Why Do You Get a Headache When You Drink IPAs? (5 Common Reasons)

When you get monster headaches from IPAs and only IPAs you’ve got to wonder why. There can be several reasons Indian Pale Ales give you headaches.

You may get a headache after drinking an IPA because of several factors. On average, IPAs have higher levels of alcohol than other beer styles, a large concentration of hop oils, and some substyles have additional yeast and glutenous particles suspended in the beer. These reasons, in addition to the typical effects of beer, can result in headaches.

There are many reasons you might get headaches after drinking an IPA. Keep reading to explore some of the most common reasons and what you can do.

Most common reasons for an IPA headache

With how varied the human body’s reactions can be, it is often difficult to pin the blame on one thing. But when people across the world point to IPAs specifically, it is hard to refute. 

Headaches are frequently linked to alcohol in general, but among beer, IPAs seem to be particularly responsible. Here are some of the common reasons:

  • High ABV – easier to drink too much
  • Dehydration
  • Yeast allergy
  • Gluten allergy
  • Hop allergy

Keep reading to find out more about all the reasons your favorite IPA may be contributing to your morning-after headaches.

IPAs high ABV makes it easy to overindulge

Even without considering Imperial IPAs, this style of beer often has a higher ABV than others. The alcohol content of an IPA tends to start close to 6%. It can easily reach 10% ABV and sometimes even higher.

If you are used to lower ABV beers and begin slamming IPAs the same way, you’re going to have a rough morning the next day. Another factor of this is natural tolerance. Some people handle their alcohol better than others.

Ignoring the other effects of alcohol, for now, this can be due to its effects on your blood vessels. In lesser quantities, alcohol acts as a vasodilator; however, at high levels, it becomes a vasoconstrictor. This means that the happy relaxed feelings that come from widened blood vessels give way to constricted blood vessels, increased blood pressure, and headaches.

Simple dehydration

The other major side effect of alcohol is dehydration. As with the above reason, IPAs are usually stronger in alcohol content, exacerbating the situation. An experienced beer enthusiast will know the importance of water. As always, everything in moderation.

Alcohol is a diuretic and tells your body to stop reabsorbing water and instead get rid of it. Although beer is mostly water, your beer intake won’t be able to keep up with the quantity of water you lose.

Dehydration comes with a host of symptoms, chief among them is a headache. The severity of the dehydration typically determines the severity of the headache.

Allergy to yeast

Less common, but still responsible for a considerable number of IPA-related headaches is a yeast allergy.

Though not a full-blown allergy, yeast intolerances, and infections can also cause headaches. Sometimes this can manifest as an intolerance to a specific strain of yeast or all yeast. This reason is a little harder to pin down as breweries don’t always indicate what yeast strain they used.

This can mean that the headaches are caused by a common IPA strain. This cause can result in a headache much sooner than the above reasons.

Allergy to gluten

Though this is not specific to IPAs, gluten intolerance could lead to headaches after a night of drinking. Since gluten intolerance can develop later in life, it is possible to not react to the gluten in beer one day and a reaction the next. 

This reason will come with other reactions in addition to headaches. If you also experience digestion issues such as stomach and gut pain it is likely to be gluten intolerance.

A gluten allergy is a little easier to identify if bread causes a similar reaction.

Allergy to hops

A hop allergy or intolerance is not unique to IPAs but they are the most prominent hoppy beers. However, this is less common when drinking beer. The final product won’t have much in the way of hop material. 

The hop-related headaches are likely due to hop extracts. These concentrated liquids can cause a more noticeable reaction in those who are intolerant.

Are some IPA styles more likely to cause a headache?

If you are looking for IPA styles to avoid, the answer is a bit complicated. 

Some styles of IPA are more likely to cause headaches though it is dependent on the cause. The differences in IPA styles will affect people differently.

For example, high ABV IPAs such as Imperial IPAs will cause more headaches in those who handle alcohol poorly. Hazy IPAs might be harder on those who have an intolerance for hops, yeast, or gluten. 

And, though it is not a style of IPA, bottle-conditioned IPAs will cause worse reactions in those with yeast intolerance. 

Until you know the cause for your IPA-related headaches it is difficult to say which substyle will be worse.

Are headaches caused by IPAs dangerous?

Headaches can just be annoying or they can be debilitating. Not to mention that headaches can be a sign of deeper issues. Whether or not an IPA headache is dangerous depends greatly on what specifically caused it.

When IPA headaches are caused by dehydration or widened blood vessels, time and water are easy solutions. IPA headaches caused by an intolerance or allergy can be dangerous if not addressed.

The first two possible reasons which have been experienced by nearly every drinker are usually no cause for concern. These are related to drinking too much beer or not enough water. 

However, there may be some danger if you get a headache every time you drink beer. Especially if you don’t overindulge and keep up with water. In general, if the headache appears quickly after drinking an IPA you should investigate the cause.

Both intolerances and allergies to the various ingredients in IPAs can cause headaches, but allergies are often more severe. Additionally, allergies can cause more severe long-term effects if ignored.

How to relieve a headache caused by an IPA

Unfortunately, there is no universal headache cure. Not to mention that what works for one person might not work for another. That said, here are a few tips to get you started. Rest assured, the headache will pass in time.

To cure your IPA headache, try these tips:

  • If you are still drinking the beer, stop! If the IPA is the cause you don’t want to make things worse by finishing it.
  • Drink some water. Whether the cause of the headache is dehydration or not, water will help. In addition to rehydrating your body, water can help flush your system.
  • Consume fructose. Eating or drinking juiced fruits or vegetables provides fructose. This natural sugar can restore some of your body’s chemicals
  • If the likely cause is gluten intolerance, consume ginger. Ginger tea can help relieve symptoms of gluten intolerance.
  • If the likely cause is hop or alcohol intolerance, take antihistamines. An abundance of histamines due to intolerance can be relieved by over-the-counter medicine.

There may be further relief that works for you. Though finding relief is helpful, it is best to identify and deal with any underlying causes.

How to prevent getting a headache when drinking IPAs

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, as they say. Even if the headaches are tolerable, no one wants to have them.

Here are a few things you can try to prevent getting a headache:

  • Try a different brand. If you have a yeast intolerance to a specific strain you can enjoy IPAs that use a different variety. Or if you have a hop intolerance another brand might have milder hops.
  • Drink a “sessionable” IPA. Lower ABV IPAs will have a lesser effect on your body while still tasting like an IPA.
  • Never drink on an empty stomach. Having food in your stomach will slow down alcohol absorption. This can prevent all of the alcohol you consume from hitting you all at once.
  • Drink roughly as much water as you do beer. In addition to helping relieve a headache, water can help prevent one.

Ultimately, if none of the above tips work to prevent headaches you may need to give up IPAs or even beer! Though there are gluten-free beers, you won’t be able to drink “regular” beer if you have a gluten allergy.

The same can be true for yeast intolerance though some beers are great for those with yeast intolerance. As sad as it would be to give up beer, maintaining a healthy body is more important in the long run.