Posted on Wed, 26 Oct 16
Bacteria present in the mouth of migraine sufferers may explain why they have headaches and why certain foods can trigger attacks.
Nitrates, chemical compounds present in some medications and used in foods as a preservative, are known to trigger migraine attacks in susceptible individuals. But exactly why some people are sensitive to nitrates is not fully understood.
Recently a research group tested their theory that individual sensitivity to nitrates may be down to individual differences in how our resident bacteria metabolise them in the gastrointestinal tract.
Some microbes in the mouth are known to be excellent at converting nitrates into metabolites that could cause migraine headaches, such as nitrite and nitric oxide. So the research team examined individuals with and without migraines to see if their bacteria was different.
They found that when compared to people who are-migraine free, those who do suffer migraines had significantly higher levels of nitrate, nitrite, and nitric oxide reductase bacterial genes in samples collected from the oral cavity. They also found slight but significant difference in fecal samples as well.
This remarkable study may open the door to new therapeutic interventions for migraine sufferers, such as a specific mouthwash or probiotics that can change the microbial ecology in the mouth, or a personalised low-nitrate diet based on your microbiome.
Gonzalez A, Hyde E, Sangwan N, Gilbert JA, Viirre E, Knight R. 2016. Migraines are correlated with higher levels of nitrate-, nitrite-, and nitric oxide-reducing oral microbes in the American Gut Project Cohort. mSystems 1(5):e00105-16.