For many years I had a complicated relationship with alcohol and migraine symptoms. For me, I couldn’t have a single drink without migraine attacks proceeding. It was simple as it always induced headaches and so my neurologist and I spoke about how drinking alcohol was likely a migraine trigger for me and that I should try stopping, and reducing my drinking overall. Now, mind you I didn’t drink often before this. I would at most have 10-20 drinks a year, so this wasn’t a hard thing to reduce.
Stopping the consumption of alcoholic beverages did help reduce my migraine attacks and reduced the overall the migraine severity of my symptoms. So, I continued with this for many years. Flash forward to now being 6 years later without alcohol. For the past years, I’ve been working hard to increase my migraine threshold and decrease my migraines.
I’m happy to share my migraines have gotten to a much better place, this is due to many factors but the main one is leaving 9-5 and working my own business. This allows a lot more flexibility and takes the stress of migraine attacks coming on at work completely out of my life. A couple of months ago I began to experiment with alcohol again while keeping my headaches and migraines in mind. Below, I share what helped me have a healthy relationship between alcohol and migraine.
Alcohols effect on migraines
What is the relationship between alcohol and migraine? Well as alcohol is a diuretic it can make you go to the washroom more, and make you dehydrated easier. Not having enough water can be a common migraine trigger for most folks. As well alcohol can boost your histamine levels in your blood which can make your blood vessels expand which can trigger a migraine. Both of these reasons can be why you experience a headache after alcohol. As well, you can experience more pronounced hangover symptoms because of this.
Do different types of alcohol impact the chances of migraine attacks? Well, kind of! It’s individual to each person but on average beer and wine can be two of the most common among those who live with migraines to bring on a migraine. Even at low levels of drinking, you can still experience a headache from alcohol and have alcohol trigger migraine attacks and symptoms.
Reducing Alcohol Consumption
One of the first tips on how to have a healthy relationship with alcohol and migraines is to be comfortable and open to reducing your consumption. Depending on where you are at in your migraine journey can impact your relationship with alcohol.
For myself, when my migraines were rampant and out of control (so to speak) alcohol terrified me, and the idea of consuming alcoholic drinks was terrifying. This was not a healthy relationship; I was just plain scared. Since understanding more of the medical side of my migraines and learning more about the impact of my migraine triggers helped me better understand alcohol wasn’t as worrisome as I once thought it was.
Now, I’ve learned how to increase my migraine threshold which is your vulnerability to migraine, and trying to increase my threshold to reduce migraine attacks. You don’t need to remove alcohol completely from your life with migraine, more likely you need to learn when to reduce your consumption when attacks are more prevalent. It’s all about adjusting to what your body needs but trying to reduce the fear and being open to reducing drinks or eliminating them for a period of time.
Stress and Alcohol
It’s common for some people to reach for a drink when feeling stressed, or anxious. This can be a common remedy for stress that people feel is effective and helps them. Alcohol does change serotonin levels which can make you feel better, temporarily, but when the alcohol wears off the stress and anxiety return and can actually be worse than before.
If you live with migraine or chronic migraine, finding new ways to cope with stress and anxiety that do not include alcoholic beverages is encouraged. Reducing stress can be moving your body, cooking, colouring, meditation, journaling, playing video games, or playing a musical instrument. Helping lower your stress levels and not turning to alcohol to help can help reduce migraine attacks with alcohol and encourage healthy alcohol choices when you want to have a drink.
Helpful tips for alcohol and migraine
You’re feeling ready to have a drink – yay! Here is some advice for helpful ideas on how to drink alcohol and help reduce headache pain and migraines. Be sure to drink lots of water to stay well hydrated while drinking – yes this is a helpful alcohol tip for anyone! Ensuring you stay well hydrated is key to helping reduce the effects of migraine and alcohol. For myself, I ensure to drink lots of water, and once I’m done with my drink to also drink a hydrating sports drink. This helps replenish my body with essentials and helps provide a big boost of hydration that my body needs.
Another tip to help reduce headaches from alcohol is using migraine wands for reducing wine headaches. These migraine wands help remove the histamines that can bring on migraine symptoms while drinking. Use one wand per drink to help!
Lastly, remember to have a good meal and be eating regularly. Lack of eating or irregular meals can contribute to migraines. Making sure you have a good meal in your body before drinking will help your body process the alcohol and will reduce the hangover symptoms and effects of alcohol on migraines.
For migraine sufferers alcohol doesn’t have to be scary – you can learn to have a healthy relationship with alcohol and enjoy that nice glass of red wine without fear of a migraine or headache. This article is not providing medical advice and is simply suggestions and experience sharing from a chronic migraineur. One of the most important things to think about is where are your migraines at – are they well-controlled, out of control, and still learning? Once you’re able to learn and better control triggers and increase your migraine threshold this can help you learn how to enjoy alcohol without the migraine following. Good luck!