Does alcohol cause headaches?
Yes. Since long back, people have linked aching head experiences with the consumption of alcohol. About one-third of patients who have migraines complain about alcohol as a trigger of their headaches. Studies show that people with migraines tend to consume a lesser amount of alcohol than those without migraines.
An alcoholic drink is a typical drink that people consume as a beverage like beer and wine. Ethanol is the type of alcohol present in those drinks. The fermentation of grains, fruits, or other natural raw sources of sugar causes the ethanol to form.
You may be wondering, “How does alcohol cause headaches?” There are several ways in which alcohol may directly or indirectly involve in causing a headache:
1. Alcohol is a direct vasodilator:
As alcohol opens and dilates blood vessels, it causes the blood to flow to increase in the brain. As a result, it may affect the brain and cause headaches to some people.
2. Alcohol is a natural diuretic:
3. Alcohol byproducts:
Congeners are a byproduct of alcohol. They are responsible for the unique tastes and flavors of the different alcoholic beverages. They happen to play an active role in causing headaches. Dark-colored alcoholic drinks like whiskey, brandy, and wine have a higher concentration of congeners. They combine and change other chemicals in the body and bring about the hangover effect when drank in excess.
4. Through inflammation:
A chemical known as histamine is present in alcohols. When you consume too much alcohol, it stimulates the immune system to produce more histamine. This process causes inflammation all over the body.
Do wines cause more headaches than other alcoholic beverages?
Since the time of Celsius (25 B.C. – 50 A.D), records associate the effect of wine with headaches. There, he complained about having pain in the head after sipping wine. Though people commonly believe that wine triggers more headaches than other alcoholic beverages, there is little scientific evidence.
The studies show that wine triggers headaches in less than 30% of people. They seem to have headaches regardless of the quantity of the wine they drink. However, they focused the study on red wine and neither on white nor sparkling wines. Serotonin is a hormone present in the brain that influences a person’s mood. And it also regulates headache pains.
Inferior quality wines contain phenolic flavonoid radicals, which can cause headaches as they interfere with serotonin. When the radicals affect the serotonin concentration in an individual’s brain, it may enhance pain signaling. Also, the tannins found in the grapes’ skin may trigger a headache in some people. The high sugar content in the wine may play a role in dehydrating the body after wine consumption.
In another study, the researchers compared people’s opinions regarding the headaches caused by beer and red wine. They found that majority of the people cited that red wine would cause more headaches than beer. The wine’s odds as a headache trigger were about three times higher than that of beer. Researchers observed how spirits and sparkling wines could affect migraines more than other alcoholic beverages in other studies.
What are the types of headaches that alcohol induces?
1. Immediate alcohol-induced headaches (IAIH):
2. Delayed alcohol-induced headache (DAIH):
3. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms:
Headaches can also be a type of alcohol withdrawal symptom, much like sweating, vomiting, etc. They happen after an addicted alcohol consumer stops drinking. It is because the body and the brain get used to the daily intake of alcohol. As a result, the body gets used to having relaxed veins. So, when the person stops drinking suddenly, the configuration of the veins changes abruptly. Due to this, the veins convey pain signals to the brain and ultimately cause headaches.
How long do such headaches last?
For an immediate alcohol-induced headache, the pain usually does not last for more than 3 hours. As for delayed alcohol-induced headaches, the duration of pain does not last for more than 12 hours.
With proper hydration, diet, and treatments, you can reduce the duration to some extent. However, if the person has migraines or has a weak immune system, the time may extend to about 72 hours. Hence, you have to take much care and precaution.
How do I treat an alcohol-induced headache?
|Try out painkillers and anti-inflammatories like Paracetamol and Naproxen to reduce the pain in your head.|
|Hydrate yourself well. As dehydration plays a significant role in causing a headache, drinking sufficient water will help recover the lost fluids. Also, it can help to mitigate the pain.|
|Try to drink enough fruit juices with fructose and electrolyte solutions to balance the metabolisms within your body. Fructose is a natural sugar present in fruits and fruit juices, which helps the body recover its chemical balance.|
|Do not keep your stomach empty; instead, consume energy replenishing foods like eggs, bananas, spinach, etc.|
When should you contact a doctor?
- You feel confused and cannot think straight.
- The tone of your skin changes to dark blue or purple.
- You lose appetite and start throwing up.
- Your breathing pace slows down and needs to pause between breaths.
- You get chills and seizures.
- You fall unconscious and unable to wake up even after 6-7 hours.