Does Red Wine Cause Gut Inflammation?

If you are wondering whether or not red wine deserves a place at your dinner table, read on. Learn about signs of wine intolerance and alternatives to wine that won’t compromise your health.

The Dark Side of Wine

While the media praises red wine for its ability to promote health, prolong life, and stave off heart disease, there is more to the story.

Over 23% of people complain of wine allergy or wine intolerance.

Researchers at the Institute of Microbiology and Wine Research at Mainz University, Germany, report that a relatively high percentage of people show signs of an intolerance to wine—specifically, red wine. (1)


If you’ve ever had flushed skin, a runny nose, or a headache after drinking a glass of red wine, you may have wine intolerance or a wine allergy. But not to fear – several healthy alternatives to wine are available.

According to their study, over 23% of people complain of wine allergy or wine intolerance, with symptoms such as:

  • Flushed skin
  • Runny nose
  • Itching
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Headache
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach or intestinal cramping

Those with a wine allergy generally react to red wine.

Red wine is made with the skin of the grapes. Grape skin gives the wine its red hue, but it also contains a protein that is a known allergen. (2)(3)

Wine Intolerance

While grape skin contains a known allergen, wine can also trigger a headache or migraine, promote high blood pressure, and irritate the gastrointestinal tract. (4)(5) This is because wine contains a group of chemicals called biogenic amines, which are pro-inflammatory and increase blood flow. Examples of biogenic amines include histamine and tyramine.

Alcohol inflames the gut, making it leaky and increasing the absorption rate of histamine and tyramine. And because alcohol irritates the digestive tract, it also profoundly affects the body’s ability to break down biogenic amines.

Some people are more sensitive to histamine and tyramine than others—which is why more producers are now enlisting the help of wine starter cultures and technologies like flash pasteurization.

According to Professor Dr. Helmut König at the JGU Institute of Microbiology and Wine Research (IMW), we are seeing an increase in sensitivity to biogenic amines and, more specifically, to red wine.

Alternatives to Wine

Research tells us that red wine has a lot to offer because of the polyphenols found in red grapes. Polyphenols are a group of antioxidants produced by plants. They act as a buffer against oxidative stress, which ages and weathers the body. They safeguard against inflammation. They can protect the body against heart disease. (6)(7) They can help regulate blood sugar. (8) And they can dampen pathways that lead to brain degeneration and Alzheimer’s disease. (9)

Studies even show that good bacteria benefit from polyphenols in the diet. (10)(11)

However, wine also contains alcohol—a toxin that destroys brain tissue, inflames the gut, burdens the liver, and has even proven itself addictive.


  1. Wigand, P., Blettner, M., Saloga, J., & Decker, H. (2012). Prevalence of wine intolerance: results of a survey from Mainz, Germany. Deutsches Ärzteblatt International, 109(25), 437.
  2. Schäd, S. G., Trcka, J., Lauer, I., Scheurer, S., & Trautmann, A. (2010). Wine allergy in a wine-growing district: Tolerance induction in a patient with allergy to grape lipid-transfer protein. World Allergy Organization Journal, 3(1), 1-5.
  3. International Union of Immunological Societies (IUIS): Allergen Nomenclature Sub-Committee; www.allergen.org; accessed 10th of January 2014.
  4. Jansen, S. C., van Dusseldorp, M., Bottema, K. C., & Dubois, A. E. (2003). Intolerance to dietary biogenic amines: a review. Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, 91(3), 233-241.
  5. Maintz, L., & Novak, N. (2007). Histamine and histamine intolerance. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 85(5), 1185-1196.
  6. Guidi, G. C. Red wine and cardiovascular health the” French Paradox” revisited. International Journal of Wine Research, 1.
  7. Estruch, R., Sacanella, E., Badia, E., Antúnez, E., Nicolás, J. M., Fernández-Solá, J., … & Urbano-Márquez, A. (2004). Different effects of red wine and gin consumption on inflammatory biomarkers of atherosclerosis: a prospective randomized crossover trial: effects of wine on inflammatory markers. Atherosclerosis, 175(1), 117-123.
  8. Abraham, K. A. (2010). Acute red wine consumption elevates plasma insulin and decreases plasma glucose in women during an oral glucose tolerance test. Int J Diabetes & Metab, 18, 95-98.
  9. Pasinetti, G. M. (2012). Novel role of red wine-derived polyphenols in the prevention of Alzheimerʼs disease dementia and brain pathology: experimental approaches and clinical implications. Planta medica, 78(15), 1614-1619.
  10. Requena, T., Monagas, M., Pozo-Bayón, M. A., Martín-Álvarez, P. J., Bartolomé, B., Del Campo, R., … & Moreno-Arribas, M. V. (2010). Perspectives of the potential implications of wine polyphenols on human oral and gut microbiota. Trends in Food Science & Technology, 21(7), 332-344.
  11. Queipo-Ortuño, M. I., Boto-Ordóñez, M., Murri, M., Gomez-Zumaquero, J. M., Clemente-Postigo, M., Estruch, R., … & Tinahones, F. J. (2012). Influence of red wine polyphenols and ethanol on the gut microbiota ecology and biochemical biomarkers. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 95(6), 1323-1334.
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