Can Alcohol Trigger Migraine Attacks?

Beer, on the other hand, may be a safer choice of alcohol than red wine. In one study, people with migraine or tension-type headache cited red wine as a headache trigger more than three times as often as beer. Researchers don’t know exactly what causes alcohol-induced migraine attacks. While in some cases it is likely the presence of alcohol itself, it is also possible that specific components of different alcoholic drinks act as triggers. Much like food triggers for migraine, people may have a higher sensitivity to certain organic components commonly found in alcoholic drinks. A 2019 study recognized alcoholic beverages, especially red wine, as a migraine trigger factor for people with migraine.

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While toxic in large amounts, small amounts of ethanol produce the pleasant “buzz” that people experience when tipsy or drunk. Unfortunately, it can be challenging for us to judge our own limits. Often the amount of alcohol we drink is more than our liver can process, leading to classic hangover symptoms, and in some cases, migraine headaches. More often, a alcohol-related headaches won’t manifest until your blood alcohol level begins to drop. A delayed alcohol-induced headache won’t usually begin until 5 to 12 hours after your last drink. You can usually hope to see symptoms subside within 72 hours of their onset.

Is alcohol per se or another component of alcoholic drinks the headache trigger?

If you are struggling with alcohol abuse or other dependency issues, there are many resources that are ready to help. This is especially true for people prone to headaches or migraine without alcohol. Drinking plenty of water throughout the night can also help you avoid regretting that last beer the next day.

  • These congeners also have a variety of effects that can trigger migraine, alter other chemicals in the body, and induce the hangover effect if consumed in excess.
  • If soon-after or hangover headaches do occur, treat them with anti-inflammatory agents (you must wait several hours if you took such an agent in advance of drinking) or an anti-migraine agent if you have them available.
  • Even if we cannot assist you, we will lead you wherever you can get support.
  • It has also been proposed that alcohol triggers an inflammatory response that can lead to a headache.
  • As anyone with allergies can tell you, though, an influx of histamines can end up doing more harm than good by causing inflammation, muscle aches, and headaches.
  • In other words, instead of expanding the blood vessels, higher and higher levels of alcohol constrict blood vessels, causing high blood pressure.

For example, if a person drinks liquor before beer, they are likely to feel the effects of the alcohol sooner. More research will help to determine the effects of specific alcohol content on a person’s headaches. As a result, a female’s blood alcohol concentration tends to be higher, making it more likely for females to experience headaches and hangovers. Some people only sip a glass or two of wine before their head starts to throb. I have met people whose headaches result from just the smell of a beer and others whose headaches occur only after drinking a case of beer. Towards the end of my drinking days, I could barely tolerate beer, which I used to love.

Relieving Headache Pain: Preventing and treating migraines and other headaches

“Hydration is probably the biggest protective factor against headache. A well-hydrated person is the least likely to experience headaches or to have the least intensity of headache,” Moore says. You can also consider drinking a hydration supplement like Cove’s Oasis to boost that effect. According to Dr. Kevin Moore, PsyD, an addiction specialist, alcohol fools your body into thinking that you’re drinking water, but in reality, alcohol actually poisons the brain cells. You are going to lose lots of fluids if you drink a lot of alcohol, so try to cut down on the quantity. Perhaps slip in a glass of water for every glass of alcohol you drink, preventing dehydration.

  • Clear liquors, like white rum, vodka, and gin, have significantly fewer congeners and may cause fewer headache symptoms.
  • Alcohol not only contains histamines, it can also cause your body to create them.
  • However, a headache after drinking will usually resolve itself over time.
  • Because anxiety can trigger or worsen headaches, these two hangover symptoms are often related.

Components of beer such as ethanol can lead to imbalances in our bodies, causing hangover symptoms such as headaches. Drinking any type of alcohol can lead you to some intense side effects that will not feel good in the morning. Believe it or not, beer is the culprit for the leading cause of experiencing a cluster of headaches. Beer contains more toxic byproducts from fermentation, such as aldehydes, that negatively affect the body’s organs and brain. In contrast, wine holds an abundance of sugar which may create an issue in the gut.

