Wednesday, February 19, 2014

sulfites....what's the deal?

There are some things that don't add up with the whole "sulfite headache" issue.  Based on my own experience:

1.  I get a headache faster if not hydrated and it happens within an hour or so
2.  I'm more likely to get a headache if I've had a baby within the year (liver enzymes diminished/thrown off from pregnancy? breastfeeding causing more dehydration?  Not sure) 
3.  I don't normally get a head ache from champagne, beer or mixed drinks (unless dehydrated...)
4.  Some wines (and sake) don't cause a headache so much as make me feel flushed and "puffy," for lack if better word.  My face feels ever so slightly swollen, which points to histamine reaction?  Again, not sure.
5.  I have had stronger headaches after cheap wine provided at events for free that show up several hours later.  Normally the wine is paired with mass produced food for many guests as well.
6.  I don't get headaches from organic wines usually...but they still naturally contain sulfites (so how can sulfites be the cause?).
7.  I didn't get headaches when we had ample amounts of wine in Italy (and Italian wines have natural sulfites even if not added sulfites)

I've talked to other people with the same problem...they suggested allergy medication a half hour before enjoying wine to fix the problem.  I'm not much of a pill popper though and don't want to get accustomed to doing that.  And why no headaches in Italy when I drank more wine than normal?  Why more headaches after I eat out and not as many at home?  A wine experience is complex...if I have a cheap red with a cocktail of stabilizers and histamines, combined with sodium laden, mass produced chicken, combined with the adrenaline rush of being in a group setting... throw in dry air of winter months and breastfeeding- I'll probably get a headache.  But in the cross winds of sea air in  Italy, eating fresh fish and lots of bubbly water, not to mention walking all day in fresh air touring around.  And do you buy cheap wine on vacation?  No, you celebrate with the nice stuff and don't rush the meal (no inflating babysitter bill lingering).  And speaking of babies...Willem was nearly two years old when we went on our trip, not a baby anymore.  No headaches.

So on a day to day basis, instead of blaming sulfites for my ills, I'll be conscious of how my day is playing out (how my year is playing out) and if I'll enjoy (or not) a glass of red with dinner.  I'll be trying to drink a glass of water for every half glass of wine.  And I'll be sure to eat some good food with it as well.  In a big group setting, I'm more likely to have hot tea instead of a mystery wine even if it's free.  And if I think I'm getting can take the wine glass off the table for me.  Broth-y soup please. :)


J and A said...

You are hilarious. Have you noticed it with anything else, besides wine? Joel seems to react (congestion) to dried fruits if I am not careful to get them free of sulfur dioxide. And I believe that sulfite compound is at higher levels then what is found in wine. I could be mistaken though.

L, Ann and boys said...

indeed, dried apricots are very high in sulfites normally. I eat dried figs with sulfur dioxide added (I think that's the same as sulfite) and I don't notice anything. I only eat one or two at a time maybe I wouldn't know the difference. And wine is sulfites and alcohol together which is a two hand punch of sorts... :) bound and determined to avoid dumb head aches though. I normally don't get when I do, I'm really annoyed about it. ;)

Mindy said...

Could it be a carb issue? When I have too many carbs I get a headache...and there are a lot of carbs in wine! So possibly if you ate heavy on carbs a day that you had wine, maybe the combination made for too many carbs for your body to process, resulting in a headache.

My body really reacts to carbs these days. If I have any sort of mixed drink or wine I can almost guarantee a headache by the time I finish the cocktail.

L, Ann and boys said...

interesting.... I've never heard of that. I can eat nearly half a baguette with dipping oil and not get a how many carbs are we talking? I eat a lot of pasta too, but it's usually not typical grains like wheat or corn (but rather: quinoa, rice, chickpeas). Would that make a difference?

Mindy said...

I'm not for sure. But I developed an intolerance to carbs. I noticed that I got a headache every time I had an alcoholic drink, so I went to my holistic doc and asked him about it. He said my body was having a hard time processing carbs and thus making me get headaches. I went off carbs strictly for 1-2 months and then slowly started reintroducing them. Now I can eat a small portion of carbs but still drinks put me over the edge and give me a headache.

I wonder if you are eating carbs during the day plus a drink, if that is just carb overload for your body? I was never given an amount of carbs I could eat or an amount that would put me over the edge to getting a headache.

emilykate said...

Interesting. I always assume my headaches are from dehydration, hormones, or sinus issues. Though I will say that I don't ever notice headaches from mixed drinks or beer but I do notice from wine. Esp cheap wine. (Hello three buck chuck)

Anonymous said...

I just read recently that many headaches are a result of msg that is added to foods, which may explain why you get them more frequently after eating out versus eating at home. And just fyi: msg can be hidden on labels under the names artificial flavoring, yeast extract, etc. etc. Kinda scary. . .
~Sherice R.

L, Ann and boys said...

Thanks Sherice :) I definitely try to avoid msg...but I don't know all the names for it. And that would explain why eating out is different than at home sometimes.

L, Ann and boys said...

Emily- ya, the patterns started to emerge after a while for me. But it's not always cut and dry because we don't live in fixed environments...makes it tricky to know what's causing what. when in doubt...I order good champagne. Luke just loves that about me. haha ;)