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Alcohol and Headaches: Why Does Alcohol Cause Migraines?

Alcohol and Headaches: Why Does Alcohol Cause Migraines?

It is traditionally believed that drinking alcohol in a safe amount for health has many benefits. However, even small doses of alcohol can trigger a migraine attack. Migraine is a chronic neurological disease, the nature of which is not fully understood. During aggravations, an intolerable headache develops, individuals try to avoid bright light and loud sounds and not move. Primary headaches, which include migraines, are among the top ten causes of inability to work in young people worldwide.


To understand how alcohol and headache relate, you first need to understand how alcohol acts in the human body. Entering the body, it contributes to a pathological adhesion of red blood cells, which are responsible for oxygen transportation. The resulting blood clots clog the blood vessels, making it difficult for oxygen to enter the brain cells. This leads to the death of brain neurons.

The body must get rid of dead neurons. For this, increased pressure is created by an increase in fluid. The consequence of this is a pressing headache and thirst. The more cells in the brain were killed, the more excruciating the headache. Under the influence of ethyl alcohol, the liver stops breaking down glucose. This also affects the brain because its work requires energy, which is provided by glucose. As a result of the oxidation of ethanol in the human body, the carcinogen acetaldehyde is produced. There is so much of it that the body is poisoned.

Alcohol and Headaches: Why Does Alcohol Cause Migraines?

Causes of headache after drinking alcohol

There are two groups of factors that influence the onset of headaches and migraines: endogenous and exogenous.

Endogenous factors include factors associated with the characteristics of the body that prevent the breakdown of alcohol and elimination of toxins:

  • increased blood pressure
  • liver diseases that slow down the process of removing the decay products of ethanol from the body
  • not enough sleep
  • lack of fluid in the body.

Exogenous factors include external causes, among which are:

  • mixing different types of alcoholic beverages in one go
  • excessive drinking
  • drinking low quality alcoholic beverages.

In addition, a bad mood before drinking caused by a stress or an event that made you nervous can lead to headaches no matter which alcoholic beverage you choose. Most often, a headache is a result of several reasons, so the approach to eliminating the problem should be comprehensive, there is no “magic” pill for treating this condition.

Alcohol and Headaches: Why Does Alcohol Cause Migraines?

Dehydration and migraine

When it enters the digestive system, alcohol is broken down by its enzymes into separate components, some of which are toxins. Together with the blood, they circulate through the body, causing intoxication. Actually, similar sensations – weakness, nausea, migraine are felt after food or chemical poisoning. The best assistant in getting rid of these symptoms is plain clean water.

Of course, a mug of beer cannot be compared with a glass of cognac in terms of its impact. Therefore, if we use a certain averaged unit, for example, a glass of wine, then to prevent headaches, you need to take a similar volume of liquid. In the case of strong drinks, it must be doubled. Thus, drinking enough water will help eliminate the headache after drinking. It will accelerate the elimination of toxins through the urinary system and increase blood volume, thus reducing the concentration of toxins. But water is a preventative measure. If you already have a headache after drinking, then it will not relieve headaches. Better to replace it with citrus juice or fermented milk product.

Headache after drinking and an empty stomach

Usually, alcohol is an attribute of the evening and many simply do not have time to eat before the party. Hunger is stressful for the body, even if there are strategic reserves in the form of body fat. In such a state, self-control drops sharply, and instead of the planned couple of glasses, you may not notice how you progress to bottles. Then, the answer to the question: “Why do I have an instant headache when drinking alcohol?” becomes obvious.

A balanced meal will help to avoid unpleasant symptoms. It will provide the right supply of energy to eliminate toxins. This will make you feel good the next morning after an event or a get-together. Naturally, the food should be healthy and not junk food, nuts, or snacks.

Energizing drinks

In an effort to get rid of the dull alcohol headache, some drink strong coffee, believing that it will help to feel better and quickly recover. However, it is not worth conducting such experiments on yourself: you can easily end up in an emergency room of the nearest hospital with a heart attack. The fact is that alcohol dilates blood vessels, and coffee narrows them. The opposite effect of these drinks can provoke arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) or even a stroke.

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