With people staying home due to COVID-19, alcohol sales have increased dramatically. Market research from Nielsen claimed that alcohol sales were up 243% since the pandemic began. One in three people claimed to drink more in isolation. Another study found that women are drinking even more since the pandemic hit, but it’s strongly linked with their mental health. 

Although drinking might help some cope with these stressful times, it can cause an array of health problems, including headaches. 

Headaches are a common illness partly because they can be caused by so many conditions that people often end up blaming the wrong thing for their headaches. Take wine, for example. People often blame sulfites for their headaches, especially from red wine, but it’s likely that these aren’t the problem at all.

The Sulfite Deception


Part of the problem comes from the fact that everyone sees the warning on the label: contains sulfites. This label was added at the behest of Senator Strom Thurmond, who was strongly opposed to drinking. This causes people to think that there must be a reason why that warning is there, and so they blame any headache or other ill effects suffered after drinking wine on the sulfites themselves.

But Strom Thurmond didn’t invent the notion that sulfites can cause headaches, which likely originates with the sense that food triggers were the most common causes of migraines, which we have since realized is not true. Food triggers have a much lesser role in migraines than previously believed.

But if it’s not the sulfites, what is responsible for the headaches after drinking wine? Like it or not, it’s the alcohol. Alcohol causes dehydration because your body uses water to process alcohol and excrete the products. And dehydration leads to headaches. The headache may also be due to the toxic byproduct of alcohol, acetaldehyde. Alcohol also causes blood vessels to expand, which can put pressure on the brain, one of the mechanisms blamed for migraine headaches.

But what if you only get headaches from red wine, and not white? Surely it’s sulfites, then? Nope. White wines contain more sulfites than red. Instead, your body may be reacting to tannins, the dark-colored molecules that also stain your teeth. Red wine also contains tyramine, a known migraine trigger that can also lead to headaches.

So if you get a headache after consuming tasty wines at the Island Winery, it’s not the sulfites. It’s more likely that you just had too much because it was so good.

What’s Really Causing Your Headaches?

Wine Migraines

As with wine headaches, there are many common headaches that people misinterpret. During today’s day and age, you might wonder if your headaches are side effects to drinking too much wine or a symptom of COVID-19. It could also be something else. For example, if you get headaches after working out, it may be dehydration, or an actual exertion headache, but it’s also possible that your headache is due to TMJ.

In TMJ, your jaw muscles are being overworked because of an imbalance in the jaw configuration. They demand more assistance from neighboring muscles in the head and neck, which leads to increased tension that can cause tension headaches.

When you work out, your jaw closes to help stabilize your core, leading to increased tension and headaches.

This is just one of the many ways that TMJ can cause headaches. If you’re not drinking excessive amounts of alcohol right now and have any headache that you can’t seem to explain or treat, we may be able to help. To learn more, please call (843) 706-2999 for an appointment with a Hilton Head TMJ dentist at Beyond Exceptional Dentistry.