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Evidence based

Why Are Wine Hangovers So Bad? And How To Get Rid Of It

Afterdrink Author Dewey Jhon
Dewey Jhon

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Evidence based

Wine hangovers are arguably the worst kind. If you’ve been unfortunate enough to experience one, you’ll know exactly how bad they can get.

Have you ever wondered why wine hangovers are particularly bad?

In this article, we’re going to look at all the reasons why wine causes the worst hangovers and everything you can do to get rid of it.

Table of contents

Why are wine hangovers bad?

Hangovers are bad in general, but wine hangovers have a reputation for being especially hard to deal with.

But what exactly makes them so bad?

Well, the research suggests that it’s because of congeners. These are compounds produced as by-products when wine is made. More specifically, they are formed during the fermentation and aging process.

Congeners in methanol, esters, tannins, fusel oils, histamine, and more. And although some of them are responsible for the rich taste and aroma you get from wine, they are also known to make hangovers a lot worse.(1)

Generally speaking, darker-colored wines contain the highest concentration of congeners.

Here is a summary of the main troublemaking congeners in wine:

Tannins

Responsible for the dry and bitter taste of wine and has been shown to be a trigger for wine headaches.

Histamine

Histamine is an organic compound with several physiological functions. For example, It’s an inflammatory mediator and responsible for the dilation of blood vessels and hives that develop in allergic reactions.(2)

Flavonoids and polyphenols: 

These organic compounds have antioxidant properties, but they also lead to a buildup of phenols. Phenols are charged particles and react with other molecules which can lead to cellular inflammation.

Sulfites

sulfites are added to some wine to work as a preservative. Some people have sulfite intolerance and allergies.(2)

Why does wine cause bad hangover headaches?

If congeners weren’t enough, headaches after drinking wine can be especially bad. In particular, there’s a strong relationship between migraines and wine. And there’s a good amount of research-backed science which explains why:

Serotonin release (5-HT)

Red wine is a powerful releaser of serotonin from platelets. This is thought to be one of the reasons why wine headaches are so bad because serotonin regulates the sensitivity of pain receptors and blood flow to the brain.(3)

Dilation of blood vessels

Aside from serotonin, the dilation of blood vessels in the brain is also another commonly accepted theory for the cause of migraines.

As mentioned before, the release of histamine after drinking wine dilates blood vessels. Therefore, in addition to the release of serotonin, histamine is thought to play an important role in the relationship between wine and headaches.

Overall, red wine is a much more troublesome cause of headache compared to white wine because it naturally contains more histamine and stimulates the release of more serotonin.

How long does a wine hangover last?

This is entirely dependent on your personal circumstances and your reaction to drinking wine.

There are several factors that contribute to how long a hangover lasts, but generally speaking, the amount you drink is the most crucial.

Most general hangover symptoms such as nausea, lack of energy, and muscle aches shouldn’t last more than 24 hours.

When it comes to migraines caused by drinking wine, things are a little different. Firstly, even a small amount of wine can trigger a migraine. Also, migraines can last for anywhere between 3 to 5 days.

Which wine gives the least hangover?

As you’ve probably guessed through this article, all of the evidence points to red wine being the worst when it comes to hangovers.

It contains the highest concentration of congeners and has the most potent hangover-provoking compounds. This is especially the case when it comes to triggering migraines.

Lighter-colored wines such as rose and white wine naturally contain fewer congeners. However, if you drink enough of any time of wine, regardless of which type, you’ll wake up with a bad hangover.

congeners in wine

Does using a wine filter reduce hangovers?

Wine filters usually remove sulfites and sediment. Some people have reactions to sulfite and in this specific case, it may be helpful.

However, when it comes to reducing hangover symptoms, wine filters are very unlikely to make a difference. That’s because a filter is not able to remove all the other congeners.

But it’s important for us to emphasize that the main cause of a hangover is too much alcohol! Sulfites and congeners are just additional things in wine that can make symptoms worse.

