Alcohol Can Trigger Headaches and Migraines

The more that you drink, the stronger and longer-lasting your hangover symptoms will be. Try to drink beer in moderation and stretch out drinking over several hours. Certain alcohol byproducts known as congeners can contribute to a hangover headache. They impede the breakdown of ethanol, making the effects of a hangover stronger and longer-lasting. They can also trigger stress hormones and inflammation, worsening an already brutal headache. While mild cases of over-consumption often resolve themselves, in some cases, alcohol poisoning requires medical intervention.

People with alcohol flush reaction lack an enzyme required to break down a toxic byproduct of alcohol metabolism called acetaldehyde. Unfortunately for headache sufferers, acetaldehyde causes the body to produce histamines – a common trigger of migraines. This is particularly the case for migraine sensitive people who have Asian flush.

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You can also consider drinking a hydration supplement like Cove’s Oasis to boost that effect. Tannins are naturally occurring compounds found in grapes, certain fruit juices, and beer. People who suffer with cluster headaches are particularly sensitive to dark beers, according to Dr. Aurora. June is National Migraine and Headache Awareness Month , which is a great opportunity for communities to spread awareness about suffering from headaches and migraine. So with that goal in mind, we spoke to a number of physicians specializing in headache and migraine treatment as well as addiction medicine to find out exactly why drinking may trigger a headache. Sulphites have not been shown convincingly to lead to headache in individuals with sulphite sensitivity. Sulphites are considered to be the cause of red wine intolerance, particularly asthma .

If a person is showing signs of confusion, slowed breathing, or an abnormally low body temperature, seek medical attention immediately. In truly excessive quantities, alcohol triggers serious debilitating effects, possibly pushing your body toward sudden death. Finally, genetics also plays a role in alcohol absorption and hangover symptoms. Some people are equipped to handle alcohol better than others and are more adept at breaking down byproducts. These people are less likely to experience hangovers, and when they do, the results will be less severe. The type of hangover you experience depends on a few factors, such as the amount you drink and how quickly you drink it. Drinking copious amounts quicker than your liver can process will almost certainly result in a hangover.

Other primary headaches

“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. Histamine intolerance, which results from a disequilibrium of accumulated histamine and the capacity for histamine degradation, has been recently reviewed . Many foods are considered to have the capacity to release histamine from tissue mast cells, even if they themselves contain only small amounts of histamine.

Is it possible to have an intolerance to alcohol?

Alcohol intolerance occurs when your body doesn't have the proper enzymes to break down (metabolize) the toxins in alcohol. This is caused by inherited (genetic) traits most often found in Asians. Other ingredients commonly found in alcoholic beverages, especially in beer or wine, can cause intolerance reactions.

Drinking any type of alcohol in excess, including beer, wine, or liquor, can cause headaches. Since alcohol has a dehydrating effect, drinking 16 ounces of water between each alcoholic beverage can help offset alcohol-related dehydration.

Can You Cure a Hangover Headache?

A more recent 2019 alcohol and headaches also highlighted histamines as a culprit for migraines. Alcohol not only contains histamines, it can also cause your body to create them. A person with alcohol use disorder may have trouble stopping drinking or drink more than intended. Genetic contributors to variation in alcohol consumption vary by race/ethnicity in a large multi-ethnic genome-wide association study.


But other drinks like sparkling wine, beer, and hard liquor may be just as likely, if not more, to cause problems. However, the release could also trigger regular migraines and an immediate headache. Just a small amount of alcoholic drink can trigger a peptide release from our body.

How do you get rid of alcohol migraines?

To start, alcohol is a diuretic, which means it makes you go to the toilet more frequently. As a result, you are losing more fluids than you’re taking on, leading to dehydration. Hansen JM, Thomsen LL, Olesen J, Ashina M. Calcitonin gene-related peptide does not cause migraine attacks in patients with familial hemiplegic migraine. An immediate alcohol-induced headache, also called a cocktail headache, typically occurs on both sides of the head.

  • Aim to drink plenty of water before, after, and during alcohol consumption.
  • If you regularly suffer from headaches, being dehydrated is likely to make you have one.
  • Being a diuretic causes your kidney to work more, resulting in excessive release of urine.
  • Drinks containing more alcohol and congeners may worsen the chance of developing 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.