Some people unfortunately suffer from migraines, and, even worse, delicious foods like wine, chocolate, and processed meats can trigger the all-consuming headaches. Doctors already know that foods with lots of nitrates are linked to migraines, and now new research may explain why eating them leads to headaches only in certain unlucky souls.
Bacteria in our mouths and guts breaks down nitrates to use for fuel, but this process creates a byproduct called a nitrite, which can be converted into nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is great for improving blood flow and lowering blood pressure, though many people who take nitrates for a heart condition also get really bad headaches. So a team from the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine decided to look at the bacteria-headache connection.
For the study, published in the journal mSystems, they analyzed oral and fecal samples from healthy people who had previously indicated whether or not they got migraines. The researchers found that migraine sufferers had higher levels of those bacteria that can break down nitrates into nitrites than people who didn’t get the headaches.
They said it’s unclear whether the difference in bacteria is the cause of the migraines or a result of them, or if the connection is indirect, but it’s a promising finding. Fingers crossed that genius scientists can figure out a way for you to have some red wine without wanting to curl up in a ball and die.