A recently released study by researchers at the University of California San Diego has discovered an interesting link between migraine headaches and higher levels of certain types of bacteria in the mouth.
Recurring migraine headaches are a very common disorder that can be very debilitating and painful for people who suffer from them. The reasons behind migraine headaches still aren’t terribly well understood. It is known that certain triggers can bring them on. Some of these triggers include hormonal changes, stress, exertion, and certain foods.
One of the most commonly believed explanations for why some foods trigger migraines is that they are high in nitrates. Nitrates are converted into nitrites which are then converted to nitric oxide. Interestingly, your body isn’t able to convert nitrates into nitrites all by itself. It is actually bacteria living in your GI tract that convert these compounds and allow you to use them.
Nitric oxide is thought to trigger migraines. Many heart disease patients take nitrates for blood pressure regulation and nearly 4 out of 5 develop headaches as a side effect. About 1 out of 5 them have to stop taking these medications because the headaches are so severe.
So here is where it gets interesting. Researchers compared samples of oral bacteria from people who suffered migraine headaches to those who did not. They found that the overall levels of bacteria in the mouth weren’t any different but that the migraine suffers had a statistically higher amount of certain types of bacteria that convert nitrates into nitrites and nitrites into nitric oxide. The research doesn’t say whether the presence of these bacteria directly leads to the headaches or if they are simply a symptom but it provides avenues for additional research and possible treatment options for migraine sufferers.
This research adds to the quickly growing body of literature that links your mouth to a variety of conditions that affect the rest of your body.