Bacon and Botox
Migraines and Mouth Bacteria
How could these bacteria be contributing to migraines? From the looks of the study, it appears to boil down to nitric oxide. Past studies show that increased levels of nitric oxide in the bloodstream will trigger migraines as well as tension and cluster headaches. This more recent study focuses on the role of mouth bacteria and their production of nitrites when they break down nitrates. The nitrites convert to nitric oxide, and therein lies the headache problem.
Here’s how it works;
Certain foods like hot dogs, lunch meat, and bacon have nitrates in them. The nitrates are used to preserve the red color of the meat. When you eat those foods, you’re not the only one eating them. Every time you eat, you’re also feeding the bacteria in your mouth. With some foods, that’s a good thing. However with other foods, the bacteria can break them down into harmful substances. We dentists are acutely aware of this process, and it’s why dentists advise you against sugar consumption. When bacteria eat sugar, they break it down into acids that dissolve away your enamel and cause the start of a cavity. With the nitrate food, the bacteria break the nitrites down to nitrates which get converted into nitric oxide. And when these nitric oxide levels increase in your bloodstream, it can trigger a debilitating migraine, tension headache, or cluster headache.
But wait! Before you spiral into a bacon-deprived depression, I will share with you the good news that you can buy nitrate-free bacon…and it tastes the same or even better than the migraine-bacon!
That’s the basics of the study that was highlighted in the news. When I read this study, my thinker gets going and I ponder….Now for my questions:
We know that one of the best health benefits of eating dark green leafy vegetables is that they cause our bodies to produce nitric oxide which has an incredibly positive benefit to our heart, arteries, and blood vessels. The nitric oxide has a relaxation effect on our vessels which can reduce blood pressure and reverse hardening of the arteries.
So how come if the mouth bacteria produce nitrites from nitrate food preservatives, how does this has a negative effect in the trigger of migraines and headaches?
And, does oral hygiene make a difference? Does someone who has way more mouth and plaque bacteria present have a higher risk for migraines than someone who has pristine oral hygiene and has fewer mouth bacteria present?
Does the kind of mouth bacteria matter? If you have mostly healthy bacteria vs. having a high presence of pathogenic bacteria (the kind that cause gum disease and decay), will that help your risk for migraines and headaches? I guess these are all questions that future studies may hope to answer.
But for now, if you’re a migraine sufferer or a tension or cluster headache sufferer, it might be a good idea for you to look for nitrate-free hot dogs, lunch meat, and bacon when you’re grocery shopping.
-Dr. Susan Estep, FACE, FAGD
Chief Smile Officer
Founder & Secretary American Acad. for Oral Systemic Health
Certified Bale-Doneen Provider
Fellow Academy of Comprehensive Esthetics
Fellow Academy of General Dentistry