Naturopathic Medicine Cooking Resources Find a Physician

Book Reviews
 Your Condition


 Cooking Hints


 Patient Forms

What's New! - A Healthy Living Newsletter

My patients frequently ask my opinion about new health books on the market. And there's certainly no shortage of experts peddling their advice! While many of these books are excellent, others are written by people who don't have a clinical background in the subject. Simply put - they're inaccurate.

The people writing the books either don't regularly use the medicines they write about or they're presenting theories as if they are facts. Others can be valuable tools for improving the quality of your life.

If you find this newsletter useful, please forward it to a friend!

Migraine Headaches
And the Foods You eat
Agnes Peg Hartnell, EdD, RD
G. Scott Tyler, MD

Migraine Headaches is one of those books that seems really obvious - watch what you eat and your migraines will decrease in frequency. It seems so obvious that people ignore it. Maybe they just don't want to think there could be a connection between the cigarette, birth control pills or the prescription medication and their migraines. But too often, the migraine sufferer fails to make this connection and endures more frequent and more intense attacks as well as takes more medication, when one of the solutions is fairly simple - look to your diet and lifestyle.

Migraine Headaches is a cookbook, but authors Agnes Hartnell and Dr. Tyler pack a substantial amount of information in the 22 pages of text prior to the 220 pages of recipes. They break down migraine triggers into chemical categories such as tyramine, caffeine, nicotine, tyrosine, dopamine, serotonin, histamine, fermented foods, yeast and aged foods, sodium, nitrates and prescription medications such as amphetamines (weight loss products), MAO inhibitors, codeine (cough suppressants and pain medicines) , nitroglyerine, propranolol (heart medications), sleep aids, cold medications, and oral contraceptives. For example, tyramine, a common migraine trigger is present in Camembert, Cheddar and Blue Cheeses. Similarly, smoked, salted, picked or dried meats are also suspect as possible causes of migraines.

One of the most interesting points they make is to caution the migraine sufferer to bring food onto the airplanes in order to avoid the food additives commonly used in commercial foods that can trigger migraines.

How valid is the food connection? Extremely. I have seen a marked decrease in migraines in patients by just by avoiding fast foods, red wine, MSG, certain types of cheese and processed lunch meats. How easy is it to do this? Hard - as it often means that the migraine sufferer needs to prepare virtually all his or her own meals. This is where the recipes come in. Except for the use of margarine, egg substitutes and sugar substitutes, the recipes are good. It's interesting to note that some of the recipes include nuts, onions, and lemon juice despite these foods being on the questionable list.

When I finished reading this book, I thought, the concept is a good one, but the authors aren't providing a simple way to implement it. Their recommendation is to avoid all the foods and lifestyle choices in every category. This would result in eliminating about 25 fairly common foods from the diet such as dairy, aged and processed meats, fava beans, snow peas, soy beans, yeast products, oriental foods, chocolate, sauerkraut, red wines, and MSG. That's the A list. The B list (those foods dangerous to some, but not all migraine suffers) include, coffee, tea, salad dressings, dried fruits, imitation crab, coconut, ham, bacon, pork, mushrooms, snails, salty foods, and vanilla. The C list -- foods to be consumed with caution -- are instant soup powders, citrus fruit, particularly orange juice, soy sauce, ripe avocado, ripe bananas, yogurt, fresh raspberries, peanuts, red plums, onions and Worcestershire sauce. These would be a hard list for many to follow.

The authors fail to suggest a simpler solution - review the book and do a migraine diet diary. Write down what you eat for 1 month along with the frequency of migraines. Often a pattern will evolve. For example, if after 4 diet colas in one day, a migraine occurs the next, then it would be logical to consider that either the artificial sweetener from the soda and/or the caffeine is the problem. Then take one of these categories of triggers and eliminate it from the diet for 4 weeks. If the migraines decrease, then this is most likely a trigger. If the migraines remain the same, consider another category from this book.

Migraine Headaches and the Foods You Eat is a really helpful book. It won't stop the need for medication, but it may decrease it and make the migraine sufferer's life a little easier.

The Miracle of Magnesium
Carolyn Dean, M.D., N.D.

If you or someone you know suffers from muscular weakness, anxiety, heart disease, seizures, convulsions, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, environmental illness, diabetes, migraines, PMS, osteoporosis or kidney stones, then this is a book you will want to read. Despite the pretentious title, The Miracle of Magnesium is a well written and well-documented book that brings to the foreground a mineral that is critical to our health but often overlooked.

What's the big deal - surely we can get this mineral in our diet or our daily multi vitamin and mineral? Dr. Carolyn Dean suggests that you probably can't.

"Do you know that most of us today are suffering from certain dangerous diet deficiencies which cannot be remedied until depleted soils from which our food comes are brought into proper mineral balance? The alarming fact is that foods (fruit, vegetables and grains) now being raised on millions of acres of land that no longer contain enough of certain minerals are starving us - no matter how much of them we eat. The truth is that our foods vary enormously in value, and some of them aren't worth eating as food" 74th Congress, U.S. Senate Document no. 264 - 1936.

Carolyn Dean starts her book with this astounding quote - a quote that is truer today than when it was written in 1936. Magnesium rich foods include, nuts, beans, greens (kale, collard, mustard greens, etc.), seeds (sunflower and pumpkin), seaweeds, especially kelp and dulse, wheat bran, tofu, millet and molasses. You might have noticed that processed foods such as frozen foods, white breads, sugar, and coffee weren't included. In fact, these kinds of non-foods actually deplete magnesium from the body. And as Dean points out, 90% of the American food dollar is spent on processed foods.

