Stress, caffeine, weather, hormones, diet…the list just goes on. When it comes to what triggers a migraine, the blame tally is long and seems to be expanding according to a new study just published in the American Society for Microbiology’s open-access journal. The research points to bacteria in the mouth as a new culprit for these agonizing headaches. Scientists found migraine sufferers have higher levels of bacteria in their mouth that reduce compounds called nitrates into nitrite. Nitrites can be converted to nitric oxide, which has long been thought to play a significant role in activating migraines.

“While the link between migraines and nitrates has been known for a while, researchers still aren’t sure about the nature of this link. We know it depends on the eventual formation of nitric oxide, but the exact mechanism hasn’t been established yet,” explained Embriette Hyde, assistant project scientist at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and a co-author of the study.

So what is the importance of this study if nitric oxide is already a noted contributor to the problem? The study introduces the relationship between your body’s natural germs and how medical conditions can come about because of them. It is the very first study to make this meaningful connection concerning migraines.

The body’s digestive system is its own microbiome, and its complexity is overwhelming. “One can imagine a targeted treatment, such as mouthwash or the introduction of a probiotic species. However, this will be really complex,” expressed Hyde. Understanding triggers and differences in people that have the headaches versus those that don’t help shine a light on new ways to explore treating and preventing the issue. However, that is only one piece of an incredibly intricate problem. This study opens the door to understanding the correlation, but much more in-depth testing will be needed to put any sort of remedy into practice.

If you suffer from these severe headaches, you are not alone. Nearly 32M Americans deal with migraines on a regular basis. And if you are a woman, you are three times more likely than a man to have the issue. Finding more useful treatment and preventative measures is paramount since the symptoms of these intense headaches can be debilitating.

The symptoms vary by person, but the excruciating pain is the one common denominator. All sufferers want to do is turn off the lights, lie down, and wait for the sweet relief of their migraine being over. Current treatments range from Tylenol and rest to prescriptions such as Imitrex. Even Botox has been introduced into the mix for chronic sufferers. Speak with your doctor about your specific symptoms to see what may be the best care options for you and your migraines.

While theory brought forth in this particular study is analyzed further, you may want to limit a number of nitrates in your diet if you already suffer from migraines. Processed meats such as hot dogs, bacon, deli meats, ham and sausage all tend to be high in the triggering preservatives. See if eliminating or lessening theses items from your diet reduces the frequency of your migraines.