Are Migraines Caused by Gut Bacteria?

19 Oct

If you’re familiar with the excruciating pain of a migraine, you are likely motivated to identify tigers so they can be eliminated and therefore help reduce the amount of migraines you experience.

Most people are aware that it is often said that eating certain foods can trigger migraine attacks. Of course, the foods which can trigger a migraine will differ for everyone but the list seems to be forever growing. However, a new study has reveled that it is not the food per se, rather the bacteria in the mouth may be playing a role.

According to the new study in the journal mSystems, migraine suffers have a different mix of gut bacteria than those who do not suffer from migraines. Therefore, this could make them more sensitive to certain foods. This would explain why some people are more susceptible to crippling headaches/migraines and why certain foods appear to act as triggers.

It was fascinating to learn that migraine sufferers may have higher levels of bacteria that are known to be involved in processing nitrates. These are compounds found naturally in some foods (leafy vegetables) but they are also added to processed foods (such as bacon) as a preservative. Nitrate is a natural salt made up of sodium, nitrogen and oxygen. It is used in meats not only to enhance flavour and add colour, but also as a preservative to prevent bacterial growth and spoilage.

The latest findings raise the possibility that migraines could be triggered when nitrates in food are broken down more efficiently, causing vessels in the brain and scalp to dilate.

It is not only food or the bacteria in food which can trigger migraines. Diet, stress and lack of sleep are all known to be triggers, and hormones are also thought to play a role – migraine affects three times as many women as men.

It might not be a bad idea to reduce or cut out foods which contain nitrates from your diet for a certain period of time and see if your migraines/headaches get less frequent or go away completely (which would be amazing!). Of course you cannot remove all these foods, especially all the vegetables, from your diet. The best advice would be to replace processed meats with fresh meat and to keep a food and migraine diary. This way you can monitor which foods you had eaten when you got a migraine. Then start to limit or remove these foods from your diet.

Below is are some of the foods which contain nitrates:

  • Packaged/processed meats such as salami, ham, hot dogs, sausages & bacon.
  • Vegetables such as celery, beets, parsley, cabbage & leeks.

If removing or even limiting certain foods from your diet can reduce the amount of migraine attacks you suffer with, then it is definitely worth trying!

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