“I can make anybody pretty. I can make you believe any lie. I can make you pick a fight with somebody twice your size.” This was quite possibly one of my favorite songs in college, and not just because I did put that lampshade on my head. My drink of choice? Either a vintage Boone’s Farm that had strawberry on the nose and heavy sugar on the palate, or Mike’s Hard Lemonade, which probably tasted something like pure garbage. I’m embarrassed I’m even telling you this. I should probably stop.
Needless to say when my vestibular migraine began, it made it incredibly hard to drink – I already felt drunk! When I would drive, which wasn’t often, I’d get really nervous I’d be pulled over and the cop would think I had been drinking. How would I even describe my invisible illness if the situation would present itself? I was pretty much housebound, so there weren’t many occasions for me to drink with friends anyway.
In studies it’s been shown that migraine sufferers who consume less alcohol than non-sufferers, still experience more migraine-like symptoms after drinking. There are usually two types of alcohol induced head pain/migraine that can occur, the immediate onset, which comes within 3 hours, and the delayed onset, which is commonly known as a “hangover”. All of this to say that people with migraine have a lower threshold to alcohol than those without.
For those with vestibular disorders, some say they feel better by drinking alcohol. This is because studies have shown that a moderate amount can reduce function of the vestibular system. Yet some get vertigo almost instantly with any consumption of alcohol. This could be due to it being a personal migraine trigger or it triggering a change in the workings of our vestibular system. In an older study by Professor Richard Robinson that says “a change in blood alcohol concentration that alters the concentration of the fluid within the vestibular labyrinth. Such changes in concentration could temporarily displace the cupula at a fixed state.”
I find alcohol to be a sensitive subject when it comes to migraine and vestibular disorders. On one hand, the most ideal situation is to avoid it all together. But for someone like myself, who really loves wine, it comes down to a delicate balance. I’m able to tolerate clear alcohol like vodka, tequila, and dry white wines, but red wine is tricky.
I cut red wine out completely for what had to be almost a year. Then my husband surprised me with a wine tour for my birthday and I was nervous! I hadn’t had much more than the occasional glass of wine, especially not reds. I decided if I was going to get a migraine after, at least I should enjoy the day and have fun doing something I used to do without a second thought. It turns out this tour was a sustainable wine tour, where we visited small wineries that practice biodynamic winemaking. I never realized that along with pesticides, a lot of winemakers now add chemicals to keep their wines tasting the same year after year.
When we visited Burgundy, you would hear stories about storms or a disease wiping out a whole crop of pinot noir in years past. A winemaker there would just cut their distribution and charge a crazy markup, making any grapes that survived into a special vintage. I kept thinking that in America, some of these really large wineries would probably continue to use crappy grapes and flavor them unnaturally to not hurt their profits. One thing that always stands out to me is on our biodynamic wine tour and with a lot of the wines we tried in France, I never once got my usual migraine or vestibular symptoms. There’s definitely something to be said for picking out quality wines and alcohols.
At the end of the day, you should find what works best for you. There are many times when my symptoms are heightened or I know I have a heavy trigger day that I just avoid alcohol and stick with a mocktail. We even bought a “pineapple mint” plant so I could add it to my sparkling water for something quick and tasty.
Pear juice has become a staple in my fridge since starting Heal Your Headache and I’m not sure I would have ever tried it without starting this diet. It’s perfect for a little sweetness without being overly sweet. Cheers!
Pear Mojito Mocktail
- 1/4 cup loose packed, fresh basil leaves
- 1/4 cup loose packed, fresh mint
- 1/2 cup organic pear juice with no additives
- 1/2 tsp agave syrup * This is optional
- 18 oz plain sparkling water * I used Topo Chico
- In a glass or bowl, combine the agave, 3 tbsp mint and 3 tbsp basil with the pear juice and smash with a muddler till you can really smell the mint and basil flavor.
- You can either strain the pear juice into two separate glasses or pour it all in with the herbs. I prefer to strain mine, then add the remaining 1 tbsp of the herbs to garnish.
- Top with topo chico (or sparkling water of choice) and stir.