Wine and Histamines

Are There Histamines in Wine?

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 test with strawberries. Of course if you've never had strawberries before, it would be a good idea to start with just one in case you are severely allergic, and to have someone nearby. If you know strawberries are "not deadly" for you, eat a reasonable volume of them 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. White wine typically only has 1mg/liter to 5mg/liter. Red wine can spike up at 10 mg/liter. Note that a wine bottle is only 750ml (i.e. 3/4 of a liter) so we're talking about drinking over an entire bottle of wine at one sitting to reach these levels. 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 (about six bottles) of the high-test histamine-loaded white 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 headaches for those who are sensitive to wine. For example, a study done in 1986 fed people beverages deliberately spiked with histamines. They did not cause "wine headaches".

And, even for those with histamine sensitivities, wine is usually at such a mild amount that it won't trigger the sensitivity.

A good test is to eat something with 1mg of histamines. That would be 500g of strawberries. Wait a few days. See how that impacts you. Then try drinking 200ml (about 6oz) of a white wine. Even if it's a higher-test (in terms of histamines) wine that shuld still be around 1mg of histamines. Wait a few days. See what that does. Note that in the intervening days you should eat a low-to-no-histamine diet to make the test valid. If you have equal reactions, it could be the histamines. If you have different reactions, something else is going on.

If you're truly allergic to histamines, then *lots* of foods - including pizza! - are probably triggering you. If you don't seem to be having issues with strawberries, pizzas, or other items, then it's probably not histamines causing the issues with wine.

If you do have doctor's confirmation that your body is sensitive to histamines, I'd start with a glass of white wine. These are naturally lower in histamines. See how those do for you. But, again, it might not be the histamines causing you problems with wine, especially if you're just drinking one glass. It could be alchol or something else.

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

All content on the WineIntro website is personally written by author and wine enthusiast Lisa Shea. WineIntro explores the delicious variety and beautiful history which makes up our world of wine! Lisa loves supporting local wineries and encouraging people to drink whatever they like. We all have different taste buds, and that makes our world wonderful. Always drink responsibly.