Bacteria used to process nitrates appear to trigger migraines
The neurological disorder migraine affects about ten percent of all people. Women are affected much more often than men. The headache that occurs is a great burden for those affected. Researchers have now found that a bacterium that processes nitrates appears to be involved in the disease. This could explain why some foods act as migraines.
Scientists from the University of California San Diego and the University of Chicago found in an investigation that higher concentrations of a bacterium could explain why some foods seem to trigger migraines. The bacteria are usually involved in the processing of nitrates. The doctors published the results of their study in the journal "mSystems".
What is migraine?
Migraines can lead to periodic headaches. The pain that occurs is often seizure-like, pulsating and half-sided. In addition, symptoms such as increased sensitivity to light or noise, nausea and vomiting often occur. The disease is a major burden for those affected. Migraines are 30 percent more common in women than in men.
Scientists use data from the American Gut Project
The doctors found in their investigation that a bacterium appears to be involved in the development of migraines. This processes nitrates in the human body. For example, nitrates are found in processed meat (bacon), some wines, and chocolate. The American researchers analyzed the data from the so-called "American Gut Project" for their investigation. This ongoing project examines the relationships between the human microbiome (the bacterial ecosystem in the body) and health, the experts explain. The project is one of the largest microbiome research projects worldwide. The doctors tried to determine whether certain bacteria in the mouth and upper neck (the oral cavity) or bacteria in our excreta are associated with migraines.
Migraine sufferers have increased levels of bacteria in their mouth
Nitrates from our food are broken down by certain types of bacteria. They are eventually converted to nitric oxide in the bloodstream, which is linked to the development of headaches, the scientists say. Analysis of the data showed that migraine patients have large amounts of such bacteria in their oral cavity. As a result, they also have high levels of nitric oxide in their blood.
Migraine mouthwash could help those affected in the future
The researchers hope that a kind of mouthwash for migraines will be developed in the future. This could then remove the bacteria from the oral cavity and thus protect against migraines. If people get migraines after eating nitrate-rich foods, they should better avoid such foods in the future, the experts also advise.
Doctors examine faecal and oral specimens
Since the study is a cross-sectional study, it can only suspect an association, but cannot directly prove that the bacteria in the oral cavity and our faeces directly cause migraines, the authors explain. The researchers examined a total of 172 mouth samples and 1,996 faecal samples from healthy participants. The subjects had previously participated in surveys about an earlier occurrence of migraines. The experts used gene sequencing techniques to categorize which types of bacteria and how many were present in the samples.
Further research on the subject is urgently needed
The researchers said that for the first time, the results showed a possible link between bacterial nitrate, nitrite, nitric oxide and migraines. These bacteria were found more often in the oral cavity of people with migraines compared to people without migraines, the scientists say. Future studies should continue to focus on this connection. The study had given clear indications of a possible association between migraines and bacteria. However, much more research is needed to investigate this possible connection in more detail. Before that, it makes no sense to think about appropriate treatments such as a migraine mouthwash, the authors explain. (as)