migraines and alcohol

Decoding the Migraine Trigger

Migraines are debilitating headaches characterized by intense pain. Alcohol can often trigger migraines and make them worse. Understanding the link between migraine and alcohol can help sufferers manage their symptoms and make informed decisions about their consumption habits. To help your migraines, consider Ubrelvy, a prescription medication used for the acute treatment of migraine attacks with or without aura in adults. There are other treatment options available, which will be discussed in this article.

Worst Effects of Alcohol

  • Liver damage (e.g., cirrhosis, hepatitis).
  • Heart problems (e.g., cardiomyopathy, arrhythmias).
  • Brain damage (e.g., cognitive impairments, memory loss).
  • Digestive issues (e.g., gastritis, pancreatitis).
  • Immune system suppression.
  • Mental health disorders (e.g., depression, anxiety).
  • Increased cancer risk (e.g., liver, breast, throat cancers).
  • Damage to the nervous system.
  • Increased risk of accidents and injuries.
  • Alcohol poisoning.

How Alcohol Triggers Migraines

  • Vasodilation: Alcohol can cause blood vessels to widen (vasodilation), which can trigger migraines. This process increases blood flow and can lead to changes in pressure within the brain, potentially initiating a migraine attack.
  • Dehydration: Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it increases urine production and can lead to dehydration. Dehydration is a known trigger for migraines, as it can cause changes in blood volume and electrolyte imbalances, contributing to headache onset.
  • Histamine release: Alcohol contains histamines, chemicals that can provoke allergic reactions and inflammation. For some people, histamines can trigger migraines by causing inflammation and stimulating nerve pathways associated with headache pain.
  • Tyramine and phenylethylamine: These are compounds found in certain alcoholic beverages, such as red wine. They can affect blood vessel behavior and neurotransmitter activity, leading to migraine attacks in sensitive individuals.
  • Congeners: These are byproducts of fermentation and distillation found in higher concentrations in dark liquors, red wine and beer. Congeners can contribute to the severity of hangovers and migraines by increasing the body's inflammatory response.

Types of Alcohol Most Likely to Trigger Migraines

  • Red wine: Often reported as a significant migraine trigger, red wine contains high levels of histamines and tannins, which can provoke migraines.
  • Beer: Contains both alcohol and various fermentation byproducts that can act as triggers.
  • Champagne and sparkling wines: The carbonation and combination of alcohol and sugar can make these beverages particularly potent triggers.
  • Dark spirits: Liquors such as whiskey, bourbon and brandy have higher levels of congeners, which can increase the likelihood of migraines.
  • White wine and clear spirits: Though generally considered less likely to trigger migraines compared to red wine and dark spirits, they can still be problematic for some individuals.

Managing Alcohol-Induced Migraines

  • Moderation: Limiting alcohol intake can reduce the risk of triggering a migraine. Knowing your limits and drinking in moderation can help manage potential triggers.
  • Hydration: Staying well-hydrated before, during and after consuming alcohol can help mitigate the dehydrating effects and reduce the likelihood of a migraine.
  • Trigger tracking: Keeping a headache diary to track which types of alcohol and quantities trigger migraines can help in identifying patterns and avoiding specific triggers.
  • Healthy habits: Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including regular sleep, a balanced diet and stress management, can help reduce the frequency and severity of migraines.
  • Choosing the right beverage: Opting for beverages with fewer congeners, such as clear spirits and avoiding known triggers like red wine can make a difference.
  • Ubrelvy: Ubrelvy (ubrogepant) is a prescription medication used for the acute treatment of migraine attacks with or without aura in adults. It belongs to a class of drugs known as CGRP receptor antagonists, which work by blocking the action of calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP), a protein that is believed to play a key role in the occurrence of migraines. Unlike some migraine medications that are used for prevention, Ubrelvy is specifically designed to treat migraines once they have started. It is taken orally and can help to alleviate migraine pain and other associated symptoms such as nausea, sensitivity to light (photophobia), and sensitivity to sound (phonophobia).

When to Seek Help

If migraines persist despite managing alcohol intake, or if they significantly impact your quality of life, it's essential to seek medical advice. A healthcare provider can offer strategies for managing migraines, prescribe medications to prevent or treat them and provide guidance tailored to your specific needs.

From Sip to Split

The relationship between alcohol and migraines is complex and varies from person to person. For many migraine sufferers, understanding and managing alcohol consumption is a crucial step in reducing the frequency and severity of their headaches. By staying informed about potential triggers and adopting healthy habits, individuals can better control their migraines and improve their overall well-being.