Are Migraines Triggered by the Mouth?

Are Migraines Triggered by the Mouth?

Your dentist in Eugene knows that individuals who suffer from migraines generally understand what can cause an attack and how to avoid them. Nitrates common in foods like processed meats, red wines, and chocolates rank as common triggers, but much is still unknown about why some people are more susceptible to getting migraines from these items than others. However, a recent study may help to shine some light on this mystery by suggesting that bacteria from the oral microbiome may be responsible.

The role nitrates play in stimulating migraines stems from observations that over 80 percent of heart patients taking medications containing nitrates report suffering from severe headaches. Nitrate induced migraines fall into two categories: The first are immediate, those that develop within an hour of taking the medication containing nitrates. The second group of migraine sufferers have a delayed reaction that can take anywhere between three to six hours before setting in. These types of migraines also have a tendency to be more severe and to occur in patients with a family history of migraines.

Studies have suggested immediate migraines are linked with vasodilation by nitric oxide while delayed migraines are caused by the release of other molecules. When we ingest nitrates, enzymes found in oral bacteria – non-human cells – can transform nitrate into nitrite. Nitrite is then metabolized by human enzymes into nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is a vasodilator that causes the blood vessels in the scalp and brain to expand, leading to the development of a migraine.

Roughly 16 percent of adults in the U.S. 18 and older suffer from migraines. The condition disproportionately afflicts more woman than men, especially those between the ages of 18 to 44. Nearly 14 million people suffer migraines on a near daily basis. Despite the common misconception, migraines are more than just a really bad headache. The condition can cause a number of neurological symptoms such as a throbbing pain that manifests on one or both sides of the head. Attacks typically also include one or more additional symptoms, including dizziness, vomiting, nausea, visual distortion, and sensitivity to light, sound, touch, and smell. Migraines can last anywhere from a few hours to as long as 3 days.

Understanding Migraine Triggers

In this latest study, researchers examined the genomes of bacteria present in 2200 participants. Researchers divided the participants into two groups, those that suffered from migraines and those that did not. Researchers then characterized the bacterial populations from oral and stool samples for the prevalence of bacteria with the gene coding for enzymes needed to metabolize nitrates into nitrites. There were significantly higher levels of these bacteria in the oral samples from participants that suffer from migraines. Four types of bacteria capable of metabolizing nitrate were commonly present in oral sample of migraines suffers. These findings represent the first established linked between migraines and the oral bacteria that metabolizes nitrates.

Researchers hope to confirm the results of their study with a larger population groups to see if diet and these types of nitrate creating bacteria are linked to the development of migraines. Researchers believe it may even be possible that these future findings confirm that oral probiotic treatment could be developed to change the oral microbiome to reduce the presence of the types of bacteria capable of transforming nitrates into nitric oxide. While your family dentist in Eugene frequently covered the connection between our oral and overall health, who would have suspected that oral bacteria could be behind such a crippling and widely misunderstood condition?

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