Cocktail Headache: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Some drinks can contain up to 36 grams of sugar for a 20-ounce serving. A 2014 study from the Center for Weight and Health at UC Berkeley found that fitness drinks like Gatorade were better for quick hydration after intense exercise. So they may get you hydrated faster than regular water after a night of drinking. Vitamin B6 is an essential nutrient that’s found in all sorts of common foods, such as poultry, potatoes, and fruit.

This article will explore the relationship between alcohol and headache and consider why some people develop an alcohol headache after one drink. 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. And for about one-third of people who have migraines, alcohol is also a trigger.

Alcohol as a Migraine Trigger

If you do notice a pattern, especially with particular types of alcohol over others, you may choose to avoid the offending drinks. Alcohol is identified as an occasional trigger in about a third of people who experience migraine headaches, but it’s only a consistent trigger in about 10 percent of migraine sufferers. 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.

alcohol and headaches

In fact, your genes alone account for nearly half of the variables that contribute to how your body reacts to alcohol. Preventing dehydration means your hangover symptoms will be much less severe, if you have any at all. Have 1 cup or a 16-ounce bottle of water for every 12-ounce beer or 4- to 6-ounce cocktail you drink.

Alcohol-Induced Migraine vs. Delayed Alcohol-Induced Headache

Some people only sip a glass or two of wine before their head starts to throb. You must avoid narcotic-containing painkillers or any ingredient containing acetaminophen, most commonly known as Tylenol. 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. Drinking alcohol can result in several different types of headaches with unique characteristics. To answer this, first, you must establish what point of withdrawal you are in. Are you in the acute withdrawal phase, or are you experiencing headaches as a result of Post-Acute Withdrawal?

Even a modest amount of alcohol can cause people with migraine to develop a delayed headache or trigger an attack. This is especially true for people prone to headaches or migraine without alcohol. In a recent study of college students, participants on average experienced five of 13 symptoms, with headache, extreme thirst and dehydration, and fatigue being the most common. A family history of alcohol abuse made the study participants more vulnerable to the most severe effects.

Migraine Headaches

Therefore, the release of 5-HT possibly from central stores could represent a plausible mechanism for wine induced headache. Your body metabolizes a typical serving of alcohol (about 16 fluid ounces) in the course of an hour or so. Because alcohol’s a diuretic — it causes your body to increase how much urine it produces. This makes you lose fluids and electrolytes at a faster rate, so you’ll get dehydrated much more quickly. And if you end up vomiting from having too much alcohol, you’ll lose even more fluids. Combined with alcohol, NSAIDs can increase your risk of stomach bleeding.

alcohol and headaches

Vasodilation can stimulate certain brain nerves and result in pain. Alcohol also affects chemicals and hormones in your brain, such as histamine and serotonin, which contribute to the development of a headache. Take a 200- to 300-milligram (mg) NAC supplement at least half an hour before you start drinking. This could reduce the impact of acetaldehyde on your liver and make your hangover symptoms much less severe. Most people are well aware of the presence of headache, malaise, diarrhea, loss of appetite, tiredness, nausea and sensitivity to light, sound and motion the day after binge drinking. What may be less well recognized is that manual dexterity, memory, reaction time, visual-spatial skills and attention are all adversely affected, even when your alcohol level has fallen back down to 0.

The Headache Doctor’s Tips for Drinking Alcohol Without Pain

Headache ranked 3rd in women and 11th in men among the poor physical conditions asked in the questionnaire. According to Aurora, however, alcohol consumption isn’t just a question of what’s considered a safe amount. It also depends on whether or not you’re likely to develop headaches. “Some patients with migraine are particularly susceptible to dehydration,” she says. As you drink alcohol, your stomach absorbs about 20 percent of this ethanol while your small intestine absorbs the rest. From the small intestine, ethanol travels into the bloodstream and throughout your body, including your brain.

In fact, many headache sufferers abstain from alcohol or consume less than the general population. Studies also show that alcohol abuse disorders are less common among people who experience headaches, indicating that a predisposition to alcohol-induced headaches may offer individuals some degree of protection from alcohol overuse. While anyone can experience DAIH, people with migraine are more susceptible.

Just like food triggers, alcohol headache triggers are individual, varying from person to person. Tracking your own patterns may allow you to enjoy the party after all. This includes being careful about the amount of alcohol you consume and paying attention to how and when your migraine symptoms flare up in relation to drinking. For example, drinking even a small amount of alcohol decreases sleep quality.

Congeners tend to aggravate brain tissue and blood vessels, which contributes to headaches. Clear liquors, like white rum, vodka, and gin, have significantly fewer congeners and may cause fewer headache symptoms. Although, as we’ll discuss below, there are other factors that can lead to headaches no matter what form of alcohol you consume. Even the smallest amount of alcohol can trigger a cluster headache attack for people prone to these kinds of headaches. A phenomenon called glutamate rebound is an additional contributor. Glutamate is one of our body’s main excitatory chemicals, meaning it makes neurons more likely to fire (and thus increases activity at different locales inside the brain).

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