26 Oct Oral bacteria may be to blame for migraines
By Darryl Hol, CBC News Posted: Oct 19, 2016 4:33 PM ET
Researchers have found that people who suffer from migraines have more of the bacteria that breaks down nitrates found in certain foods.
People who suffer from migraines have long complained that certain foods trigger the severe headaches. New research suggests the culprit might be the amount of bacteria in the mouth.
Researchers found that the mouths of people who suffer from migraines harboured significantly more of the microbes that break down nitrates found in certain foods.
These bacteria play an important role in processing nitrates so they can then be converted into nitric oxide in the bloodstream, which widens blood vessels and improves circulation.
While this process is helpful for cardiovascular health, the findings suggest an abundance of these bacteria may break down nitrates more quickly, causing blood vessels in the brain and scalp to dilate, triggering migraines.
Nitrates are naturally found in a variety of leafy green vegetables, and they are added to processed meat as a preservative and to improve flavour and colour.
Doctors have been telling people who suffer from migraines to avoid processed foods for years. Dr. Michael Zitney, who leads the Headache & Pain Relief Centre in Toronto, says this research strengthens their case.
“We have long since known that these kinds of foods can trigger migraines, but we haven’t really known how,” he says.
Link to cardiovascular research
The process of how nitrates break down into nitric oxide is well-studied in cardiovascular health.
Nitrate-containing drugs are prescribed to treat chest pain or congestive heart failure. But roughly four out of five cardiac patients who take the drugs report severe headaches as a side-effect.
The study’s authors hope these findings will help link existing cardiovascular research with migraines.
“It opens a full area of research and connects two areas of research that have not been connected before,” says the study’s lead author, Antonio Gonzalez, from the University of California San Diego.