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Why Red Wine Might Give You More of a Headache Than White

Two glasses of red wine sit next to a charcuterie board.

It was Friday night, and maybe you polished off a little too much red wine. For some reason, you feel much worse than your usual white wine evenings. Are you imagining things?

As it turns out, it’s not all in your head (well, the headache is in your head). Red wine might actually be more likely to cause headaches.

Here’s the thing. According to Harvard Health, there’s no definitive, scientifically proven reason why red wine causes more headaches. That doesn’t mean there aren’t plausible theories, though. One of the more commonly cited ones is all about histamines.

Histamine is found in grape skin, and red wine contains more of it than white because the skin is included during creation. There are some people who are more sensitive to histamine because of a shortage of an enzyme that breaks it down in the small intestine. Plus, not only does red wine contain histamine, but alcohol also inhibits the enzyme from breaking it down. The combination could lead to more headaches.

Then, there are tannins. They provide flavor to red wine and contain antioxidants. Sounds pretty good, right? Well, They also can cause the release of serotonin, and when serotonin is released at high enough levels, some people might experience headaches.

Let’s not give red wine a bad rep, though. While it might be more prone to cause headaches in some, any alcohol can do the same if you’re not properly hydrated, drinking on an empty stomach, or drinking in excess.

If you seem to experience headaches more frequently when drinking red wine, maybe consider switching to rosé.

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