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Pain from Drinking Wine

Pain from Drinking Wine


Dear Rabbi:

Whenever I drink a cup of wine, I get excruciating pain in my abdomen. Usually lasts only 15 minutes, but real torture. I know it’s a mitzvah to drink all four cups at the Passover Seder, but is there a way to get around the pain?


What you’re describing is a common reaction. Ask around and you’ll find many people with the same problem. It seems to occur principally with sweet wines, grape juice and apple juice.

The best explanation I’ve come across is that the pain is caused by a spasm of the sphincter of Oddi. That’s a muscular ring around the bile duct that’s supposed to open during a meal—but if it spasms, bile and pancreatic secretions back up and stretch the bile duct(s). That stretching is the pain you’re feeling.

The best solution is to use a dry or semi-dry wine. Try it before Passover to make sure. Most probably, it will solve the problem.

In case it doesn’t, or if you’re stuck at a Seder where there’s only sweet wine—well, you still need to drink those four cups, as long as it’s not causing any real harm. So try this:

First off, you only need to drink most of a three ounce cup. That means your cup has to hold at least three ounces (2.9 to be precise) but you only need to drink a little more than half of that. (For a regular Shabbat or Yom Tov kiddush, you need to drink only one and a half ounces, irregardless of the size of the cup—although drinking most of the cup is always optimal.) I haven't seen three ounce cups on the shelves, but four ounce cups are plentiful. So fill a four ounce cup and drink a little more than half the cup.

Another solution: Peppermint has long been known to relieve abdominal spasms, and there is anecdotal evidence that it helps with this syndrome as well. Prepare a super-strong brew of (kosher for Passover) peppermint tea beforehand, and drink it down right after the wine. Then wait a bit before eating or drinking anything more.

The peppermint brew may help for the first and second cups. For the third and fourth, there is an issue of nullifying the taste of the wine by chasing it with a strong-tasting drink.

Some people tell me that they don't get this pain from grape juice. Others say they find no difference. Grape juice is not optimum for a seder, since it does not represent freedom as wine does, but at least you have fulfilled the basic obligation of four cups. Best, however, if you can add just a little wine to the mix. Discuss the matter with your local Orthodox rabbi (and if it persists, your doctor as well).

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, a senior editor at, also heads our Ask The Rabbi team. He is the author of Bringing Heaven Down to Earth. To subscribe to regular updates of Rabbi Freeman's writing, visit Freeman Files subscription. FaceBook @RabbiTzviFreeman Periscope @Tzvi_Freeman .
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Lisa Providence, RI April 3, 2017

Maybe you have alcohol sensitivity. If that's the case, drink grape juice instead. Reply

Anonymous California March 7, 2017

I have had this pain of drinking sweet wine at Passover since I was a child! It feels like you are having a heart attack! Goes from the pit of your stomach and up your shoulders and down your arms. Lasts about 20 minutes then you can feel better and drink again. I find it to be the affects of sweet and alcohol together. This is experienced by others in my family also. It can also occur with other sweet beverages such as Pepsi , seven up apple juice, grape juice. Just drink dry wine and try and stay away from sweets when you have alcohol. Reply

Anonymous March 2, 2016

The pain is probably from sulfites Putting the wine in a decanter and letting CO2 air out should help. Alternatively, look for wines that have no added sulfites Reply

Lisa Providence, RI April 8, 2015

Pain From Drinking Wine It sounds like you're "alcohol intolerant." It's also possible it could be an allergic reaction. Did you talk to your doctor about this.

I, myself, can't drink alcohol because I'm on medications, and I drink Passover grape juice. Why don't you drink grape juice instead of wine? NO ONE will be insulted. Just tell them the truth - wine gives you abdominal pain. Reply

Janice NM, USA September 22, 2014

Reaction to wine So the amount of wine that must be consumed is stated, and cannot be changed. Is there any restriction on diluting the wine with pure water? If there are no restrictions, then possibly adding one drop of wine to a glass of water would meet the requirement for the mitvah. For reference, I would refer to Abraham arguing about saving the city of Sodom from destruction, if just a small number of righteous people were found. In much the same way, a small amount of pure wine, put into pure water, could possible fulfill the rules. Reply

Anonymous August 1, 2014

Perhaps you need a doctor? What about ulcers, some people are just prone to which case continuing drinking wine or consuming anything acidic, will cause great harm. I think thats a question the asker should present to a medical professional.

Here is something worth checking as per drinking with no food in your stomach. Your stomach lining is full of enzymes, alcohol also contains enzymes, if there is no food in your stomach then the alcohol leaves quicker and as such, the enzymes haven't gotten a chance to break it down properly, hence feeling the effects quicker on an empty stomach. The alcohol ends up in your liver which is why alcoholics who drink instead of eat, end up with many liver problems. The liver also breaks the alcohol down, but with bypassing the part in your stomach, it has to work harder. Not too mention the bacteria in your gut, I mean the good ones that help with digestion...what do you think happens to those when you add improperly broken down alcohol. Alcohol is a disinfectant. Reply

Edward Friedman Marblehead, MA April 14, 2014

Stomach pains from wine. Most of the stomach pains from wine come from an intolerance to the sulfites added to maintain the color (or which may be present naturally in some grapes). One method to avoid the discomfort that I have found is to eat something of substance before drinking the wine. I realize that on Pesach you aren't supposed to eat before the Seder, but perhaps some accommodation can can be made for health reasons. Reply

Threemoons Astoria, NY via July 17, 2013

More on pain Also, maybe the person in question should try Kosher WHITE wine, not red? Some people have bad reactions to the tannins in red wine. Just a suggestion; hope it helps. Reply

Lyone Columbus March 22, 2013

"Do these things to Live" I thought that this phrase was Hashem's final word on all matters.

If a pregnant woman is permitted to eat whatever she craves (for the sake of her own health, or the baby's?), then why do we not apply the same principle here? Of course staying healthy is never an end in itself--staying healthy allows a person to continue performing more mitzvot day after day, teaching others, and bringing moshiach closer.

Pardon me, Rabbi Freedman, but I think your answer was one dimensional. Reply

Tracy Salem, OR April 16, 2012

pain? It's only idolatry if you are trying to make an image for yourself or maybe you are thinking that being healthy would be worshiping yourself as a deity? I looked up the word idolatry and that's what I came across. Being healthy to me means eating right so that you feel fine with yourself and you're not having any problems with your body and making sure what's going on inside is working properly.

When I've come across a similar problem to this the best solution I have is to drink water. It can get rid of that pain more than anything else. That way if you needed to you could continue to drink wine but drink water during the process.

This is just something I've come across when doing my own research. I hope this helps. Reply

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman April 4, 2012

Re: pain It's true that staying healthy is a mitzvah. But it mustn't be made into an end in itself. That's idolatry.

Last I checked, childbirth was pretty hard on the body. In fact, a lot of great achievements in life require at least a little pain for the gain. A mitzvah is no different. Reply

Anonymous Toronto April 4, 2012

pain You must not drink wine if it causes harm to the body. It is forbidden to damage your heath. Reply

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