Wine and Histamines

It's common for wine drinkers who get flushed while drinking wine to blame it on the histamines in the wine. Just what are histmines, and can they cause issues for wine drinkers?

Histamines are normal biological substances that are found in fish, chocolate, cheese, eggplant, spinach, tomatoes, and any fermented substance such as wine. For example, some people who are severely allergic to histamines have to go to a hospital when they get stung by a bee. Strawberries are high in histamines. People who are sensitive to histamines often have reactions 2 or 3 days later, because of the way the body metabolizes histamines, but others react immediately.

A good way to test out your histamine sensitivity is to eat a lot of strawberries. Of course if you've *never* had strawberries before, maybe start with just one in case you are severely allergic :) If you know strawberries are "not deadly" for you, eat a bunch and then watch your reactions for a few days. Do you get dizzy? Have panic attacks? Have a rash or trouble breathing? If you do, be sure to talk with a doctor immediately. Wine is going to be the least of your worries here.

Cabernet Sauvignon Grapes Red wine tends to have more histamines in it than white wine does. This is because white wine is made without skin contact, while red wines sit with the skins for a while to get their red color.

Compared to most foods that have histamines, wine actually has low levels of histamine - typically only 1mg/liter to 5mg/liter. Generally the human body only reacts when there is 20mg or higher brought into the system - i.e. you'd have to drink 5 liters of the high-test histamine-loaded wine to get that. Of course there are always going to be people super-sensitive to histamines, just as some people get a reaction merely by smelling peanuts.

Most research points to something other than histamines causing problems with people and wine. For example, a study done in 1986 fed people beverages deliberately spiked with histamines. They did not cause "wine headaches". Still, it's a good idea to eliminate issues one by one. Check to see if you're allergic to histamines. If you are, then *lots* of foods - including pizza! - are probably triggering you. If you are not, then move on through the other issues.

If you feel you have a sensitivity to wine, it might be good for you to read up on -

Cogeners and wine - Cheap Wine Headaches
European Wines Cause Fewer Headaches?
Sulfites and wine
Tannins and wine

Caveat: I am not a doctor ... for detailed answers about how wine will affect you personally given your medical condition and lifestyle, contact your family physician

Wine Glossary Main Listing
H Glossary Words