Alcohol & Migraines: Can Drinking Cause a Migraine Headache?

Ethanol is the primary toxin responsible for why alcohol makes you drunk. Like histamine, ethanol is a vasodilator, which directly dilates blood vessels and can often trigger migraines and other headaches. Aside from contributing to the flavor of the alcohol, congeners increase the severity and frequency of hangover symptoms, including headaches. Congeners tend to aggravate brain tissue and blood vessels, which contributes to headaches. Clear liquors, like white rum, vodka, and gin, have significantly fewer congeners and may cause fewer headache symptoms. Although, as we’ll discuss below, there are other factors that can lead to headaches no matter what form of alcohol you consume.

why does alcohol give me a migraine

According to Aurora, however, alcohol consumption isn’t just a question of what’s considered a safe amount. It also depends on whether or not you’re likely to develop headaches. “Some patients with migraine are particularly susceptible to dehydration,” she says. If none of the preventative measures above work or you didn’t know alcohol triggered migraines until after the fact, there are still options available to you. However, if you already have a headache, it is a good idea to stop drinking.

Quit your wine-ing?

Talk to your doctor about any concerns and about whether it is safe to drink alcohol with any medications you are taking. Alcohol’s exact role in triggering a migraine isn’t fully known. 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.

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. Even though your pain is legit, there’s no concrete scientific link between migraine and red wine. Compared to other types of alcohol, red wine’s relatively high tannin and histamine content may play a role in headaches and migraine. According to the American Migraine Foundation, all alcoholic drinks can provoke either an immediate or delayed headache.

Should people with migraine avoid alcohol?

Find out why, and what you can do to avoid alcohol-related migraines. This information is not designed to replace a physician’s independent judgment about the appropriateness or risks of a procedure for a given patient. does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Use of the site is conditional upon your acceptance of our terms of use.

It may also help eliminate triggers that tend to co-occur with drinking, such as dehydration and sleep deprivation. This data suggests that there may be a misperception that drinks containing alcohol cause migraine attacks. Still, in population-based studies in various countries, including the U.S., Japan and Italy, researchers found that fewer people with migraine consume alcohol than those without migraine.

Other high sulfite foods may be to blame

For a hangover headache, also called a delayed alcohol-induced headache, experts believe that nerve chemicals involved in central pain control, like serotonin, are likely responsible. People who cannot stop drinking should talk with a doctor about treatment for alcohol use disorder, which is a serious but treatable condition. People who consume greater quantities of alcohol report more alcohol-related headaches, according to several studies. Then again, in some groups, alcohol appears to have protective effects against headaches. For example, drinking even a small amount of alcohol decreases sleep quality. Sleep deprivation can cause negative effects such as increased blood pressure or gastrointestinal discomfort.

why does alcohol give me a migraine

These headaches cause very intense pain that often primarily affects the area behind one eye. More than half of those who experience cluster headaches say that alcohol is a trigger. A tendency toward migraine may also play a role in hangovers, especially hangovers that cause migraine-like headaches. A 2014 survey of 692 students, 95 of whom had migraine, found that those with migraine were more likely to experience migraine-like symptoms during a hangover. However, these individuals were not more vulnerable to other hangover symptoms. In many cases, researchers say it’s more a matter of individual triggers or other factors that coincide with your alcohol consumption, like stress.

A word of advice if you’re struggling to stop drinking

Whereas other people need both an acute and a preventive treatment plan. Preventive treatment reduces the frequency and severity of migraine attacks. It might be a daily oral medication, a monthly injection, why does alcohol give me a migraine or even injections and infusions that are delivered once every three months. The right medications combined with lifestyle changes can be helpful to improve the lives of those living with migraine.

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