Ask anyone the best way to avoid the infamous champagne headache and they’ll simply tell you to lay off the booze, but it turns out there could be a legitimate reason for your brain pain, aside from overdoing the bubbly. In this article, we’re going to be explaining why champagne headaches occur and how to prevent them.
Why Does Champagne Cause Headaches: Top Theories
One thing you might hear people saying why champagne causes headaches is sulfites. Sulfites are not the enemy. They essentially protect your precious alcohol from the outside influences of bacteria and oxygen. Without them, your wine would probably turn to straight vinegar. And while sulfites can cause allergy and asthma symptoms, they do not cause headaches.1
In Champagne's case specifically, some may claim that some grape strains can trigger headaches by themselves. Others will attribute the headache symptoms to the higher-than-normal sugar content of bubbly. While sugar does dehydrate you2 -- which can lead to a headache -- the sugar content present in Champagne is probably not what is making your noggin pound.
So let’s not fool ourselves. The alcohol content in champagne is one of the main culprits of the skull-shattering headaches. When drinking champagne -- or any other type of alcohol -- the hormone that balances your internal hydration is suppressed.3 So, you end up peeing a lot more when drinking this carbonated beverage. This leads to dehydration, which can lead to headaches and nausea in the morning.
Dehydration isn’t the only cause to blame for a wicked hangover headache. High levels of alcohol in the brain have fairly recently been shown to cause neuro-inflammation, basically, inflammation in the brain.4
But if that feeling you experience when your head starts pounding as you’re desperate for a glass of water is all too familiar, then you might be falling victim to champagne’s major culprit – the bubbles.
Blame it on the bubbles
The reason the alcohol in champagne -- as opposed to beer or other wine -- seems to hit harder is primarily due to its high levels of carbonation.
Those sweet little orbs contain carbon dioxide, which increases the pressure in your stomach, forcing alcohol out through the lining of your stomach into the bloodstream. The carbon dioxide also ends up competing with the oxygen in your bloodstream, which can cause some dizziness and feelings of nausea.5
Basically, despite not being as strong as other drinks, champagne will get you intoxicated quicker because of its bubbles, and it strangles off some oxygen flowing to your brain -- so the after-effects are exacerbated when compared to other alcoholic beverages.
Champagne bubbles were an accident in history
Bubbles translate out to celebration and fun. This actually dates back to the coronation of Hugh Capet being crowned King of France in 987 at the cathedral of Reims, located in the heart of the Champagne region. He started a tradition that brought successive monarchs to the region—with the local wine being on prominent display at the coronation banquets. The early wine of the Champagne region was a pale, pinkish wine made from Pinot noir (the bubbles came later).
When the bubbles did come, it was by accident and the winemakers tried to get rid of them. Then someone actually tried to taste it and discovered that they might be on to something. What’s funny is that Dom Perignon is credited with the discovery and with the following quote, “Come quickly, I am tasting the stars!” The fact is that he tried most of his life to get rid of them (the bubbles).
Most of the glamour and lightness that we associate with champagne is because of those dainty little bubbles that fizz in your mouth while you force conversation during parties. But as explained earlier, these carbonated bubbles can translate into monstrous headaches if consumed to excess.
Champagne Headache: Can it be Avoided?
Champagne might sound like more trouble than it’s worth, but you’re not off the hook with other alcoholic beverages either. Wine, beer, and cocktails — as you know by now — can all cause nasty hangover headaches, too. The only way to guarantee no hangover hampers your morning is to skip alcohol entirely.
Whatever you drink, just remember to pace yourself, and use one drink per hour as a rule of thumb. And alternate with glasses of water. Make sure you have a good meal before you start the festivities. Food is very good for the purpose of slowing the absorption of alcohol.
And try to get plenty of sleep. If you’ve been out all night, this might seem like a no-brainer, but only a good night's sleep can help your body recover from the fatigue and irritability associated with hangovers.