If you suffer from migraines you could have less Nitrate reducing bacteria in your mouth. There has always been a lot of debate over what causes migraines, with some people citing certain foods as a trigger to their migraines such as wheat, dairy, chocolate and cheese, alcohol, and for some people bright lights can trigger migraines, or not having enough sleep.
However, it was interesting to read this latest study on the potential connection between Nitrates and migraines.
Nitrites and Nitrates
What are Nitrates and Nitrites and what is the difference between them?
Both nitrites and nitrates are similar in chemical composition with Nitrates containing 1 nitrogen and 3 oxygen atoms. Nitrites contain 1 nitrogen and 2 oxygen atoms. Both are found commonly in nature and in both water and the soil. Both are non- toxic to humans in low amounts, and some of the nitrates we consume are converted to nitrites by bacteria.
In contrast Nitrites although relatively harmless in low amounts in very high amounts in the blood can lead to reduced effectiveness of haemoglobin that carries oxygen in the body.
Nitrates are commonly found in fertilizers and explosives, whereas nitrites are a common component of food preservatives, for example sodium nitrite is a meat preservative.
The main problem is when Nitrites that turn into either Nitric Oxide or Nitrosamines, which are detrimental to our health. Nitric Oxide helps cardiovascular health by improving blood flow and reducing blood pressure, Nitric Oxide is also associated with headaches. Which is one of the reasons why cardiac patients suffer from headaches. Since Nitric Oxide is in the medication of cardiac patients with 4 out 5 patients suffering severe headaches.
As mentioned the Nitrites act as preservatives for meat, so instead of the meat being a brown colour when you buy it, its stays a lovely pink colour, thus making it more appealing and stopping the growth of harmful bacteria, it also adds a salty taste.
The problem is when we cook this meat, such as sausages and bacon and other processed meats. The high temperature turns these nitrites into Nitrosamines, which is a known carcinogen, the same as you get from cigarette smoke.
Nitrates and nitrites can also be present in some vegetables, but because they are not exposed to such high heat they do not produce the nitrosamines, and the high protein content of the meat, also helps with its development.
The Research into Migraines and Nitrates
The research at the University of California in San Diego School of Medicine, found that in some people nitrites, nitric acid and nitrates in foods were reduced by the bacteria found in the mouth.
A study called the ‘American Gut Project’ confirmed that there is a potential connection between bacteria in the mouth and migraines, but whether the bacteria are an actual cause or just a result of migraines, or are indirectly linked in some way remains to be seen.
“However, if a solid link between mouth bacteria and migraine can be established it might also lead to new ideas for treatment”, said Embriette Hyde, the assistant project scientist at the university of California, San Diego school of medicine and the co-author of the study, “One can imagine a targeted treatment such as mouthwash or the introduction of a probiotic species. However, this will be really complex”, she said “ because the bacterial balance is a delicate one, “it’s certainly a complicated puzzle”, she said.
Due to the fact that this was a very small study, more research is therefore needed to explore this link. In the meantime we should look at reducing our triggers and recording them.
But who knows in the future maybe we will see new mouthwashes for migraines, or migraine reducing toothbrushes, which I think would be a welcome relief for those of you that suffer from migraines.
Ways to Prevent your Migraines
• Reducing or eliminating processed meats in the diet.
• Identify and avoid potential triggers, sunlight, lack of sleep, alcohol
• Keep a food diary of potential triggers, nitrate foods
• Record your activity, sleep and stress levels