Many migraine sufferers are convinced that certain food and drinks trigger their episodes. There may be more to this picture, which involves germs.
Who’s Got a Filthy Mouth?
Certainly, there are various reasons causing the onset of a severe headache. However, a recent study showing a connection between mouth bacteria and nitrates may shed some light on why some people suffer from oftentimes debilitating, migraine headaches.
It is entirely true that nitrate consumption can have adverse symptomatic and physical affects. But how come it doesn’t affect everyone the same?
Nitrates are a type of salt used to preserve meats and other consumables that can grow dangerous forms of bacteria. In the past couple of years, there’s been a lot of brouhaha surrounding the peril of nitrates found in deli meats and bacon, for example. There are also nitrates in wines and some chocolates.
But get this: Only a small percent (maybe 5%) of nitrates we ingest come from processed meats. Our largest consumption comes from vegetables—around 80%, to be more accurate. Leafy greens, cabbage, beets, and other plants contain nitrates from our soil, water, and nitrogen in our air.
Nitrates to Nitrites
Meat producers back in the early 1900s discovered that sodium nitrate changes composition when it interacts with germs. They realized that when they added nitrate to the meat and then it combined with the growing bacteria, it became sodium nitrite. Nowadays, producers simply cut to the chase and just add synthetic nitrite.
All the medical and media coverage about the dangers of nitrites is because when it’s heated over 265 degrees, it becomes a carcinogen. So the USDA has limited the amount of nitrites utilized in food products.
Here’s Where The Mouth Germs Fit In
Just as nitrates convert to nitrites from bacteria on meat, so the same do the nitrates we eat. Green leafy vegetables that naturally contain nitrates become nitrites when they mix with the bacteria in our mouths. Does this mean we shouldn’t eat veggies? Absolutely not.
First of all, our bodies store those naturally formed nitrites in our cells until the molecules become nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is a necessary compound, which benefits blood flow and maintains healthy blood vessels.
The Migraine Study
The results of the analysis made by the American Gut Project was just published in a journal from the American Society for Microbiology. By examining saliva and fecal matter from over 2,000 participants, the researchers concluded that those who suffered migraines had significantly higher levels of certain microbes. They basically had more germs in their mouths and digestive tracts.
Whether those particular microbes came from nitrites shows a link, but nothing was cause-and-effect definitively.
How This May Help
Once again, this study reminds us how important it is to keep balance in our gut microbiome. We can give up processed meats and wine (maybe not chocolate), but we definitely shouldn’t omit vegetables for fear of nitrate overconsumption.
If you suffer from migraines, try removing foods and beverages that have added nitrates from your diet. See if that makes a difference. Additionally, get good rest and make a commitment to reducing your stress levels. A good life includes a pain-free one.
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