Migraines Linked To Oral Health

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Nitrates have long been revealed as a headache trigger — found in foods like red wine, chocolates, processed meats and some cheeses, migraine sufferers have long been cautioned to avoid foods containing nitrates.

This latest study might explain why some people get triggered to have a migraine when consuming nitrate laden foods, while others can eat large quantities without fear of an impending headache.


Turns out, folks with migraine have significantly more types of bacteria in their mouth that processes nitrate into nitrite (nitrate, nitrite and nitric oxide reductase genes) than those who don’t get migraines.

More bacteria releasing nitrites into the person’s mucosal membrane, means more potential for migraine trigger.

Although everyone has millions of bacteria, and hundreds of different species living on and within them, it’s the type of bacteria and the quantity of that balance that can often mean the difference between illness and health.

Two weeks ago, I wrote an article that highlights how the balance of bacteria in your gut can make a difference in your mood, your memory… even treating autism!


This medical study highlights this delicate balance even further… could it be that the bacteria that live in your mouth are responsible for how much you are affected by the nitrates in the food you are eating?

Turns out, the answer is yes.


Migraine sufferers had statistically significantly more bacteria that process nitrates and release nitrites into the body than non-migraine sufferers.


There are two types of headaches that nitrates can trigger:

  1. an immediate headache (usually more mild) within an hour of consuming nitrate laden foods
  2. or a delayed-onset headache (typically a severe headache, or migraine) 3 to 6 hours after consumption of nitrates.


The fact that migraine sufferers have more bacteria in their mouth that is processing these nitrates into nitrites and increasing their absorption would likely increase the incidence of both types of headache, although more studies are needed.


The Study (published in mSystems October 2016):

  • Researchers sequenced bacteria from over 170 oral samples of patients.
  • Patients were healthy, between the ages of 20 and 69 years old, had a body mass index between 18.5 and 30, had no history of IBD, diabetes or any antibiotic use within the past year and were either diagnosed with migraine or were classified as non-migraine sufferers.


The Results:

  • Researchers found significantly more bacteria that could convert nitrates into nitrites (nitrate, nitrite and nitric oxide reductase genes) thereby increasing those patient’s burden of nitrite exposure.
  • Notably, streptococcus and pseudomonas bacteria were significantly increased, both which are able to reduce nitrate to nitrite.


The Bottom Line:

Bacteria play an important role in our health, and in this case, even can impact the amount of pain we feel or the days we lose due to migraine headache.



In the future, we might be able to tailor specific probiotics to help specific diseases…

…for example, maybe a probiotic specific for migraine sufferers in the form of a gum they can chew to build healthy levels of non-nitrate converting bacteria and discourage overgrowth of nitrate converting stains of bacteria.

Or a toothpaste that combines a probiotic and prebiotic designed specifically to enhance the microbiome of the mouth.

There are probiotic lozenges and gums available already, but there is no data yet on if these specifically treat the nitrate imbalance in the mouth of migraine sufferers.

Meanwhile, there is one probiotic that I know works and works well… and this is it:


Prescript Assist — find out more about it here.


Feel the difference a fabulous probiotic can make… to your gut & mind, body & spirit!

xoxoxo, Laura



PS — looking for other holistic ways to support a healthy mouth?

Read these helpful articles I’ve written for you: