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

At HuffPost, we believe that everyone needs high-quality journalism, but we understand that not everyone can afford to pay for expensive news subscriptions. That is why we are committed to providing deeply reported, carefully fact-checked news that is freely accessible to everyone. If you don’t get them, think of them like a hangover without the party before. There’s also nausea, dizziness and, obviously, a killer headache. If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol misuse, treatment is available.

  • Other hard liquors, beer, and sparkling wine have also been identified as culprits by the scientific community.
  • If alcohol is a confirmed trigger for your migraine, then avoiding alcohol is the best solution.
  • The exact link between alcohol and migraine isn’t fully understood.
  • Ultimately, you may have to accept that not everyone will understand your migraine experience.
  • However, studies have shown that a continuous lack of REM sleep can negatively affect memory and learning1, may impact our emotional abilities2 and increase the risk of migraine3.
  • You can take your diary to your doctor and they’ll help you work out what might be triggering your attacks.

Top-shelf brands not only taste better but may also be less likely to prove a migraine trigger. I caution patients to order a specific brand of alcohol when ordering a cocktail rather than relying on well drinks or lower-quality brands. It has been noted in some studies that in less than 30 percent of people, red wine triggers headache no matter the number of drinks consumed. White wine and sparkling wines have not been shown to have the same effect on headache. Be sure to talk with your healthcare provider about your «cocktail headache» plan. For example, if you experience migraines and notice that alcohol triggers your migraine headache, then taking one of your migraine therapies (for example, a triptan) at the start of your headache may be best.

What can I do to prevent a headache when I drink?

Migraine causes a specific type of headache that involves neurological symptoms such as light sensitivity and aura. Other types of headaches, including severe headaches, can occur as a result of alcohol consumption. Of the 1,547 participants, 783 said that alcohol was a trigger, and 195 were not sure. People who experienced migraine with alcohol were more likely to have migraine with aura and to experience more migraine days and more frequent attacks. For instance, alcohol byproducts called congeners have been linked to headaches. Dark-colored alcohols like red wine, brandy, and whiskey may contain more of them.

why does alcohol cause migraines

Staying hydrated and keeping alcohol consumption to a minimum can decrease the chance of experiencing a headache. Individuals who experience severe headaches after drinking alcohol may also avoid alcohol altogether. If you’re partial to a glass of vino, you should know that red wine is more often linked to an immediate attack, due to the naturally occurring compound tyramine. Tyramine is found in a few other migraine triggers as well, including dark chocolate and aged cheese.

Migraine with aura

For instance, for some people with migraines, just a small amount of alcohol can lead to a cocktail headache, whereas others can tolerate alcohol at the same level as people who don’t get migraines. A cocktail headache is a headache that occurs within as little as three hours after drinking alcohol. It’s not the same as a hangover headache, which occurs the morning after drinking too much. A cocktail headache develops the same evening, and even a tiny amount of alcohol can trigger it. If alcohol is a trigger for you, it may be best to not drink at all.

In conclusion, no significant association between alcohol consumption with migraine and tension headache was found in many studies [26, 28–30]. This review was performed using a literature Is It Narcissism or Alcoholism? search on PubMed from 1988 (date of the first IHS classification) to December 2014. Search terms of “alcohol,” “wine,” “food trigger,” “dietary trigger,” “migraine,” “headache” were used.

How Do You Know When Alcohol Triggers Your Migraines?

Medications can help prevent some migraines and make them less painful. The right medicines, combined with self-help remedies and lifestyle changes, might help. For some people, a warning symptom known as an aura occurs before or with the headache. An aura can include visual disturbances, such as flashes of light or blind spots, or other disturbances, such as tingling on one side of the face or in an arm or leg and difficulty speaking. Ultimately, you may have to accept that not everyone will understand your migraine experience. But educating others, countering misconceptions and spending time with people who care can make a big difference.

  • You might have tried some alternative therapies, but did you know about these complementary and integrative treatments?
  • This data suggests that there may be a misperception that drinks containing alcohol cause migraine attacks.
  • Despite this common belief, there is little scientific evidence to suggest that wine is more likely to trigger a headache from drinking than another type of alcohol.
  • A 2016 study showed that alcohol consistently induced migraine in 10% of people.

You can get peer support, and explore treatment options like therapy and medication to stop drinking. Learning more about your specific health history and drinking habits can help you better understand your risk of alcohol-induced headaches. At Monument, you can speak with a specialized physician, like myself, to get personalized information and care.

Additives in different types of alcohol

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 [42]. In this light, direct or indirect (by 5-HT release) stimulation of 5-HT2 receptors was supposed to be the mechanism of headache induced by some serotonergic agonists ([60], for review). This study is in accordance with a larger population-based study performed to detect cardiovascular risk factor in migraine, showing significantly less alcohol consumption in migraine than in control subjects [33]. No differences exist between migraine and tension headache in the frequency of alcohol as a trigger [17, 18, 20, 24–26, 29] (Table 1).

For example, if a person drinks liquor before beer, they are likely to feel the effects of the alcohol sooner. Many different factors can contribute to a hangover as a result of drinking. Drinks containing more alcohol and congeners may worsen the chance of developing a headache. A person may experience migraine after drinking if they are susceptible to it. Some people may experience an alcohol-related migraine between 30 minutes and 3 hours after drinking. 2021 research also linked lifestyle factors with alcohol drinking and smoking to cluster headaches and their severity.

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