Are Your Migraines a Gut Reaction?
Does eating chocolate, processed meats or leafy vegetables often trigger your migraines? A new British study suggest the problem might not be the food itself. Instead, your gut may contain high levels of certain bacteria.
The study found that migraine sufferers had higher levels of bacteria known to be involved in processing nitrates—substances present in many foods often linked with migraines.
Too Efficient for Your Own Good
If you have more of these bacteria, shouldn’t your body be more efficient at breaking down nitrates? Yes! And that could be what triggers your migraines: Scientists think higher concentrations of bacteria may break down nitrates in food more quickly, flooding the bloodstream with nitric oxide—a chemical that dilates blood vessels.
In smaller doses, nitric oxide can boost circulation. But a flood of the chemical might cause blood vessels to dilate too much or too rapidly. This seems a strong possibility given that about 80 percent of cardiac patients who take nitrate-containing drugs report suffering severe headaches as a result.
Quoted in an article that appeared in the UK’s The Guardian, Dr. Brendan Davies, a neurologist and trustee of the Migraine Trust, found the possibility of a link between gut bacteria and migraines medically plausible. “This is interesting work,” he said, “but would need to be confirmed.”
Avoiding those "Hot Dog Headaches"
While awaiting further studies, there are two things you can do today to help keep nitrate-containing foods from triggering migraines:
First, reduce that flood of nitric-oxide: Obviously, the fewer processed cold cuts, sausage, pepperoni, hot dogs, chocolate, and other nitrate-containing foods you eat, the less risk you’ll have of suffering a nitrate-related migraine.
Second, keep your blood vessels resilient. Taking PA-free butterbur, for instance, can help improve the tone of your blood vessels and the blood flow in brain. When something (like nitric-oxide) triggers blood vessels to expand and contract, they can become more resilient—meaning that you’re less likely to experience a full-blown migraine.
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