Not only do we not get it in the food we eat, many of us adopt high-protein diets which further deplete our supply of magnesium. To compound the problem, in the last decade there has been a dramatic increase in the supplementation of calcium mainly targeting children and women. Calcium pills as well as calcium-fortified foods line the supermarkets and vitamin/mineral sections of pharmacies and health food stores. Dean points out that a influx of calcium without a balance of magnesium will lead to a new host of problems including the more obvious muscle spasms, convulsions, and high blood pressure. She therefore recommends 800mg of calcium and 600 mg of magnesium daily to treat or prevent osteoporosis - as well as a diet rich in vegetables, beans, grains, nuts and seeds.

Your physician may be unintentionally further depleting your supply of magnesium with many prescription medications such as diuretics, birth control pills, insulin, tetracycline and other antibiotics, and cortisone (anti-inflammatory pain medications, creams and asthma inhalers). Ironically, cortisone which is prescribed to decrease bronchial spasms in asthmatic patients is itself eliminating magnesium, a natural antispasmodic beneficial to this condition.

One of the most interesting points in the book was the frequency with which people are being treated with prescription drugs when in fact, the underlying problem is a insufficient magnesium. Take heart disease. A magnesium deficiency may manifest itself as spasms of the blood vessels surrounding the heart, mitral valve prolapse, increased blood pressure or calcium buildup in cholesterol plaques in the arteries. Your arrhythmia, high blood pressure, or cholesterol medicine may be masking a magnesium deficiency. Before you charge out and purchase some magnesium, Dr. Dean suggests you ask your physician to have an ionic magnesium test to verify if a deficiency actually exists.

How much magnesium should we be getting? The RDA (recommended daily allowance) is 6mg per kg (2.2lbs) of weight or around 550 mg a day for a 200 lb male. For this same male, Dr. Dean suggests 600 - 900 mg of magnesium per day. While I didn't read a specific recommendation for women, she takes 500 mg of absorbable magnesium daily. After you discuss it with your physician, be cautious about starting a magnesium supplement. It's better to start slowly and allow your bowels to adapt. If you do get loose bowels, decrease the dosage temporarily and gradually increase the dosage.

Is magnesium a miracle cure? Not really. Is it something that most of us should consider? After reading this book, I definitely think so.

Herbal and Health Tip

For the past several months, I have been analyzing an email that has been circulating on the internet warning (and scaring) people about the dangers of herbs.

I really try to be patient with these herb-bashers - especially when I get wonderful people walking through my door with side-effects like debilitating arthritis or diabetes caused by their prescription medications.

Instead, I try to educate. This month, the herb in question is Ginseng. Here is what the email said.


Avoid mixing with:

a.. Warfarin (Coumadin), an anticoagulant
b.. Phenelzine sulfate (Nardil), an antidepressant
c.. Digoxin (Lanoxicaps, Lanoxin), a drug used to increase the force of
contraction of heart muscle and to regulate heartbeats

Used with warfarin, ginseng can increase risk of bleeding problems. Used
with phenelzine sulfate, it may cause headache, trembling and manic
behavior. Used with digoxin, it may interfere with the drug's pharmacologic
action or the ability to monitor its activity.

First, there are three main types of ginseng with three different sets of properties. The person(s) doing the warning did not specify which one they were warning people about - or about how much was taken. To put it in perspective, this email may be warning people about instances in which someone took 10-15 times the amount that would be medically prudent. If so, I'd be warning people about the same thing. It's not the herb, it's the way it was used.

To shed light on the issue, let's talk about all three.

Panax ginseng is the one most commonly used by men, especially weight-lifters, for a quick boost. When I used to work with weight-lifters, it was like talking to a brick wall to get them to slow down on taking Panax. It is not a suitable herb for the young, elderly or anyone in poor health. It focuses on the adrenals, but it is so powerful, that it can over-stimulate the adrenals if used in anything but small amounts. This over-stimulation can be seen as mania or trembling if used in conjunction with the anti-depressant phenelzine sulfate (Nardil).Therefore, this herb should only be used under the guidance of an herbalist/naturopathic physician.

Often paired in description with Panax ginseng is American ginseng. Like Panax, it has anti-tumor, anti-viral, liver protective, anti-ulcer, and blood sugar balancing properties. It can be used more freely than Panax ginseng, but the same caution exists.

Siberian ginseng (Eleuthrococcus) is often included with the ginsengs though it is not botanically in the same category. This is a wonderful herb that gently supports the adrenals when a person has been under stress for long periods of time. It is extremely safe if taken for 1-3 months at the correct dosage for that individual. There has been a single instance of the possibility of Eleuthrococcus interacting with Digoxin. In this case the digoxin levels increased in the blood, but subsequent ECG to determine if any damage occurred was negative - there was no change in the ECG.

One could view this in several ways. First, a single instance that did not result in an altered ECG does not conclusively indicate a problem. Second, perhaps, a reduced prescription of digoxin would be an alternative. Thirdly, we don't know what the amount of Siberian ginseng was used. Perhaps the person used it in excess.

I couldn't find a clinical or scientific reason for the writer's warning about ginseng and warfarin. Neither did I read anything about it having blood thinning properties.

Again, if you read a caution like those circulating in this email, it's best to consult with a naturopathic physician or herbalist.


To all the local readers, our office is located at
11825 SW Greenburg Rd., Ste A2, Tigard, Or. 97223.

Copyright 2009


Home   Naturopathic Medicine   Resources   Food Directions
About the Doctor

Snail Mail: Dr. Juniper Martin
11825 SW Greenburg Road, Suite A2
Tigard, Oregon 97223