Migraine sufferers have more nitrate-reducing microbes in their mouths
Researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine have found that the mouths of migraine sufferers harbor significantly more microbes with the ability to modify nitrates than people who do not get migraine headaches. The study is published October 18 by mSystems.
Nitrates, found in foods such as processed meats and green leafy vegetables and in certain medicines, can be reduced to nitrites by bacteria found in the mouth. When circulating in the blood, these nitrites can then be converted to nitric oxide under certain conditions. Nitric oxide can aid cardiovascular health by improving blood flow and reducing blood pressure. However, roughly four in five cardiac patients who take nitrate-containing drugs for chest pain or congestive heart failure report severe headaches as a side effect.
The bacterial gene sequencing found that bacterial species were found in different abundances between people who get migraines (migraineurs) and non-migraineurs. In terms of bacterial community composition, the team did not find huge differences in either fecal or oral samples from migraineurs compared to non-migraineurs.
The team then used a bioinformatic tool called PICRUSt to analyze which genes were likely to be present in the two different sets of samples, given the bacterial species present. In oral samples, these genes were significantly more abundant in migraineurs.
Diet can impact migraines
Eliminating that morning cup of coffee, consuming processed foods high in nitrites or monosodium glutamate (MSG) and enjoying too much alcohol are potential headache triggers for individuals battling migraines, says Vincent Martin, MD, professor in the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Medicine.
There are two different approaches to preventing headaches with diet. The first approach would be an elimination diet that avoids foods and beverages known to trigger headaches. The second approach would be follow a comprehensive diet whose very composition may prevent headaches, explains Martin, co-director of the Headache and Facial Pain Center at UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute and an expert in the area of migraine.
“One of the most important triggers for headache is the withdrawal of caffeine,” says Martin, who also sees patients at UC Health. “Let’s say you regularly pound down three or four cups of coffee every morning and you decide to skip your morning routine one day, you will likely have full-fledged caffeine withdrawal headache that day.”
That said, too much coffee may also present a risk, no more than 400 milligrams daily — one cup is 125 milligrams — is probably the maximum for migraine patients, says Martin. “Large amounts of caffeine can bring on anxiety and depressive symptoms as well as headaches,” he explains.
Another trigger for migraine is MSG, which is a flavor enhancer used in a variety of processed foods, including frozen or canned foods, soups, international foods, snack foods, salad dressing, seasoning salts, ketchup, barbecue sauce, and heavily in Chinese cooking, says Martin, also a UC Health physician.
Nitrites are preservatives food in processed meats such as bacon, sausage, ham and lunch meat to preserve color and flavor. Martin says a diary study found that five percent of individuals with migraine were statistically more likely to have an attack on days when they consume nitrites. Use of nitrites in foods has declined with stronger government regulation though checking labels remains a good idea, he explains.
Alcohol is one of the most commonly reported dietary trigger factors for migraine and studies suggest vodka and red wines, especially those with highest histamine content are problematic, says Martin.
There have been three comprehensive diets whose very composition may prevent headaches such as low fat and low carbohydrate diets as well as those that increase the amount of omega-3 fatty acids and decrease the amount of omega-6 fatty acids, according to Martin.
One of the most promising diets for those with more frequent attacks of migraine is one that boosts your omega-3 fats while lessoning your omega-6 levels and that means tossing out polyunsaturated vegetable oils (corn, sunflower, safflower, canola and soy) in favor of flaxseed oil, says Martin. Foods to consume would include flaxseed, salmon, halibut, cod and scallops while those to avoid would be peanuts and cashews.
Many with migraines have vitamin deficiencies, says study.
Researchers uncertain whether supplementation would help prevent migraines
A high percentage of children, teens and young adults with migraines appear to have mild deficiencies in vitamin D, riboflavin and coenzyme Q10 — a vitamin-like substance found in every cell of the body that is used to produce energy for cell growth and maintenance.
Previous studies have indicated that certain vitamins and vitamin deficiencies may be important in the migraine process. Studies using vitamins to prevent migraines, however, have had conflicting success.
Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. “Many with migraines have vitamin deficiencies, says study: Researchers uncertain whether supplementation would help prevent migraines.”