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Alcohol & Migraines: Can Drinking Cause a Migraine Headache?

If drinking alcohol appears to be a potent headache trigger for you, then, by all means, abstain from it. But if a cocktail with friends once in a while or a glass of wine with your dinner on Saturday night does not seem to trigger a bad headache, then it’s probably OK. Talk to your doctor about any concerns and about whether it is safe to drink alcohol with any medications you are taking. Migraine causes a specific type of headache that involves neurological symptoms such as light sensitivity and aura.

can alcohol cause migraines

People who cannot stop drinking should talk with a doctor about treatment for alcohol use disorder, which is a serious but treatable condition. As you work with your doctor on next steps, it will be important to maintain access to reliable resources on migraine. We recommend a look at our patient guides, which include useful information including how to talk to your doctor about migraine. 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.

Alcohol as a migraine trigger

They found limited importance of nutrition, including alcohol intake, in the triggering of migraine. Headaches and migraines are both types of painful sensations in the head, but they have distinct characteristics and underlying causes. From a physiological perspective, migraines are believed to involve abnormal brain activity, while headaches can have various triggers, such as dehydration or tension. Migraines often present with additional symptoms beyond head pain, such as nausea, sensitivity to light and sound, and visual disturbances.

can alcohol cause migraines

Keep reading to learn more about the connection between migraine and headache. Consider joining our Move Against Migraine support group on Facebook so you can connect with others who live with migraine. Whether you have lived with migraine for a few months or a few decades, you know migraine can be a challenging experience. You should continue to seek proper medical attention and access information to help alleviate the burden. Consider these complementary and integrative treatments, and search our Resources Library for more.

How to Treat Alcohol-Induced Headaches and Migraines

In fact, drinking alcohol to calm yourself down can elevate your risk of triggering a migraine attack or an alcohol-induced headache. Exercise, laughter, or meditation might be better ways to blow off steam. Some studies report that alcohol provokes headache within 30 min to 3 h; principally the red wine [9–11]. Others consider an evaluation period of 6 [12] or 24 h [13], while some affirm that headaches appear frequently the next morning/day [10, 14]. However, despite the original paper of Hanington [3] and the vigorous literature that follows, serious doubts exist as to whether the condition really exists as a clinical entity. Vasodilation may trigger migraine attacks in certain individuals.

If alcohol is a confirmed trigger for your migraine, then avoiding alcohol is the best solution. If you’re unsure whether alcohol is triggering your migraine, keep a detailed migraine journal that includes any foods and alcohol consumed throughout the week. This will be a valuable resource for you and your doctor to start identifying more specific migraine triggers. Some alcohols, like red wine, tend to trigger migraine headaches more often than others. Research supports anecdotal evidence that alcohol appears to trigger headaches for some people. In one meta-analysis, red wine was the most frequently reported culprit, followed by spirits, white wine, and beer or sparkling wine.

Treatments for Migraine

On the other hand, headaches typically do not involve these accompanying symptoms and are generally milder in intensity. According to the American Migraine Foundation, all alcoholic drinks can provoke either an immediate or delayed headache. But red wine has an especially bad rap as a headache trigger (even when compared to other alcoholic bevvies). There are also several foods that are commonly reported as migraine triggers.

But those who get an occasional red wine headache can take some steps to mitigate them, experts say. In a 2019 study, researchers showed that quitting alcohol had a positive effect on most people’s mental well-being. Completely avoiding alcohol and eating a balanced diet can help minimize damage. Your chances for recovery depend on how early the disease is diagnosed and how much damage has already occurred.

Can Alcohol Trigger Migraine Headaches?

Possibly millions — many millions — of people suffer from these headaches, said Morris Levin, a neurology professor and the director of the Headache Center at the University of California at San Francisco. Fetal alcohol can alcohol cause migraines 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.

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