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

While are generally recognized as a side effect of alcohol in many people, its reputation as a migraine headache trigger may be overestimated. Red wine often gets the most blame, but beer can also have a significant impact. In fact, in one large survey on cluster headaches, beer was the most common culprit of all alcoholic drinks. Certain alcoholic beverages are worse for triggering headaches than others. One study from 2018 concluded that red wine is the biggest cause of headaches – with 77.8% of participants saying it was a trigger. Beer and other dark beverages are also believed to be bad if you suffer from headaches, while clearer drinks are better.

A critical alcohol and headaches of methods and results in the search for genetic contributors to alcohol sensitivity. The tables below group alcohol types by the amount of these additives. Other criteria for a person to have a migraine diagnosis include nausea or vomiting and sensitivity to light or noise.

Why Does Beer Cause Headaches & Migraines?

Therefore, the release of 5-HT possibly from central stores could represent a plausible mechanism for wine induced headache. On the other hand, there are many foods such as dried fruits, chips, raisins, soy sauce, pickles and juice fruits containing concentration of sulphites even ten times higher than that of wine. Excessive drinking has numerous impacts on your body and mind, ranging from mild to severe. Learn which signs to look out for, and how to care for your well-being.

This results in more reddening of the skin („“Asian flush”) and hangovers at lower amounts of alcohol. Most people are well aware of the presence of headache, malaise, diarrhea, loss of appetite, tiredness, nausea and sensitivity to light, sound and motion the day after binge drinking. What may be less well recognized is that manual dexterity, memory, reaction time, visual-spatial skills and attention are all adversely affected, even when your alcohol level has fallen back down to 0.

Why Does Alcohol Cause Headaches and Migraines?

Because anxiety can trigger or worsen headaches, these two hangover symptoms are often related. No differences exist between migraine and tension headache in the frequency of alcohol as a trigger [17, 18, 20, 24–26, 29] . Other studies show that only migraineurs had episodes of tension-type headache precipitated by alcohol . It is known since antiquity that wine could be a trigger for migraine. The likelihood of having headaches increased in stepwise fashion with stress level and decreased ability to relieve stress, in both men and women .

A recent review reports that in retrospective studies performed in different countries, about one-third of migraine patients indicate alcohol as a migraine trigger, and all ADs may act as trigger. However, some of these studies show that alcohol acts as a trigger at least occasionally in a high percentage, but as a frequent/consistent trigger in only 10% of patients. In other eight studies performed in India, Japan, Turkey, China, and Italy, the percentages of alcohol or wine as migraine without aura trigger are very low (0–11%). In Italy and Turkey, the low percentage was confirmed by many studies. A broad observational general practice study reports alcohol as a trigger in 12% of migraine patients but prospectively only in 4% of migraine attacks. Various retrospective studies show that a high percentage (about one-third) of migraine patients refer alcohol as a trigger factor.

What to know about headaches after alcohol

Always drink responsibly—which includes minimizing the chances that alcohol will affect your migraine. Current medical opinions on alcohol consumption are evolving with research, so it’s important to educate yourself on the effects of alcohol on your health. If you are struggling with alcohol abuse or other dependency issues, there are many resources that are ready to help. The short answer is that while it’s possible for alcohol to cause a migraine attack, it’s often a bit more complicated.


You can usually hope to see symptoms subside within 72 hours of their onset. A delayed hangover headache can be more intense than an immediate reaction. Many people compare the pain to that of cluster headaches or migraine attacks.

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