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Do Nitrates Trigger Migraines?

Posted on November 25, 2016 by Jeanne Roberts There have been 0 comments

At the first sign of a migraine – that peculiar change in your vision, followed by a pins-and-needles sensation, weakness, nausea, even an inability to communicate clearly, and the ultimate, crashing, crushing headache – you want to hide in your bed and never come out.

Join the more than 16 million other Americans who suffer with this disability on at least a monthly basis, 11 million of those to such an extent that their life is visibly impaired. In fact, one out of seven people in the U.S. will suffer at least one migraine.

Scientists now agree that migraines are largely a response to environmental stimulants among people who may be predisposed to such headaches. That is, a single whiff of cigarette smoke, or the smell of some strong chemical, can trigger a migraine, as can excessive dust. Many migraine sufferers record some relief just using a humidifier in winter.

Other migraine victims report that air conditioning is a consistent trigger. In all, 74 percent of female migraine victims and 45 percent of males listed environmental factors as causing their migraines.

The percentage of females is higher because hormones are believed to be a large factor in developing migraines, as are stress and lack of sleep. Women also seem more affected than men by shift work or interruption of their diurnal rhythm, especially those past childbearing age. Statistically, migraine affects three times as many women as men.

One surprising and unexpected migraine trigger may also be lightning. Scientists suspect the electrical discharge during a lightning storm, or the altered level of negative ions, may play a role.

The Nitrate Trigger

Now, in an even more surprising study from the University of California, analyst Antonio Gonzalez and his group have isolated nitrates as a potential migraine factor.

The link first became evident when Gonzalez and his team realized that some nitrate-containing drugs administered for cardiac problems also caused severe headaches in some patients.

The evidence grew stronger when researchers pinpointed a greater number of nitrate-processing mouth and gut bacteria in the bodies of some migraine sufferers. These bacteria are solely dedicated to transforming the nitrates (in food) into nitric oxide, which eventually ends up in the bloodstream.

Since foods like chocolate, wine, and other high-nitrate items (leafy vegetables for one) have also been implicated in triggering migraines, the discovery was perhaps not that surprising. Add to that the fact that gut bacteria have been taking center stage lately for their role in affecting brain function in humans (thanks to the seminal work by researchers at UCLA’s Ahmanson-Lovelace Brain Mapping Center), and the whole issue of nitrates’ role in migraine becomes almost self-evident.

Researchers have concluded that the more efficient nitrate processing in some people causes blood vessels in the brain and scalp to dilate, allowing greater volumes of blood to flow and thus perhaps inducing migraines. This is also why coffee helps migraines, because it constricts those same blood vessels.

One doctor at the University Hospitals of North Midlands, in the UK, cited what he called a “hot dog headache” as making the nitrate theory even more medically likely. However he cautioned that more work would be needed to confirm the link.

In the Future

Doctors researching the cause of migraines have recently discovered that the antipsychotic drug ziprasidone could be useful in treating intractable migraine headaches, especially in patients who don’t respond to other treatments. Ziprasidone is used to treat schizophrenia, mania and various states associated with bipolar disorder, and is in the same class of drugs as Haldol, or Haloperidol, which alters the action of brain chemicals.

In a study of 43 patients who experienced debilitating migraines lasting more than 72 hours, ziprasidone was helpful in 81 percent of cases and led to full hospital discharge in 65 percent.

Farther in the future, researchers suggest that it might be possible to use a specially-designed, probiotic mouthwashes, tablets, or lozenges that would alter the balance of nitrate-processing bacteria in the mouth and intestines as a preemptive strike against migraines.

For now, however, doctors and researchers suggest that migraine sufferers avoid known trigger-points, especially those related to the environment, namely environmental pollutants, including chemicals, food additives, and excessive or harsh lighting.

In order to achieve a migraine free state, it might be important to insure that your bedding is 100-percent organic cotton. This includes mattress covers, sheets, pillowcases, blankets, and even duvet covers. Polyester and other fabric blends tend to offgass for most of their lives, and the odor is particularly noticeable after washing.


This post was posted in Blog and Green Library, Health and Safety and was tagged with air conditioning, air quality, bacteria, blood vessels, environment, gut bacteria, Haldol, Haloperidol. Bipolar, HEALTH SENSITIVE, heart medicine, hormones, hot dogs, leafy vegetables, Migraine, mouth bacteria, nitrates, sleeplessness, stress, wine, ziprasidone

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