Game-changing new research suggests that the source of some forms of migraines could come from the bacteria lurking in our mouths.
According to findings published in the journal mSystems, migraine sufferers have a significantly increased population of certain bacteria in their mouths.
Affecting an estimated 38 million Americans, the exact causes behind migraines are still unclear. A number of triggers have been identified, including hormone changes, physical exertion, weather, and stress. Certain foods can also spark an attack, such as chocolate, processed meats, leafy green vegetables, and wine. One thing that these foods have in common is high nitrate levels.
Nitrates and Migraines
A group of researchers from the Center for Microbiome Innovation at the University of California-San Diego decided to investigate this fact in more detail, in an attempt to understand whether nitrates plays a significant role in the development of migraines.
Nitrates, found in the foods mentioned above, are converted to nitrites by bacteria in the mouth; this is a normal process. Once nitrites enter the body, under certain conditions, they can be converted into nitric oxide.
Nitric oxide is known to help bolster cardiovascular health by improving blood flow and reducing blood pressure. For this reason, some cardiac patients are given nitrate-containing drugs to treat congestive heart failure and chest pain.
Of these patients, around 4 in 5 report severe headaches as a side effect of taking these drugs. Researchers saw the potential connection and decided to delve into the details.
The Microbiome and Migraine
In all, they sequenced the bacteria found in 172 oral samples and 1,996 fecal samples of healthy participants. When bacteria from people who get migraines (migraineurs) was compared with non-migraineurs, there was little difference in the types of bacteria present. However, importantly, there were differences in the abundance of some bacteria.
In the migraineur group’s fecal samples, for example, there was a small, but significantly greater quantity of genes coding for nitrate, nitrite, and nitric oxide-related enzymes.
When the same comparison was made in the oral bacteria, the difference was even greater.
These new findings mark an important step toward understanding the role of microbes in migraine health. Whether they are a cause or effect, it is another piece to the puzzle!
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