According to a recent study, people who suffer from migraines have a different mix of gut bacteria that makes them more sensitive to the impact of certain foods.
The results could explain why some people suffer more than others when it comes to dealing with migraines.
According to the study, those who identified as migraine sufferers contained higher levels of nitrate-processing bacteria in their guts.
Nitrates, usually found in green leafy vegetables, processed meats and many wines, have long been associated with headaches and migraines.
Antonio Gonzalez, a programmer analyst at the University of California San Diego and the study’s first author, said: “There is this idea out there that certain foods trigger migraines – chocolate, wine and especially foods containing nitrates. We thought that perhaps there are connections between what people are eating, their microbiomes and their experiences with migraines.”
When nitrates in food are broken down by bacteria in the body, they form nitric oxide in the blood stream, which can act to dilate blood vessels and boost circulation.
However, in some people, this process can cause vessels in the brain and scalp to dilate, resulting in pain and tension.
The study published in the journal mSystems, identified bacteria found in 172 oral samples and 1,996 faecal samples from healthy participants who had disclosed the status of their suffering.
People who had experienced migraines and headaches had slightly higher levels of bacteria linked to breaking down the nitrates.
The Migraine Headache (MH) presents as a throbbing or pounding sharp pain and is the result of excessive dilation of the blood vessels in the head. It is a severe form of headache, which can last from four to 72 hours. Women are three times more likely to experience this type of headache than men.
While a MH may come on without warning, it is common to experience a group of symptoms just prior to the onset of pain, known as an aura. These symptoms include blurring or bright spots of vision, anxiety, fatigue, lack of appetite, nausea, disturbed thinking, unilateral peripheral numbness or tingling and even gastrointestinal upset.
Oestrogen is also believed to play a role in the onset of MHs, with pregnancy a natural antidote for some women. Menstruation and menopause often change a woman’s pattern of migraine headaches.
Future studies will focus on a controlled diet for migraine sufferers, looking into whether nitric oxide levels in the bloodstream are directly linked to migraine attacks.
Antonio Gonzalez also said that for now, “If you suspect that nitrates are causing you migraines, you should try to avoid them in your diet.”
Do you suffer from migraines?