Migraines Linked to Bacteria
Migraine headaches can be debilitating and affect about 38 million people in the U.S. Although a number of migraine triggers have been identified, the exact cause of the painful headaches is unknown. Now, a new study has found that people who suffer from these painful headaches have high levels of a certain type of bacteria in their mouths.
Foods—including chocolate, red wine, processed meats, certain vegetables, and others—are common migraine triggers. All of these foods contain high levels of nitrates. Bacteria in the mouth convert nitrates to nitrites, which may be changed to nitric oxide in the body. Nitric oxide improves blood flow and reduces blood pressure—drugs containing nitric oxide are prescribed for people with certain heart conditions. About 4 in 5 people who take these medications experience severe headaches as a side effect.
Researchers compared oral bacteria levels in migraineurs to levels in people who do not get migraines. The found little difference in the types of bacteria present, but people who suffer from migraine headaches had significantly higher levels of nitrate, nitrite, and nitric oxide-related enzymes. More research is needed.
Image Credit: Thinkstock