Researchers from the University of California San Diego School of Medicine have determined that microbes in the mouth and guts are responsible for causing some types of migraines.
These microbes, which reduce nitrates in their environment, were present in higher levels in people that suffered from migraines compared to those who do not. The study was published in the American Society for Microbiology journal. It was introduced as a precedent for examining exactly which microbes could be linked to migraines and what were the effects caused by their host.
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Migraines are strong headaches that may last for hours, often forcing the patient to resort to pain medication. At least 38 million Americans suffer from migraines, and although doctors do not know exactly why migraines occur, now they know why the episodes can be triggered by certain behaviors, foods, and drinks.
The research team took the bacteria present in 172 oral samples and 1,996 fecal samples from healthy individuals. The samples were analyzed to determine which genes were predominant in each case. Both sets of samples contained genes linked to nitrates. But these same genes were present in higher levels in the case of oral samples. Researchers already knew that the vocal cavity contains microbes that act upon nitrates.
“There is this idea out there that certain foods trigger migraines–chocolate, wine, and especially foods containing nitrates. We thought that perhaps there was a connection between someone’s microbiome and what they were eating,” stated Antonio Gonzalez, lead author of the study.
Eight out of every ten patients that take medicine containing nitrate for cardiovascular health suffer migraines as a side effect. The study suggests that there is a link between migraine episodes and an abundance of nitrate-reducing microbes in the vocal cavity.
Gonzalez commented that if migraines were determined to be caused by the overpopulation of these microbes, a specialized probiotic mouthwash could be developed which could result beneficial for cardiovascular health.
Nitrate is known to dilate the heart’s arteries, improving blood flow, reducing chest pain, and reducing the heart’s workload by dilating the body’s arteries and allowing additional blood to pass freely.
The severe side effects of nitrates include blurred vision, skin rash, but it is also known to cause dizziness, headaches, and nausea in some patients. Patients can buy nitroglycerin patches for relieving angina or chest pains, but they can also opt for taking a pill.
Doctors advise not to take any other medicine that improves blood flow whenever the patient is taking nitrates. It is of particular importance to avoid taking Viagra, Cialis, or Levitra. Consuming one of these blood flow enhancers alongside a nitrate-based medicine can be lethal.