause migraines

Since wines are made from a variety of grapes, preservatives, and other ingredients, there are many potential culprits. Talking to a doctor and allergist may also help you pinpoint the food or drink giving you a headache. If you frequently suffer from alcohol-related headaches, and are struggling to cut back, there are also new solutions. Ria Health’s online program can help you cut back or quit without having to put your life on hold. Get access to anti-craving medications, regular coaching meetings, expert medical advice, digital tools, and more—all from an app on your smartphone.

Cluster headache

The medical definition of an immediate alcohol-induced headache is that it occurs within three hours of consuming alcohol. And researchers suggest that experiencing an unpleasant effect from drinking alcohol may alter alcohol consumption. Hansen JM, Thomsen LL, Olesen J, Ashina M. Calcitonin gene-related peptide does not cause migraine attacks in patients with familial hemiplegic migraine. Schürks M, https://ecosoberhouse.com/ Kurth T, Knorn P, Pageler L, Diener HC. Predictors of hazardous alcohol consumption among patients with cluster headache. Andress-Rothrock D, King W, Rothrock J. An analysis of migraine triggers in a clinic-based population. Migraine episodes can be a periodic inconvenience, or they can be debilitating. The most severe migraine attacks may last up to 3 days and make it impossible to do anything.

What can trigger a migraine headache?

Bright or flashing lights can induce migraines, as can loud sounds. Strong smells — such as perfume, paint thinner, secondhand smoke and others — trigger migraines in some people. Sleep changes. Missing sleep or getting too much sleep can trigger migraines in some people.

However, certain studies on white wine and spirits suggested more frequent involvement than with darker drinks. Recently, it was shown to cause a worse hangover than vodka, increasing the intensity of the hangover felt. Bourbon did not appear to increase the risk for impaired performance, sleep-disrupting effect, etc. The lack of a role for congeners in alcohol hangover was recently confirmed in an animal model of migraine. In studies from different countries that collect date from the past, about one-third of migraine sufferers reported alcohol as a migraine trigger at least occasionally. In these retrospective studies, only 10% reported a frequent link. Curiously, in some countries the connection was negligible (1.4 to 6.1% of patients).

Alcohol and Headaches

People prone to migraines tend to have more problems with hangovers. Conversely, there are many medications that interfere with the breakdown of alcohol and acetaldehyde, worsening the consequences of drinking. A thin, Japanese teetotaling woman taking prescription painkillers will clearly have more problems with a few drinks than a 250 pound linebacker who regularly drinks four beers a night. Of course, this study doesn’t take into account other factors such as genetics, body size, and even the type of alcohol being consumed. A tall Caucasian woman drinking a vodka soda may be able to outlast a short and skinny Asian man drinking red wine. Even the smallest amount of alcohol can trigger a cluster headache attack for people prone to these kinds of headaches. This is common in people with Asian flush who have trouble breaking down a toxic alcoholic metabolite called acetaldehyde.

  • The symptom of headache is present in 2/3 of subjects with alcohol hangover.
  • Reducing or eliminating alcohol may reduce the frequency of migraine attacks.
  • Some studies found that red wine is a main trigger in migraine with aura and cluster type migraine, but they also note that all alcohol could have the same effect.
  • These findings suggest that red wine contains a migraine-provoking agent that is neither alcohol nor tyramine .
  • Also, follow your doctor’s recommendations regarding alcohol consumption.
  • Such headaches can occur while you are drinking, or a few hours after—even if you’ve had as little as one drink.

However, women taking hormone replacement therapy may not see a decrease in migraines. Alcohol can trigger headaches immediately or following prolonged periods of drinking. Ethanol, the key ingredient of alcohol, is a natural diuretic and causes the body to lose vital salt, vitamins, and minerals. Over-consumption of alcohol can cause dehydration and chemical imbalances in the body and brain, leading to headaches that last for hours to days.

Hangover Headache

A 2016 review notes that alcohol may trigger a tension headache, especially if a person also has migraine. The research found that 21% of people with migraine say that alcohol is a tension headache trigger, compared with just 2% of people without migraine. But if you’re prone to migraine headaches, you’ll need to be careful about how much you drink. A 5-ounce glass of wine (or 12 ounces of beer or a 1.5-fluid-ounce shot) may be OK every now and then, so long as it doesn’t bring on a headache. If it does, you’ll need to drink less or stay away from all alcohol.

Can you suddenly become sensitive to alcohol?

It's possible to develop an alcohol allergy at any point in your life. Sudden onset of symptoms may also be caused by a newly developed intolerance. In rare cases, pain after drinking alcohol might be a sign that you have Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Unfortunately for headache sufferers, acetaldehyde causes the body to produce histamines – a common trigger of migraines. Alcohol-triggered migraines can be painful, but they are preventable. If you struggle with migraines, use some of these tips and start learning more about what your body can and can’t handle when it comes to alcohol consumption. If both stress and alcohol are migraine triggers for you, combining them won’t do you any favors. In addition to this, people are sometimes more likely to drink more when they are feeling stressed and a little reckless. Red wine strongly inhibits the binding of 5-HT to 5-HT1 receptors; white wine possesses this ability to a much lesser extent . Studies on red wine-sensitive subjects, in order to show a mediation of induced headache by some types of 5-HT2 receptors, give inconclusive results .

Is alcohol per se or another component of alcoholic drinks the headache trigger?

When we drink beer, it stimulates our body to produce more serotonin, which is responsible for the sense of well-being that comes alongside a good buzz. Histamines are a natural part of our immune system that our bodies use as a first line of defense against invading pathogens. As anyone with allergies can tell you, though, an influx of histamines can does alcohol cause migraines end up doing more harm than good by causing inflammation, muscle aches, and headaches. A new study shows this migraine prevention drug also causes weight loss. This website is not a substitute for personal medical advice from your licensed physician. Seek the advice of a health care professional for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition.

According to the National Headache Foundation’s survey statistics, an overwhelming 92% of the population has experienced a hangover headache at some point in their lives. However, once the effects of a drink have worn off, serotonin levels drop off, and our body struggles to maintain balance. Not only can this lead to anxiety and depression, but also headaches. Fortunately, beer is fairly low in congeners, especially the lighter varieties. You can find the most congeners in dark alcohols and liquors such as red wine, whiskey, scotch, and more.

Here is the advice of one wine expert

Spierings EL, Ranke AH, Honkoop PC. Precipitating and aggravating factors of migraine versus tension-type headache. Migraine triggers, included ADs, can theoretically provoke CSD which can theoretically be responsible for MA, but also for FHM and MO. However, ethanol infusion decreases the propagation rate of CSD, indicating a decline of tissue excitability and in the CSD initiation mechanisms. Migraine is complex, and other neurological conditions may cause migraine-like symptoms. For this reason, it is important to see a doctor about migraine symptoms or chronic headaches, with or without drinking. Headaches, including migraine, are treatable with the right combination of medication and lifestyle adjustments.

  • The same observations made on histamine are valid for sulfites.
  • The white wines that produced headaches must’ve been in the “highly processed” category.
  • While this drug is not available in the U.S., other related medications, including ibuprofen, naproxen, and prescription nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may be similarly helpful.
  • Afridi SK, Kaube H, Goadsby PJ. Glyceryl trinitrate triggers premonitory symptoms in migraineurs.
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