How to get rid of a wine hangover

When it comes to wine hangovers, prevention is always key. But if it’s too late for that and you’ve woken up with a hangover, there are a few things you can do to improve how you feel:

1) Proper hydration


Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it makes your kidneys produce more urine. In fact, every gram of alcohol makes you pee an extra 10mls. A glass of wine contains around 14 grams of alcohol. Therefore, every glass of wine makes you lose approximately 140ml of water.(4)(5)

A great way to rehydrate fast is with rehydration mixes. These contain a specific ratio of eletorytes and sugar which facilitate rapid hydration.

2) Painkillers

Over the counter painkillers like acetaminophen (paracetamol), aspirin, Ibuprofen, and low dose codeine are all potential options. These drugs all come with a long list of side effects and have the potential to interact with other medications. It’s best to ask your pharmacist for advice before taking medications.

3) Sleep

By far your best way to get rid of a wine hangover is sleep and rest. Of course, this is only possible If you’re lucky enough to have the day off from work or able to hand over family responsibilities to a partner.

4) Ginger

Ginger is a natural anti-sickness remedy. It’s recommended by doctors for relief from morning sickness in pregnant women and it’s been shown in studies to work.(6)

Sipping on ginger tea is a great option if you like the taste!

Things to avoid

Now that we’ve covered some simple wine hangover remedies, next up we’ll go over things you’ll probably want to avoid.

Coffee

Many people reach for a cup of coffee as their first drink in the hope it’ll cure their wine hangover. Unfortunately, coffee could do more harm than good.

Firstly, it’s a diuretic like alcohol. You’ll already be dehydrated and coffee will exacerbate this.

Secondly, it’s a stimulant which means it’ll increase your heart rate and exacerbate shakes.

Although caffeine will make you more alert and temporarily boost energy levels, there are pros and cons to consider.

Exercise

Ever heard of “sweating it out” as a wine hangover cure tactic? Well, it doesn’t work. By the time you’ve woken up with a hangover there’s nothing left to “sweat out”. Unfortunately, there’s no scientific basis for sweating out “toxins”.

More alcohol

Drinking more alcohol when hungover (AKA hair of the dog) might make you feel better in the short term. But it only delays the inevitable hangover which will come back with a vengeance.

Hard to digest food

Alcohol is a toxin that irritates your stomach lining. In addition, alcohol can increase stomach acid production and slow down gut motility.(7)

As a result, hard-to-digest food may not sit so well in the morning. These include foods such as meat (particularly red meat), salad, citrus fruits, and vegetables.

Sticking to carbohydrates like boiled potatoes or plain pasta may be a better choice.

How to prevent a wine hangover

Stick to lighter colored wine

We’ve mentioned congeners a few times in this article. Red wine is particularly heavy when it comes to congeners and lighter colored wine such as rose and white wine naturally contain a lot less.

Slow down and limit intake

Ultimately, the severity of your wine hangover is directly proportional to how much wine you’ve had to drink. So the best prevention tip is to drink less.

In addition, increasing the amount of time between each glass of wine can have a big impact. The reason is, slowing down will give your liver more time to process and eliminate the harmful by-products of alcohol metabolism.

Water

Drinking water between every glass of wine is a great way to rehydrate. You could also consider using rehydration mixes before you go to bed so that you mitigate some of the dehydration caused by alcohol.

Eat before you go out

Having a meal before or while drinking slows down alcohol absorption from your gut. Rapid peaks and troughs in blood alcohol concentrations wreak havoc on your insides which is what happens when drinking on an empty stomach.

Wine hangovers – Final words

That brings us to the end of our look into why wine hangovers are so bad.

We’ve walked you through the avialble science and research, as well as tips on how to prevent and get rid of a wine hangover.

Sticking to the basics by keeping well hydrated, having a meal before going out, and reducing your wine intake is key to preventing the worst hangovers.

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