Alcohol, Headaches and Hangovers

Cocktail headaches arise around three hours after you first start drinking alcohol. These headaches make your head feel like someone is pounding on it like a drum. However, there isn’t currently enough research to conclusively say why this is the case.

  • It’s important to know what alcoholism can do to the body and its potential side effects so that it is possible to get help before it is too late.
  • After a night on the town, it’s easy to blame a headache on too much alcohol.
  • Alcohol disrupts your sleep quality, but get as much sleep as you can, crappy or otherwise.
  • “Alcohol consumption is one of the most common dietary triggers for migraine sufferers,” says Dr. Sara Crystal, Cove Medical Director, noting that alcohol causes two specific types of headaches.
  • You also reduce your chances of more serious problems such as alcohol poisoning.
  • Alcohol is considered a suppressant and works to slow down different systems in the body, including breathing and heart rate.

It has long been known that dehydration can cause headaches, but it is also responsible for exacerbating existing medical conditions. If you regularly suffer from headaches, being dehydrated is likely to make you have one. A person with a hangover should not take pain relief medications or any other drugs that contain acetaminophen. This ingredient can strain the liver — like alcohol — so it is important to avoid combining the two. Those suffering from an immediate alcohol headache will likely feel a pulsating sensation, usually on both sides of the head.

They involve throbbing pain that generally occurs on one side of the head. You might have heard that red wine is most likely to cause problems. But other drinks like sparkling wine, beer, and hard liquor may be just as likely, if not more, to cause problems. Once it gets into your system, it is converted into a chemical that triggers migraine. Many things can trigger a migraine, from stress at work to changes in the weather to foods like aged cheese.

  • Because we use the overarching term “alcohol” to describe different alcoholic beverages, it’s easy to forget that each type of alcohol has its own ingredients, and people react to those ingredients differently.
  • Other criteria for a person to have a migraine diagnosis include nausea or vomiting and sensitivity to light or noise.
  • Low doses of alcohol during meals significantly lower the frequency of induced-attacks and the alcoholic consumption during stress was related to higher migraine attack frequency [37].
  • Unfortunately, there isn’t a specific figure we can give to tell you how much alcohol must be consumed to cause a headache.
  • A phenomenon called glutamate rebound is an additional contributor.

A 5-ounce glass of wine (or 12 ounces of beer or a 1.5-fluid-ounce shot) may be OK every now and then, so long as it doesn’t bring on a headache. If it does, you’ll need to drink less or stay away from all alcohol. Many people make the mistake of trying the “Hair of the Dog” approach to hangovers. Despite how famous this method seems to be, it’s one of the worst things you can do to treat a headache after drinking.

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Excess consumption of ethanol may produce dehydration and chemical imbalances in the body. For people with migraine, alcohol can trigger an attack anywhere from 30 minutes to three hours after consumption, according to the American Migraine Foundation. This is the typical type of headache induced by alcohol, compared with delayed alcohol-induced headache (DAIH) that appears the next morning — also known as the hangover headache. 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. This indicates that people with migraine and other headache diseases may be more likely to give up alcohol because they perceive it as a possible migraine trigger.

Generally speaking, a cocktail headache is usually a pulsating or throbbing pain and a hangover headache is more related to fatigue and a general feeling of being run down. The amount of alcohol it takes to trigger a headache can depend on factors such as body weight, gender and ethnicity. Some people get a headache after drinking even the smallest amount of alcohol. Substances such as sulfites, histamine, and tyramines are found in alcohol and may contribute to headaches as well. It has also been proposed that alcohol triggers an inflammatory response that can lead to a headache.

It may not be the best sleep, or it may even lead to waking up on the wrong side of the bed. In addition, the body is dehydrated from alcohol, a diuretic, absorbing water in the body and causing you to need to use the bathroom frequently. The means through which alcohol can activate these particular headaches is not well understood. While the acute widening of blood vessels in the brain (called vasodilation) may explain the alcohol headache, this is likely not the mechanism for hangover headaches (when alcohol levels in the blood have declined to zero). Experts believe that nerve chemicals involved in central pain control, like serotonin, are likely responsible for an alcohol hangover headache, also called a delayed alcohol headache.

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