Medical researchers agree that a glass of wine here and there can benefit your health, this has been documented throughout the years. After all, wine is rich in antioxidants which are molecules that fight free radicals, the compounds that can cause harm if their levels become too high in your body. They’re linked to multiple illnesses, including diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
Even though emerging research continues to suggest that wine can be a health booster there are, however, potential downsides. It is important to note that drinking wine is not healthy for everyone, nor is it necessary.
If you suffer from certain medical conditions, wine can actually do more harm than good.
Diabetes—A whopping 4.9 million African Americans aged 20 years or older have diagnosed diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). For people with diabetes, keeping blood glucose (sugar) at safe levels is paramount, so it’s important to make informed decisions when it comes to selecting a wine. Alcohol, including wine, may increase the risk of dangerously low blood sugar, even in folks who are not taking insulin or other diabetes medications. The liver releases glucose to help the body maintain a healthy blood sugar level. The liver also must break down alcohol. So, when a person is drinking, the liver is less effective at releasing glucose when the body needs it.
Diabetics should avoid…dessert wines like Sherry, Port, Madeira, Moscato, and Riesling, according to Dr. Thomas Donner, an associate professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and acting director of the Diabetes Center. “Dessert wines have residual sugars, and sugar-sensitive patients should steer clear of them,” advises Dr. Donner. Wine coolers that contain juice and other flavored wine drinks should also be avoided as they also tend to be sweeter, and often have a higher sugar and calorie content.
Migraines— In the United States, middle-aged women and African Americans are those most affected by migraine, according to a study presented at a fall meeting of the American Academy of Pain Management. One theory holds that the first twinge of a headache can occur within a sip or two of a wine.
Migraine sufferers should avoid…red wine–Cabernet, Petite Sirah, and Nebbiolo–in particular, because it has long been known as a migraine trigger. It contains more histamine than white wine because it’s made from the whole grape (including the skin), not just the juice. Some people have a shortage of an enzyme that breaks down histamine in the small intestine. Alcohol also inhibits the enzyme, so the combination may boost histamine levels in the blood, which can dilate blood vessels in your brain and cause a headache.
Tannins, another grape-skin constituent, could also be at fault when it comes to migraines and wine. Tannins are plant chemicals that impart flavor to red wines and contain antioxidants. But they also spur the release of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which at high levels can cause headaches in some people. If you don’t want to give up red wine altogether, you might try different brands or grape varieties to see how they affect you. When you try a new red wine, start with less than half a drink. If it’s going to give you a headache, it’ll do so within 15 minutes.
Acid Reflux—Acid reflux occurs when stomach acid backs up into the esophagus irritating the tissue. Heartburn, or acid indigestion, is a symptom of acid reflux, so named because the esophagus lies just behind the heart, and that is where the burning sensation is felt. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), approximately 35 percent of African Americans suffer from acid reflux. According to gastroenterologist Dr. Stephen Hanauer of Northwestern University, alcohol is a chemical irritant that is capable of worsening pre-existing symptoms such as inflammation. Dr. Hanauer believes alcohol, more so than sugar, carbonation or tannins, is the key offender for those suffering from gastritis or acid reflux—the higher the percentage of alcohol in a drink, the more damaging to your digestive system.
Acid reflux sufferers should avoid…white wines as they are more likely to agitate sensitive digestive systems. A study in Munich, published in the Journal of Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics, looked at white wine vs. red, wine vs. beer, and its impact on reflux. What they showed was that participants experienced more reflux with white wine (some Chardonnays, White Bordeaux, White Rhone, Pinot Gris). But since wine is full of sugar and yeast, it is one of the worse options, period, for reflux sufferers. Some people might not have a problem with yeast and will find that they’re not too bothered by wine. However, keep in mind that wine, in general, does increase acidity in the stomach which can worsen acid reflux.
Allergies—Even though it is not common, there are folks who are allergic to wine. If your body is intolerant to some of the ingredients in wine you may experience symptoms such as nasal congestion, runny nose, nausea, diarrhea, quick heartbeat, or even the worsening of asthma/bronchitis if you suffer from the ailments. A few of the more common allergens in wine are grapes, sulfites (breathing problems), ethanol (alcohol), tannins (headaches), histamine (rash, itching, congestion), and esters and aldehydes (inflammation).
Depending on your dietary restrictions and food allergies, you may want to either switch wines or educate yourself about all the preservatives and potential allergens used in your favorite wine to determine your allergy risk. As always, it’s always important to seek advice from your physician to check whether you are really allergic to wine.
Allergy sufferers should avoid…red wines also often have natural histamines which can trigger allergic reactions and discomfort in the body. Red wines also increase the chances of allergic reactions compared to white wine because white wine is fermented without grape skin and red wine is fermented with grape skin. The common allergen lipid transfer protein (LTP) is found in the grape skin which is known to cause an allergic reaction. Studies have shown that more people have reported symptoms after drinking red wine than white wine.
As with all intolerances, the best method to avoid undesirable reactions is avoiding the trigger—in this case, some wines.