By TAP Integrative

Migraine headaches result from a combination of genetic and environmental factors and can be triggered by hormones, stress, foods or other stimuli. Foods containing nitrates, such as processed meats, are a common migraine trigger. Cardiac medications containing nitrates are also a trigger for headaches in more than 80% of patients. Analysis of data from the American Gut Project Cohort provides new insight into the relationship between nitrate-induced migraines and the oral microbiome.

Bacteria present in the mouth may have a symbiotic relationship with humans by converting nitrates from foods into nitric oxide via the salivary nitrate-nitrite-nitric oxide pathway. Studies suggest that nitrate-reducing bacteria in the oral cavity provide sufficient levels of nitric oxide to the human host to offer beneficial cardiovascular effects. Gonzalez and colleagues speculated that higher levels of nitrate-reducing bacteria in the oral cavity might also be associated with nitrate-induced migraines.

Using genomic data from stool and oral samples in the American Gut Project, researchers measured nitrate, nitrite and nitric oxide reductase genes, and correlated these genes with self-reported migraine status. Results showed that the abundance of nitrate, nitrite and nitric oxide reductase genes in oral samples were significantly higher in subjects with reported migraines than in those without. Two genera of nitrate-reducing bacteria were detected at significantly higher levels in the oral samples of subjects with migraine headaches: Streptococcus and Pseudomonas.

This study is the first to demonstrate an association between oral nitrate-reducing bacteria and migraines. The results open the door to potential new therapies—ranging from mouthwash to probiotics—for migraine headaches.


Gonzalez A, Hyde E, Sangwan N, Gilbert JA, Viirre E, Knight R. Migraines Are Correlated with Higher Levels of Nitrate-, Nitrite-, and Nitric Oxide-Reducing Oral Microbes in the American Gut Project Cohort. mSystems. 2016;1(5).


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*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease