Facts About Wine Allergy or Tannin Sensitivity

Photo by: Bigstockphoto
Photo by: Bigstockphoto

Tannin is a group of plant-based polyphenols. All plants contain tannins, but the concentrations will vary from plant to plant. In its natural form, tannins are yellowish or light brown in color and come in flakes, powder or sponge form.

Tannins are typically concentrated on the tree bark to prevent bacteria and fungi from harming the tree. Commercially, this compound is used to dye fabrics, refine beer and wine as well as fortify certain drugs. Tannins are abundant in teas and certain fruits.

While tannins do not pose a risk to the health, some people may be allergic to the compound. This condition is called wine allergy or tannin sensitivity. In today’s post, we will walk you through the signs, symptoms and causes of this condition:

Causes of Wine Allergy

An allergic reaction is caused by a reactive immune system. Usually, an allergic reaction occurs when the immune system deems a harmless compound as a foreign invader. The immune system will release histamines as white blood cells attack the “irritant.” Histamines cause the hallmarks of an allergic reaction: hives, runny nose, itchy eyes, etc.

Sulfite Sensitivity

Those who are allergic to tannin are sensitive to sulfites. Sulfites are chemicals that are found in foods rich in tannic acids. These foods include grapes, green tea, persimmons, dried fruits, and wine. Sulfites are added to wine and beer to prolong their shelf life. Studies show that 1 in 100 people is sensitive to sulfites so this is a fairly rare condition.

Glycoproteins Allergy

Sensitivity to glycoproteins could be another cause of tannin sensitivity. Glycoproteins are proteins that naturally occur in fruits such as kiwis and bananas. When consumed, glycoproteins-rich foods may trigger tannin allergy. However, health experts are unsure why this happens.

Grape Allergy

There are cases wherein wine allergy is caused by sensitivity to a particular grape. For instance, those who are sensitive to tannin experience adverse reaction by drinking red wine as opposed to white wine.

Tannin Allergy Symptoms

The intensity of the allergic reaction will vary according to the sensitivity of the individual to the irritant. Mild allergic reaction ranges from headaches to dizziness. Other mild reaction includes anxiety, tremors, and jitters.

Moderate allergy symptoms for tannin sensitivity include migraines, cluster headaches, nausea, indigestion, stomach cramps and nasal congestion. Hot flashes, accelerated heart rate and bowel dysfunction are also moderate symptoms of wine allergy.

Symptoms of a severe reaction to wine are breathing problems, tightness in the throat and chest and in rare cases anaphylactic shock. The compounds in the wine will trigger a massive immune response and this is when a simple wine allergy becomes fatal. If the patient exhibited the abovementioned symptoms followed by swelling of the lips and tongue, severe asthma, and inability to speak properly, rush the patient to the emergency room for immediate treatment.

Wine Allergy Treatments


The treatment will depend on the severity of the condition. For minor and moderate attacks, taking over-the-counter antihistamines should ease allergy symptoms. However, we recommend talking to your doctor first to find out which drugs are best for you.

Avoid Triggers

Because tannins are abundant in plant-based products, find out which foods contain unhealthy levels of the compound and either reduce or eliminate them completely from your diet. You can work with a dietician to help you develop a sound meal plan to prevent triggers. This is highly recommended to those who are severely allergic to tannins.

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