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Do you love wine? Does it love you?

Americans love wine. They love it so much that wine consumption has nearly doubled in the U.S. in the past 25 years.

A glass of wine is viewed by many to be the perfect accompaniment to a special meal. However, many people have experienced unwelcome symptoms from the histamines found in many wines.

Researcher Dr. David Meadows has provided some valuable insight on this topic.

Meadows explained that histamine is "one compound in a broad class of biogenic amines that trigger allergic reactions and seasonal allergy symptoms." Common symptoms for those sensitive when ingesting histamines can include headaches (including migraines), flushed skin, and nasal symptoms.

"If you've got a grape that has a lot of [histamines] in it when you ferment, you're going to be at risk [for side effects]," said Meadows.

A natural histamine level is present in the body, but high levels from consumption of various drinks and foods can make it skyrocket – exacerbating unpleasant symptoms.

Meadows explained that histamines in one's diet can also flare up Crohn's Disease, gout, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome – essentially anything that is inflammatory-related.

Histamine-rich foods include kitchen staples like bacon, goat cheese, eggplant, kefir, cashews, and tuna. In comparison, histamine-releasing foods include chocolate, strawberries, cow's milk, and tomatoes. It's worth taking stock and being mindful of the body's daily "histamine bucket."

Due to the hormonal blueprint of women, "they are about 5 to 10 times more likely" to experience histamine intolerance, Meadows said. There is a notable age range when women are more commonly affected as well.

"Estrogen is actually a cofactor for the enzymes that remove that," says Meadows. "So particularly as women get near midlife/menopause, they pick up a lot of these sensitivities."

Simply put, any time hormones start "oscillating dramatically," like when women are pregnant, the problem can worsen. Meadows says that's because the female body has a harder time removing the histamine enzymes as efficiently.

"Histamines are a trigger, not just for migraines, they are the most common triggers for migraines," says Meadows. "A multitude of inflammatory events can hide in the glass of wine we sip."

Especially subject to negative effect are "all of the GI ones – because these are really prone to [histamines]," he said, again citing Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Crohn's, along with Fodmap, fibromyalgia, and mast cell insufficiency.

Other health conditions that can be negatively affected by histamines include chronic fatigue syndrome, Celiac disease, lupus, and peptic ulcers.

Sulfites are also found in wine. Some individuals may have a sensitivity or allergic reaction to sulfites.

White wines have about five times as many sulfite preservatives in them compared to red wines. Sulfites are crucial for white wine to have a good shelf life, Meadows emphasized, "We need it; we need [sulfites]."

"Romans were the first to use sulfite-type compounds to preserve their wines," he said.

Red wines, on the other hand, have "very little sulfites because they have natural antioxidant properties, and that is the healthy aspect of red wine," he said.

The thick-skinned, hot weather durable grapes that are grown in order to create red wines (think Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon) "have a lot of proteins in them," Meadows said. And based on the "quality of grape [and] the type of grape," the biogenic amines levels can be very high, which in turn can trigger migraines.

After experiencing symptoms such as "nasal congestion" and "loss of voice" from wine and knowing that "these were classically symptoms of an [induced] allergy," Meadows and his son created PureWine products.

The PureWine products are not only effective on wine, they are also helpful on unfiltered craft beers (IPA, wheat beers).

Meadows said that "these [types of beers] are made out of a different type of yeast," and like wines, "you can end up with quite a few histamines in craft beers."

The PureWine products are small devices that are used to filter out the histamines and sulfites. The consumer can choose how long to keep the device in a glass of wine, or bottle, to reduce those levels. This allows many sensitive individuals to enjoy wine without the negative side effects.

Meadows says that a "very sensitive migraine sufferer" may want to leave it in the glass longer, because they "need all the histamines out of there that [they] can." He explains that the important feature is that his products "remove just the histamines and sulfites and not remove any of the tannins, because the tannins are vital to a nice quality wine. (More information is at www.drinkpurewine.com)

There is no doubt wine is popular with consumers, evidenced by upwardly trending sales and the growth of wineries.

The Wine Institute's statistics on U.S. wine consumption stated that Americans consumed 464 million (total wine gallons) in 1995, compared to a staggering 966 million in 2018.

Ever wondered what the top selling red and white wine varietals are? According to the California Association of Winegrape Growers, the answer is cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay, respectively.

Shelby Ramsey is the author of the blog, thehonestmigraine.com, which also features interviews with patients and medical experts.

 

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