Is What You’re Eating Triggering Your Migraines?

December 3, 2016

shutterstock_528977410Did you know that what you eat could actually be what triggers your migraine?

Important New Study
In the past couple of weeks, a series of news stories have reported on just that. Scientists involved in a new study from the University of California San Diego School of Medicine have determined that there is an extremely high link between certain foods and migraine triggers.

You may have noticed this yourself in the past if you’ve suffered from migraine. What the study found as most likely the reason for it, though, may not necessarily be what you think. The findings report the triggering of your migraine is not the food itself, but…yourself.

The Biochemistry Involved
What exactly is the difference? To put it another way, it is inaccurate to say the food is the cause of the trigger. Instead, it’s the biochemistry that your body used to process it is the real cause: bacteria.

Now Hold On!
Bacteria is usually thought of as a “bad” thing. However, there are many good kinds of bacteria that are helpers, not hurters, such as those in your digestive system help your body break down food for digestion. For those migraineurs, however, it seems there is an excess of a nitrate-reducing bacteria that is produced to do the work, which may be the main culprit for a trigger.

Nitrate-reducing Bacteria is Good
Nitrate-reducing bacteria convert nitrates into nitric oxide in the body. Nitric oxide is a molecule the body produces to help some 50 trillion cells to communicate with each other. It works through transmitting signals that run throughout the entire body.  According to a 2012 article in the academic journal Sports Med, “Nitric oxide (NO) has led a revolution in physiology and pharmacology research during the last two decades….[it] plays an important role in many functions in the body.”

Among the functions nitric oxide have been found to aid are:

  • Increasing memory and behavior
  • Assisting the immune system in fighting off bacteria and tumor
  • Regulating blood pressure by dilating arteries
  • The reduction of inflammation
  • Increasing endurance and strength

However, there is a significant side effect; the presence of too much nitric oxide has been known to cause headaches.

Food to Eat…or Avoid
Food with the highest nitrate counts are chocolate, wine, arugula, spinach, beets, celery, and iceberg lettuce. So there’s a double-edged sword, here. For those looking to supplement the benefits of this bacteria, these foods are good sources of it. But for those who suffer from migraine, these foods should be avoided. And unfortunately, research has not yet discovered a way for the reduction of nitrate oxide bacteria in the bodies of those with migraine down to normal levels: yet.

However, this study proves beneficial. It’s another key to the mystery of migraine, and helps those with migraine specify which foods to avoid.

What You Can Do
The food listed above was just a few found. So if you experience a pounding headache after eating certain foods, take note of what you’re eating. Try to remember how much time passed between its consumption and the onset of a migraine. These foods may not necessarily be triggers because of high levels of nitric oxide bacteria, but then again, they very well may be. The important point, though, is that the more aware and more diligent in taking notes of food triggers, the more information you’ll be able to provide your doctor.

There may not be an easy solution yet for migraine. But research such as this continues to chip away at it.  And while the search continues for scientists, take comfort in knowing that there are effective treatments available, such as the Omega Procedure we at Migraine Treatment Centers of America provide to help.


  1. American, the. ‘Migraine Sufferers Have Higher Levels of Nitrate-Reducing Microbes in Their Mouths’. October 18, 2016. Accessed December 7, 2016.
  2. Bescós, R, A Sureda, JA Tur, and A Pons. ‘The Effect of Nitric-Oxide-Related Supplements on Human Performance’. Sports medicine (Auckland, N.Z.). 42, no. 2 (January 21, 2012): 99–117. Accessed December 7, 2016.

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