Wine and Headache
- Conflict of Interest: None.
The notion of migraine attacks triggered by food and beverages has been posited for centuries. Red wine in particular has been acknowledged as a migraine trigger since antiquity when Celsus (25 B.C.-50 A.D.) described head pain after drinking wine. Since then, references to the relationship between alcohol ingestion and headache attacks are numerous. The most common initiator of these attacks among alcoholic beverages is clearly wine. The aim of this review is to present and discuss the available literature on wine and headache.
A Medline search with the terms headache, migraine, and wine was performed. Data available on books and written material about wine and medicine as well as abstracts on alcohol, wine, and headache available in the proceedings of major headache meetings in the last 30 years were reviewed. In addition, available technical literature and websites about wine, grapes, and wine making were also evaluated.
Full papers specifically on headache and wine are scarce. General literature related to medicine and wine is available, but scientific rigor is typically lacking. The few studies on wine and headache were mostly presented as abstracts despite the common knowledge and patients' complaints about wine ingestion and headache attacks. These studies suggest that red wine, but not white and sparkling wines, do trigger headache and migraine attacks independently of dosage in less than 30% of the subjects.
Wine, and specifically red wine, is a migraine trigger. Non-migraineurs may have headache attacks with wine ingestion as well. The reasons for that triggering potential are uncertain, but the presence of phenolic flavonoid radicals and the potential for interfering with the central serotonin metabolism are probably the underlying mechanisms of the relationship between wine and headache. Further controlled studies are necessary to enlighten this traditional belief.