Alcohol and Headaches Symptoms, Causes, and More


There are some health benefits to moderate alcohol consumption, but the key is knowing what types of alcohol cause your headaches, in what amounts, and what other factors might be involved. Staying hydrated and keeping alcohol consumption to a minimum can decrease the chance of experiencing a headache. Individuals who experience severe headaches after drinking alcohol may also avoid alcohol altogether. A 2019 study recognized alcoholic beverages, especially red wine, as a migraine trigger factor for people with migraine. The alcohol withdrawal timeline varies, but the worst of the symptoms typically wear off after 72 hours. People who are daily or heavy drinkers may need medical support to quit.

  1. It can happen even if you drink less than people who don’t get migraine headaches.
  2. Current medical opinions on alcohol consumption are evolving with research, so it’s important to educate yourself on the effects of alcohol on your health.
  3. The rest of the studies were based on information obtained during a medical interview [26, 27, 44].
  4. Three studies were evaluated as moderate risk, with 6 “yes” answers [44, 57, 59].

Early effects of alcohol can dull sensations and have an analgesic effect, but as alcohol leaves the body it can have the opposite effect and actually increase sensitivity to pain. Some studies have reported that alcohol can trigger a migraine headache in people who are sensitive to it in as little as 30 minutes — or it could take 3 hours. Another thing that remains unclear is whether the type of alcohol you drink determines whether or not you will get a migraine headache. Some studies found that red wine is a main trigger in migraine with aura and cluster type migraine, but they also note that all alcohol could have the same effect.

When enjoying a night out on the town, there are several triggers you may expose yourself to including bright flashing lights, loud music, food and alcohol. A slice of cheesecake or pizza can do far more damage for some people than others. For example, drinking even a small amount of health topics alcohol decreases sleep quality. Sleep deprivation can cause negative effects such as increased blood pressure or gastrointestinal discomfort. Research still needs to determine which remedy is most effective. However, a headache after drinking will usually resolve itself over time.

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Wine and Headache. Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain, June 2014.

Other types of headaches, including severe headaches, can occur as a result of alcohol consumption. People who experience a headache after drinking should not assume that it is a migraine, especially if they have symptoms consistent with other types of headaches. For example, a tension headache may cause pain in the neck or shoulders. A 2019 study surveyed people with migraine who drank alcohol.

Behavioral Treatment

Of the 1,547 participants, 783 said that alcohol was a trigger, and 195 were not sure. People who experienced migraine with alcohol were more likely to have migraine with aura and to experience more migraine days and more frequent attacks. Several studies suggest that alcohol, especially red wine, may trigger migraine attacks. The quality of the alcohol consumed may be a factor in whether it triggers a headache. Lower-quality wines contain molecules known as phenolic flavonoid radicals, which may interfere with serotonin, a signaling molecule in the brain involved in migraine attacks. Avoiding alcohol isn’t the only way to avoid an alcohol-related migraine headache.

Get access to anti-craving medications, regular coaching meetings, expert medical advice, digital tools, and more—all from an app on your smartphone. By Sarah Bence, OTR/L

Sarah Bence, OTR/L, is an occupational therapist and freelance writer. She specializes in a variety of health topics including mental health, dementia, celiac disease, and endometriosis. Research shows people who have a supportive social network are more likely to remain alcohol-free after withdrawal. Those with a wider circle of support have a better chance of staying sober.

Study characteristics

This will be a valuable resource for you and your doctor to start identifying more specific migraine triggers. People who get hangovers that trigger a migraine may wish to avoid alcohol with high levels of congeners. These are substances that the alcohol manufacturing process produces. Some research suggests that congeners play a role in hangovers, although factors such as inflammation also contribute. These headaches cause very intense pain that often primarily affects the area behind one eye. More than half of those who experience cluster headaches say that alcohol is a trigger.

Why Does Alcohol Cause Headaches and Migraines?

Try to eat some fruits, herbs, and vegetables that are helpful for alcohol-induced headache recovery. Mango, thyme, ginger, and asparagus are known to contain helpful properties for this purpose. Hard liquors like rum and vodka are less commonly involved in a headache. The tables below group alcohol types by the amount of these additives. Migraine is more common, affecting around 12% of people in the United States.

Associated Data

If you don’t already have a supportive network, you can make new connections by joining social media communities dedicated to alcohol-free living. Delirium tremens is a medical emergency that can result in death. If you or someone you know shows signs of delirium tremens, go to the emergency room immediately. This process temporarily restores homeostasis, or chemical balance, in an effort to counteract the impact of long-term alcohol use on the brain.

In some studies, about one-third of people living with migraine reported alcohol as a migraine trigger (at least occasionally). In these retrospective studies, only 10% reported a frequent link. Moreover, people who drink alcohol may not drink as much water, intensifying the water loss. It may also trigger headaches related to headache disorders, such as migraine. A 2016 review notes that alcohol may trigger a tension headache, especially if a person also has migraine.

This may be due to body weight and other biological differences. It may be worth considering some treatment options to help you manage your symptoms. It will be crucial to have access to reliable resources on migraine as you work to manage this disease. The American Migraine Foundation offers extensive resources to help you explore your symptoms and treatment options. This Diagnosis & Treatment page walks you through next steps after a diagnosis.

Additionally, NSAIDs like Aleve and Ibuprofen often cause stomach irritation, and because alcohol already inflames the lining of the stomach, special care must be taken when mixing the two. If not, it can lead to gastritis, stomach ulcers, and GI bleeding. Avoiding alcohol is the best way to treat these conditions sober living houses for addiction recovery and relieve symptoms. The earlier you stop intake, the more likely you are to recover. Fetal alcohol syndrome can occur when a person is exposed to alcohol before birth. Up to 46 percent of people with alcohol-related myopathy showed noticeable reductions in strength compared with people without the condition.

We recommend exploring complementary treatments such as biofeedback, green light therapy and aerobic exercise. Learn how these common therapies can help you manage migraine. Whether you have lived with migraine for a few months or a few decades, you know migraine can first year sober: what to expect in sobriety be a challenging experience. You should continue to seek proper medical attention and access information to help alleviate the burden. We recommend taking a look at our patient guides, which include useful information like how to talk to your doctor about migraine.

Keeping a headache diary might help determine your headache type. Note when your headaches occur, your symptoms, and potential triggers, such as food, stress or changes in sleep. The first step in foiling your frequent headaches is determining what type of headache you have. Sometimes headaches are a symptom of another disease or condition; sometimes there’s no clear cause.

Cervicogenic headache – Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Continuing to talk with your doctor throughout the course of your treatment is important for determining the strategies that prove beneficial and those that may not be as effective. Having a strong network of people who validate your experience and support you on the good days and bad is so valuable when you live with an invisible illness like migraine. If you’re interested in connecting with more people in the migraine community, we recommend joining our Facebook support group, Move Against Migraine.

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