Alcohol is another powerful vasodilator capable of triggering both migraine and cluster headaches. In people not susceptible to either of these types, it can set off a less severe, but still painful, hangover headache.
Alcoholic beverages which contain esters, aldehydes and phenolic flavonoids, such as red wines, are ranked among those most likely to provoke a headache. If you must drink, vodka is least likely to provoke a headache, followed by white wines, brandy and gin. Another way to prevent an alcohol-induced headache is to eat before drinking and to continue to eat and snack along with your drinks.
When consumed, all forms of alcohol are carried in the bloodstream to the liver where they are broken down into carbon dioxide, fatty acids and carbohydrate. The carbon dioxide sets off vasodilation in arteries inside the skull. This can trigger a cluster or migraine headache in susceptible people. For instance, a recent British study found that red wines precipitated migraines in 9 of 11 patients who suspected they were sensitive to alcohol.
Yet for most of us, overindulgence in alcohol is more likely to provoke a typical hangover headache, a pulsating, vascular type of head pain often accompanied by nausea. It can begin as early as one hour after drinking begins. Some people get hangover headaches after only one or two drinks. Others must indulge in several drinks before provoking a hangover headache. Often, the headache appears on waking up the morning after. Not surprisingly, hangover headaches are most common on Sunday mornings.
Several home remedies will help to relieve hangover headaches. Coffee will constrict dilated arteries and help to ease the headache pain.
But the very best remedy is a bowl of strong broth. Failing this, drink a glass of fruit or tomato juice in which you have dissolved a tablespoon of honey.