Migraines linked to mouth bacteria
People who suffer from migraines have long complained that certain foods trigger the severe headaches.
But according to new research, the culprit for painful headaches might actually be the amount of bacteria in the mouth.
Scientists from the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have analysed data from the American Gut Project, and found that migraine sufferers had significantly higher amounts of nitrate-reducing microbes than those without migraines.
The project included over 170 oral samples and almost 2,000 faecal samples, the researchers said.
"There is this idea out there that certain foods trigger migraines – chocolate, wine, and especially foods containing nitrates," said lead author Antonio Gonzalez. “We thought that perhaps there are connections between what people are eating, their microbiomes and their experiences with migraines.”
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.
“We know for a fact that nitrate-reducing bacteria are found in the oral cavity,” said Dr Embriette Hyde. “We definitely think this pathway is advantageous to cardiovascular health. We now also have a potential connection to migraines, though it remains to be seen whether these bacteria are a cause or result of migraines, or are indirectly linked in some other way.”
Although the researchers found a link, they didn't prove a cause-and-effect relationship.
Further investigation is required to learn more about the association between microbes and migraines, though they are hopeful the results of the research will lead to new migraine treatments.
The study was published in mSystems, the online journal of the American Society for Microbiology.