Alcohol & Migraine

People who experience a headache after drinking should not assume that it is a migraine, especially if they have symptoms Transitional living consistent with other types of headaches. For example, a tension headache may cause pain in the neck or shoulders.

Conversely, some European studies report white wine as the most common trigger. Other studies indicate spirits, sparkling wine, and beer as triggers for headaches.

Best Otc Migraine Medications: Tips & Guidance

However, there are studies that prove inflammation markers reduce with one and rise with two alcoholic drinks per day, which means that high-quality alcohol may actually prevent migraines. If you find yourself more prone to migraines and hangovers when you drink alcohol, stick with drinks like vodka, beer, or some kind of drink diluted with non-alcoholic parts. These drinks will have fewer congeners and may be less likely to trigger an attack. In a European Journal of Neurology study of 2,197 patients who experience migraines, alcoholic beverages were reported as a trigger by 35.6 percent of participants.

can alcohol trigger migraines

Talk to your doctor about any concerns and about whether it is safe to drink alcohol with any medications you are taking. Red wine is the type of alcohol most often reported as a headache trigger. Tannin, a component in red wine, has been long considered the culprit. About two-thirds of people who drink alcohol develop these headaches. People who suffer from migraine are more prone to these reactions — even after drinking less alcohol than people who don’t get migraine headaches. While people who have these headaches report a connection to alcohol, there’s no real consistency in how alcohol causes these headaches to develop, according to studies that have been done. Instead, researchers suggest that alcohol as a trigger is more of a personal reaction — common in certain types of headaches — than a general effect.

Caffeine: Poison Or Antidote When It Comes To Headaches?

In a study of 588 patients who attended an outpatient headache clinic, more frequent migraines were experienced by participants with symptoms of anxiety and … “Vitamin C serves as an antioxidant which can reduce alcohol-induced hangovers,” says Fuksina. “Supplementing with NAC (N-acetyl Cysteine) can also help protect your liver through its detoxifying effects while Glutathione supplementation may increase the body’s antioxidant capacity,” she adds. Some research also suggests that magnesium the herbal remedies feverfew, butterbur, and Coenzyme Q10 can help mitigate headaches in general—not specifically related to alcohol. These supplements can typically be found online or in local vitamin stores and do not require a prescription.

can alcohol trigger migraines

Over the years, research has shown that moderate alcohol consumption may provide health benefits over total abstinence. In spite of this, there are some people for whom combining alcohol with a tendency toward migraines.

Is Alcohol Per Se Or Another Component Of Alcoholic Drinks The Headache Trigger?

Reducing or eliminating alcohol may reduce the frequency of migraine attacks. It may also help eliminate triggers that tend to co-occur with drinking, such as dehydration and sleep deprivation. Like food triggers, the likelihood of a particular type of alcohol triggering a headache is probably different from person to person. If you suffer from migraines, talk with your doctor about how alcohol may affect you. Early effects of alcohol can dull sensations and have an analgesic effect, but as alcohol leaves the body it can have the opposite effect and actually increase sensitivity to pain.

Having a single glass of wine, beer, or a shot now and then will probably be fine. Your body naturally produces histamines, a compound released when the body encounters allergens and inflammatory reactions. When alcohol is made, the fermentation process creates a byproduct called congener. Your liver is often an unsung hero, fulfilling over 500 jobs without complaint — follow these five tips to avoid liver disease and keep yours running at maximum efficiency. Avoid more alcohol (“hair of the dog”) — this will only increase your misery.

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However, there are reports of also spirits, sparkling wine and beer triggering headache. Wine does not need to be ingested in large quantities to produce headache. In wine sensitive patients the time between drinking red wine and developing headache varied from 30 min to 3 hours. This hangover headache appears in the next morning after alcohol intake.

can alcohol trigger migraines

In fact, it was also suggested that dural mast cells could promote headache by releasing 5-HT, prostaglandin I and histamine . Wechsler H, Davenport A, Dowdall G, Moeykens B, Castillo S. Health and behavioral consequences of binge drinking in college. Keep reading to learn more about the connection between migraine and headache. Many people have turned to abstinence as their preventative measure for reasons stated above.

How Alcohol Triggers Migraines

Many foods such as fish, aged cheese, meat , and vegetables contain much higher amounts of histamine than alcoholic drinks. Histamine infused by vein is a time-tested way to provoke a migraine attack. However, there are many other symptoms of a so-called “histamine intolerance” that are not characteristic of a migraine attack.

If you have persistent lightheadedness or vomiting, seek medical attention. Generally, these episodes resolve within a few hours but can last up to a whole day. It’s important to note that alcohol use disorder is a serious illness that can have life-threatening consequences. Please see your healthcare provider if you are concerned about your alcohol use.

Avoid A Headache From Alcohol: What The Doctor Says

No one is exactly sure how ethanol causes its various effects, but once absorbed from the stomach into the bloodstream it can freely cross out of the blood and into nerve cells of the brain. Once in the brain it causes a chemical release that leads to pleasurable feelings, and it lessens inhibitions by depressing certain frontal lobe functions. Motor pathways become overactive, and blood sugar is processed less efficiently in the brain. As more and more ethanol molecules enter the membranes of the nerve cells, sedating effects develop. The effects of alcohol intoxication are relatively predictable based on measured blood alcohol content.

can alcohol trigger migraines

If they trigger migraines look for an alternative without alcohol. So it’s best to make alcohol the single, isolated factor and journal what triggers each migraine. Whenever one comes on, jot down what you last ate, how much sleep you got, what the current environmental factors are, and anything else that may help you to find out what the cause is. This will help your doctor isolate the cause of your migraine and your triggers. Often, alcohol-induced headaches also have characteristics that resemble your usual headaches, whether they are migraines, cluster headaches, or tension headaches. Some people who get migraines have warning signs, called an aura, before the actual headache begins.


Migraine is a symptom of an underlying condition, and one of the elements of a migraine is a headache. A migraine is headache with other symptoms such as sensitivity to alcohol and headaches light and sound, nausea, vomiting, aura and more. We know that if we treat the underlying cause, we can make great strides in helping migraine patients live pain-free.

can alcohol trigger migraines

Many people confuse this with a regular hangover until the intensity of the migraine sets in. When I drink wine presently, it’s quite often just red wine, normally only 1-2 half-glasses w/a dinner, with water going with the supper as well.

  • Some consider it an indicator of the wholesomeness of the food or food quality.
  • The time it took for a quick onset attack to start was “quick” indeed – less than three hours for one-third of participants.
  • It is also possible that retrospective recall biases cause higher correlation between HSS scores across time periods.
  • Other known alcohol by-products, such as acetone, acetaldehyde, fuseil oil, and furfural, have been suggested as responsible for triggering migraines.
  • Byproducts of alcohol metabolism can also contribute to headaches.

That’s because the sudden onset of a migraine could be the difference between finishing that project at work or sitting in a dark room with a cool towel over you face. Migraines can last between one hour and three days, and can be incredibly difficult to prevent. That’s why many have tried to take control of their headaches by tracking triggers in a journal or one of many available apps.