Maintaining good oral hygiene has now become all the more important. A new study has linked the cause of migraines to be a specific type of bacteria present in mouth and gut. People complaining of ‘splitting headaches’ is fairly common place nowadays. Statistics in India show that nearly one third Indian women and one fifth of Indian men suffer from this type of headache.

Symptoms of migraine include:

  • Moderate to severe pain that affects the whole head or may shift to one side
  • Increased sensitivity to light, sound and odors
  • Vision is blurred
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Dizziness , fatigue
  • Spots in front of eyes

The difference between a severe headache, cluster headache and migraine should be made clear. While a headache is simply unpleasant pain  in the skull of varying intensity, but migraines are typically headaches with moderate to severe pain along with the mentioned accompanying symptoms.

Causes of migraine:

Knowing what causes migraine can help avoid it. Common causes that affect different people are as follows:

  • Stress
  • Hormonal changes
  • Exertion
  • Weather

Migraine symptoms are usually triggered from certain food items is a known fact, but different foods affect people differently.

Foods that trigger migraine:


Different people experience migraine after very different food triggers. Identify your trigger and then try hard to avoid it.

  • Chocolates,
  • Wine
  • Processed meats
  •  Green leafy vegetables

The scientists behind this study hypothesized that there might be some connection between what people are eating and their experiences with migraine symptoms. Usually, nitrates that are found in the list of foods mentioned above are converted by the bacteria present in the mouth into nitrites. Once they enter the gut, they get converted into nitric oxide under specific conditions. The nitric oxide that is produced by the body is known to improve cardiovascular health , reduce blood pressure and improve blood flow in the vessels. Hence, cardiac patients are given drugs that contain nitrates. 4 out of 5 of the cardiac patients have reported headaches when prescribed nitrate containing drugs, which lead the team to delve deeper into this connection.

Researchers at the University of California-San Diego  investigated this further to identify the connection between what the migraineurs eat that alters their experience with migraines. Bacterial sequencing  was done on the 172 participants of samples collected from their mouth and 1996 samples from the gut. The data was sourced from The American Gut Project.A questionnaire was provided at the start of the study to determine whether they suffered from migraines or no.

The team made use of a technology called PICRUSt (Phylogenetic investigation of communities by reconstruction of unobserved states), a software to examine the functions of each of the genes from each of the samples. The results showed an abundance of nitrate reducing bacteria in their fecal samples, but even more in the participant’s mouth bacteria.

This study has opened up a new dimension in studying the causes of migraines.The study published in the journal mSystems  has identified the link between oral bacteria and migraine, but it is still not clear whether these bacteria are the cause or a result of migraine.

Other causes of bad breath that you should check out:

  • Gum disease : gingivitis , cavities
  • Diabetes
  • Respiratory and liver diseases

Sources :

Antonio Gonzalez, Embriette Hyde, Naseer Sangwan, Jack A. Gilbert, Erik Viirre, Rob Knight.Migraines Are Correlated with Higher Levels of Nitrate-, Nitrite-, and Nitric Oxide-Reducing Oral Microbes in the American Gut Project Cohort. mSystems Oct 2016, 1 (5) e00105-16.




Consulting Physician, MBBS, FAGE, ACLS, 2+ years experience

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