Alcohol and Headaches | National Headache Foundation Alcohol, which is consumed in beverages such as liquor, wine and beer, is a chemical called ethanol. Ethanol may cause headaches by several means. First, it is a direct vasodilator; in some individuals vasodilation may cause a headache. Second, ethanol is a natural diuretic; this leads to excretion of salt, vitamins and minerals from the body through the kidneys.
- Excess consumption of ethanol may produce dehydration and chemical imbalances in the body.
- Except in “moonshine,” we consume ethanol in beverages that contain other chemicals.
- These chemicals are called congeners.
- Congeners impart the specific tastes and flavors that make each beverage unique.
- These congeners also have a variety of effects that can cause headaches, alter other chemicals in the body, and induce the hangover effect if consumed in excess.
Fructose, the naturally occurring sugar from fruits, helps return portions of the body’s chemical balance back to normal following ethanol consumption. Many with migraine, and most with cluster headaches, are sensitive to alcohol, at times in even small amounts.
Why does any type of alcohol give me a headache?
One of the main problems facing those who struggle with alcohol is the alcohol-induced headache. This common problem may affect one of the 10.8 million adults in the UK who are drinking at a worrying level. Alcohol-induced headaches are not only subject to those who have a history of misuse or abuse of alcohol.
These types of headaches can strike anyone, of any age and background. An alcohol-induced headache may fall into many categories and whilst they are painful and unpleasant, there are things that can be done to relieve the symptoms. In this article, we are going to talk you through everything you need to know about the alcohol-induced headache as a way to better understand how it is caused and how you can help yourself or someone you love to cope with its effects.
The single main reason that alcohol is the cause of a headache is that it is what is known as a diuretic. In simple terms, this means that it has an effect on the kidneys which causes the level of fluid that you are taking in to become lower than what your body is putting out,
- In other words, you will go to the toilet more frequently, but the lost liquid will not be as evenly replaced.
- This contributes greatly to dehydration, which is the cause of your alcohol-induced headache.
- Anyone who suffers from regular migraines will know how debilitating they can be, and unfortunately, alcohol can be a huge trigger for this condition.
Alcohol is responsible for creating a relaxing effect on the blood vessels. In turn, this leads to more blood being able to flow into the brain, which can trigger a migraine, It has been seen in many studies all over the world that one-third of those who suffer from regular migraines have noted that alcohol is one of the main things to trigger them off.
The main ingredient in alcohol that is responsible for a sore head is ethanol. There are a variety of reasons why this potent chemical can cause a headache such as its ability to dilate the blood vessels. Alcohol is a diuretic, causing the body to lose vital salts and minerals which help it to function.
The ingestion of too much ethanol can cause an unhealthy imbalance of chemicals within the body, which over time may lead to more serious conditions than just a headache. We have already discussed that a migraine is a common headache experienced after drinking alcohol, but the alcohol-induced headache may fall into one of two categories.
How do you stop a liquor headache?
7 hangover remedies – Obviously, not drinking any alcohol is the best solution. But if you do drink, here are simple tips to help prevent and relieve the misery.1. Drinking fluids, Alcohol promotes urination because it inhibits the release of vasopressin, a hormone that decreases the volume of urine made by the kidneys.
If your hangover includes diarrhea, sweating, or vomiting, you may be even more dehydrated. Although nausea can make it difficult to get anything down, even just a few sips of water might help your hangover.2. Getting some carbohydrates into your system, Drinking may lower blood sugar levels, so theoretically some of the fatigue and headaches of a hangover may be from a brain working without enough of its main fuel.
Moreover, many people forget to eat when they drink, further lowering their blood sugar. Toast and juice is a way to gently nudge levels back to normal.3. Avoiding darker-colored alcoholic beverages, Experiments have shown that clear liquors, such as vodka and gin, tend to cause hangovers less frequently than dark ones, such as whiskey, red wine, and tequila.
- The main form of alcohol in alcoholic beverages is ethanol, but the darker liquors contain chemically related compounds (congeners), including methanol.
- The same enzymes process ethanol and methanol, but methanol metabolites are especially toxic, so they may cause a worse hangover.4.
- Taking a pain reliever — but not Tylenol,
Aspirin, ibuprofen (Motrin, other brands), and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may help with the headache and the overall achy feelings. NSAIDs, though, may irritate a stomach already irritated by alcohol. Don’t take acetaminophen (Tylenol): if alcohol is lingering in your system, it may accentuate acetaminophen’s toxic effects on the liver.5.
