As it turns out, that headache some have been blaming on the sulfites found in wine is probably just a reaction to, well, alcohol. According to the Wall Street Journal, sulfites started getting a bad rap when in 1988 Senator Storm Thurmond made sure every bottle of wine in the US has the words “Contains Sulfites” on the label–as a part of the Anti-Drug Abuse Act that stemmed from the War on Drugs.
Some sulfites happen to be present in all wine, as they are a by-product of the fermentation process. However, over the years, this labeling has lead to many misunderstandings between headaches from drinking one too many glasses and possible real allergic reactions that happen after consuming sulfites.
In fact, David Lang, M.D. of the Department of Allergy and Clinical Immunology of the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio says that only less than one percent of the US population actually have a true sensitivity to sulfites. That sensitivity usually involves reactions like shortness of breath and wheezing found with people who are chronic asthmatics, not a headache that makes you sensitive to light and loud noises the next morning.
Those who find themselves to be non-asthmatics but still have a sensitivity to drinking wine could possibly be reacting to proteins or histamines. In the case of red wine especially, tannins could also be to blame. But mostly, as Kareem Massoud of Paumanok Vineyards explained to the Wall Street Journal, our first guess over what’s causing wine headaches should probably just be the alcohol itself. [Wall Street Journal][Photo: Flickr/Derek Gavey]