Not All Red Wine Triggers Chronic Migraine

March 14, 2013

Red wine lovers, who suffer with chronic migraine, are usually devastated to learn that red wine is a common migraine trigger.  While it would be nice to have an easy migraine procedure or medication that would eliminate any type of headache, options are not always that easy.  Therefore, along with other foods, beverages and sensory stimuli, migraineurs choose to forgo that glass of cabernet as a way to ward of debilitating migraine attacks.  Drinking red wine however, represents for many a cultural tradition.  Others, upon learning the heart-healthy attributes found in red wine, are reluctant to abandon their preventative ritual of drinking one glass per day.

We wonder if this steadfast loyalty to heart health, which is paired with red wine and dark chocolate these days, would extend to broccoli and oatmeal if science identified those foods as migraine triggers?

If you are a red wine lover who suffers with chronic migraines, the following should be good news for you, if you’re convinced that a migraine procedure is the only way to have your wine and drink it migraine pain-free.  A small study from the Rio Headache Center in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil suggests that some red wines are more likely than others to trigger migraine headaches.  The key seems to be the amount of tannins found in the particular wine, which are responsible for leaving a dry and puckery sensation in your mouth.  It is suspected that tannins boost the production of serotonin in the brain, which may be linked with triggering migraines.

The study collected data on 40 subjects who said they all experience headaches after drinking red wine.  They were given 4 different wines to try: malbec, tannat, cabernet sauvignon, and merlot, and instructed to wait 4 days between trying each varietal.  The malbec and tannat had higher tannin levels.  Almost 90% of participants had at least one migraine, and about 50% had at least two.  Of the latter group, Dr. Krymchantowski suspects their migraines were triggered by the higher tannin-content wines. He said in an interview with WebMD, “My suggestion is the more tannins the wine has, [the] more migraine attacks it triggers.”

So, whether the researchers at the Rio Headache Center have stumbled upon information that will help you avoid a chronic migraine flare-up and possibly undergoing a migraine procedure, will depend on whether you are sensitive to tannins in red wine.  You may also consider trying lower-tannin red wines without sulfites.  Cheers!

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