Drinking coffee or tea, Caffeine may not have any special anti-hangover powers, but as a stimulant, it could help with the grogginess. However, it’s important to keep in mind that caffeine and alcohol should never be mixed because the caffeine can mask the depressant effects of alcohol, making drinkers feel more alert than they would otherwise.6.
Taking B vitamins and zinc, A study published in The Journal of Clinical Medicine evaluated the diets for 24 hours before and after excessive drinking occurred. It was a small study and results were based on the participants saying what they ate. However, they did find that people whose food and beverage consumption contained greater amounts of zinc and B vitamins had less severe hangovers.7.
Hair of the dog. Drinking to ease the symptoms of a hangover is sometimes called taking the hair of the dog, or hair of the dog that bit you. The notion is that hangovers are a form of alcohol withdrawal, so a drink or two will ease the withdrawal. However, the hair of the dog just perpetuates a cycle.
Why Does Wine Give Me a Headache?
It doesn’t allow you to recover.
Can you be allergic to moonshine?
While an allergy to alcohol is rare, an allergy or intolerance to ingredients used to make wine, beer, or distilled spirits can.
What alcohol is least likely to cause migraines?
Related Articles – Drs Terwindt and Onderwater: Various alcoholic beverages have been suggested as migraine triggers. However, although all of these beverages contain ethanol, other compounds vary between drinks. Thus, it is difficult to say whether ethanol — perhaps through its vasoactive properties or neuroinflammatory effects — may be the culprit, or whether other compounds found in alcoholic drinks are responsible.
Our study identified vodka, which contains almost no substances other than ethanol and water, as the least frequent migraine-provoking beverage, and red wine as the most frequent provoking beverage. This implies that ethanol is not the main culprit, but other compounds in wine such as histamine, tyramine, phenylethylamine, and flavonoids, which have also been suggested by other studies.
However, as these compounds vary between brands and types of wine, further research on this would need to be performed in an experimental fashion. Neurology Advisor: What are some key considerations for clinicians in advising patients on this topic? Dr Minen: Following alcohol exposure, some people with migraine can have a migraine attack, while others are completely fine.
As Dueland says, “Based on the literature, there is no reason to tell headache patients in general to abstain from alcohol.” 1 Thus, I do not recommend elimination of specific foods or alcohol, but I do ask people to track their headaches in a headache diary and see if they can note any associations, as well as their response to headache management.
Certain migraine triggers may be unavoidable, so preventive treatments – both pharmacologic and behavioral – may be used to try to prevent attacks. Other triggers, such as alcohol exposure, can be avoided. Despite many requests for medications to prevent alcohol-induced migraines, counseling patients regarding avoidance is my preferred treatment plan.
- Many medications interact with alcohol, and furthermore, because of the tenant “First, do no harm,” it is hard to justify using medications so that people can consume alcohol when most medications have adverse effects.
- Drs Terwindt and Onderwater: Our results show that alcoholic beverages are frequently recognized as migraine trigger factors and already have a substantial effect on alcohol consumption.
Whether alcohol is a factual or presumed trigger remains to be investigated further, as the low consistency of provocation observed thus far suggests alcoholic beverages may be insufficient as the sole migraine trigger; perhaps a fluctuating trigger threshold is also involved.
- Therefore, we would recommend that clinicians advise their patients to keep a headache trigger diary to see if a possible relationship with alcohol may be present (including other factors that may influence this effect, such as sleep deprivation or menstruation).
- If so, a trial of abstaining might be worthwhile in these specific cases.
We do not advocate abstaining in all patients with migraine. Neurology Advisor: What should be the focus of future research pertaining to alcohol intake as a headache trigger? Dr Minen: Researchers should continue to investigate the mechanisms behind alcohol triggering headache, as these are not fully understood.
Drs Terwindt and Onderwater: As mentioned, we currently do not know which compounds might be responsible for the presumed triggering effect or whether other trigger factors may be involved. Various factors would need to be investigated in placebo-controlled studies. However, such studies are difficult to set up and expensive to perform.
Additionally, prospective cohort studies, likely through the use of mobile diary apps in which patients record triggers and headaches on a daily basis, may be helpful. Most likely, a combination of triggers is needed to provoke an attack at a certain time, and these combinations may be different for each patient.
Dueland AN.,2015;55(7):1045-1049. Onderwater GLJ, van Oosterhout WPJ, Schoonman GG, Ferrari MD, Terwindt GM. Eur J Neurol, doi: Zlotnik Y, Plakht Y, Aven A, Engel Y, Am NB, Ifergane G. J Neurosci Rural Pract,2014; 5(2):128-134.
: Migraine and Alcohol: Encouraging a Healthy Balance of Indulgence and Vigilance