Migraine’s Cause Found? Mouth Bacteria That Breaks Down Nitrates In Food Blamed

By Olivia Reese, Parent Herald October 21, 05:36 am
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Migraines can be avoided by staying away from some kinds of food. New research, however, found that a huge amount of certain bacteria in the mouth can trigger migraines.

According to researchers, the mouths of people with migraines have more microbes responsible for breaking down nitrates in some kinds of food, CBC reported. These bacteria process nitrates so it can be converted into nitric oxide in the bloodstream, making blood vessels wider and provide better blood circulation.

This process is vital to a person's cardiovascular health but too much of the bacteria can be harmful, too. When there's a huge amount of the microbes in the mouth, nitrates break down faster, "causing blood vessels in the brain and scalp to dilate, triggering migraines," CBC further reported.

Nitrates are compounds that can be found naturally in some foods such as green leafy vegetables. Nitrates are also added to processed foods like bacon as a preservative, according to Authority Nutrition.

Migraines are triggered by processed foods and foods with additives such as artificial sweetener aspartame and the flavor enhancer monosodium glutamate (MSG), Healthline listed. Alcohol and caffeinated drinks (e.g. coffee, tea, soft drinks, and energy drinks) also trigger migraine. Cheese, salami, and chocolate should be avoided by people with migraine, too.

Dr. Michael Zitney, the director of the Headache & Pain Relief Centre in Toronto, Canada, said that the recent study strengthens experts' recommendation against processed foods for people with migraine. Zitney added that they have "long since known that these kinds of foods can trigger migraines, but we haven't really known how."

Aside from food, migraines can be trigged by stress, lack of sleep, jet lag, hunger, dehydration, strong or unusual smells, bright lights, loud sounds, hormones (making women more prone to migraines than men), weather changes and intense physical activity. Medication overuse contribute to migraine as well, especially common analgesics.

More than 37 million people in the United States experience migraines, according to Migraine.com. Some studies about the condition found that 13 percent of adults in the country suffer from migraines and two to three million cases are chronic, which are longer and occurs more frequently.

Nearly five million people in the U.S. have at least one migraine attack every month. More than 11 million people have migraines that cause moderate to severe disability. In addition, migraines are more common in low income groups, Caucasian people and individuals between the age of 35 and 55.

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