We normally reach for a pill whenever we get a headache, rarely connecting the state of our gut with a migraine attack, but more and more studies are digging deeper to uncover the truth that was suggested by doctors centuries ago.
Ancient Greeks, Persians, Chinese and Indians connected headaches to the state of the gut and the food consumed and seems like we are heading the same way now. Old tales prove right?
The recent research done by scientists from Tehran University of Medical Sciences suggests that bacteria which occupy our gut can either worsen or improve the migraine symptoms. They decided to investigate this theory by administering probiotics and placebo to the volunteer groups.
100 of migraine sufferers which participated in the study has received either placebo or a probiotic supplement every day for over two months period. After 8-10 weeks, those in probiotic group noted improvements in migraine frequency and intensity. Compared to those taking a placebo, the number of attacks had dropped by 40-45%.
And many more researchers confirming the connection: “We are finding out more and more about the role of the gut microbiome in health and disease,” says Professor Glenn Gibson, professor of food microbiology at the University of Reading. “As long ago as the 1800s, the Scottish physician Arbuthnot Lane suggested that the gut could be involved in migraine and schizophrenia. These predictions were not taken seriously at the time, but they are now.”
He adds that the gut microbiome is central to many disorders we once considered unrelated.
Anxiety, depression, autism, dementia and migraine are all on the research agenda.
The gut-brain connection is so old that ancient Greeks, for example, believed mental disorders arose when the digestive tract produced too much black bile. And long before people knew anything about microbes, some philosophers and physicians stated that human behavior was ruled by their diet.
As we are learning more and more about how certain foods affect our health, other findings pointing out that migraine sufferers may have a different mix of gut bacteria which makes them more sensitive to certain type of foods.
The research showed that migraine sufferers had higher levels of bacteria that are known to be involved in processing nitrates, which are typically found in processed meats, leafy vegetables and wines.
The latest findings raise the possibility that migraines could be triggered when nitrates in food are broken down more efficiently, causing vessels in the brain and scalp to dilate. If, indeed, it is the case for some of us, there is a high chance that our gut bacteria is breaking nitrates more efficiently thus making us more sensitive and the easiest way to find out would be to keep a food diary and flag out any “offenders” to decrease the quantity of migraine attacks.
Desperate for a solution, many people are choosing organic, including the wine. Most wines contain sulphur dioxide in them to prevent oxidation and growth of bacteria and yeasts. Considering that sulphur dioxide naturally occurs in wine during the fermentation process, added sulphur may cause sensitivity in some individuals even if the quantity of it is well within the recommended guidelines.
Having said that, sulphur dioxide is quietly present in dried fruits, nuts and many other packed and ready for consumption lunch box favorites, so if you notice any unusual symptoms such as headache, low blood pressure, diarrhea or stomach pain after eating any of those it’s worth to investigate the cause further.