Migraines Potentially Linked to Gut and Mouth Germs
A growing body of research has shown a symbiotic relationship between bacteria and human health. According to a new study, this relationship may extend to migraine headaches, especially in the presence of certain genetic traits.
Appearing in a journal from the American Society for Microbiology, the study focused on data collected during the American Gut Project. After analyzing nearly 2,000 fecal samples and more than 170 oral samples, the researchers found that migraine sufferers had significantly higher levels of gut bacteria known to be involved in processing nitrates. Researchers hypothesize that this could be the reason some people are sensitive to certain foods which are known to trigger migraines.
How Might Bacteria Cause Migraines?
Found in certain vegetables, processed meats and some wines, nitrates can cause blood vessels in the brain and scalp to dilate. While not known for certain, this could be how bacteria might trigger a migraine.
Nitrate-containing food preservatives have been identified as headache triggers. Cardiac medications containing nitrates are also known to cause severe headaches, which occur in more than 80 percent of patients who take them.
Since bacteria play a key role in reducing nitrate to nitrite, healthy gut flora may create a symbiotic relationship to maintain cardiovascular health. At the same time, for people with certain genetic tendencies, oral microbes could play a role in activating migraines by elevating or reducing nitrate, nitrite and nitric oxide in the blood.
What You Can Do
While more research is needed to establish a clear casual effect between oral microbes and migraines, there's plenty of evidence to suggest that nitrates can trigger headaches. If you suffer from migraines, consider avoiding nitrate-containing food preservatives, processed meats and other known trigger foods. You should also promote healthy gut flora by eating leafy green vegetables, yogurt and high fiber foods.