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Mini-Medical School from UCSF’s Osher Center for Integrative Medicine

University of California San Francisco faculty members and other experts discuss current issues in health and science. Presentations from the last five years are available online. Some of particular interest include:

Coping With Stress

Brain, Mind and Behavior

Complementary & Alternative Medicine

UCSF’s Osher Center for Integrative Medicine runs the mini-medical school program.

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Debilitating Nausea Caused By High(ish) Magnesium Dose

white capsulesWoo hoo! I feel human again and it’s all because I stopped taking magnesium. Yep, magnesium, the wonder supplement that helps so many people with migraine and chronic daily headache. I don’t think magnesium itself is to blame, but that the dose was too high. Since I can’t even take a multivitamin without nausea, I was hyper-aware as I increased from my starting dose of 100 mg. Or so I thought.

At 333 mg per day, it was within the normal dose range for treating headaches of 200-500 mg per day. It was also within the recommended daily allowance of 350 mg. I’ve discovered that allowances and ranges are like speed limits: A guideline you’re not supposed to exceed, but that you don’t have to meet.

Practically every health care provider I’ve seen has recommended magnesium to me. I’ve taken it on and off over the last five years, although this is the first time I’ve taken it consistently for more than a few weeks. Because I’ve read so much about it and had it prescribed before, I thought I could adjust the dose myself just fine. I figured I’d be fine if I stayed at or under the RDA. I unwittingly fell for the myth that medications, vitamins and supplements sold over-the-counter are harmless.

The good and frustrating news: My overall head pain was less and I had fewer migraines during the time I was horribly nauseated. I’m guessing that means the magnesium helped some. I think once my system flushes the current round of magnesium, I’ll have my different vitamin and mineral levels tested. I’ll also make myself keep a diary of my symptoms and doses. I wouldn’t want to go through these last six weeks again. I felt horrible and was so scared of what might be wrong with me.

I haven’t had any blood tests, so I’m not positive the nausea was caused by excessive magnesium. But when debilitating nausea that began about the time I increased my dose goes away when I stop taking the pills, the evidence is strong enough for me.

What is your experience been with magnesium? Please leave a comment below or chime in on the online support group and forum.

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Alternative and Complementary Medicine: Evaluating Success Rates

Evaluating any medical claim carefully is crucial, no matter the source. With so many false or overblown claims about alternative and complementary treatments, I’m pretty skeptical. Alternative Medicine: Evaluate Claims of Treatment Success from the Mayo Clinic can help sort fact from fiction.

The section on avoiding internet misinformation is a must-read. Other topics in the article beware of health care scams and fraud, looking for solid scientific studies, evaluating providers and dietary supplements, and integrating Western medicine with complementary treatments.

Related articles from the Mayo Clinic include:

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Update on the Migraine & Chronic Daily Headache Treatments I’ve Tried Since February

I’ve tried a variety of treatments since February, but haven’t kept you updated. It’s like I don’t want to talk about them at the outset because I might jinx it. After a treatment has failed, I push it aside so I don’t have to think about it. Here’s the surprisingly long update.

Naturopath
Shedding tears in the naturopath’s office the first time was enough to keep me from seeing her again. Against my hard fast rule that I not take anything I can’t identify (which I also broke with the acupuncturist), I took the homeopathic remedy, vitamin D and magnesium supplements she suggested. They did nothing.

Chiropractor
I gave the chiropractor two months, which is the maximum time she told me it would take to see results. I went five times one week, four the next, three for a couple weeks and so on. Turns out I hold my adjustments very well. Unfortunately my migraines didn’t changed and having my neck adjusted freaked me out. Once she stopped asking about my headaches and focused on pain in my lower back, I knew she had given up.

By treating me as a challenge for which she was sure she had the solution, the chiropractor made the classic mistake of nearly every “alternative” care provider and many physicians I have seen. That always makes me laugh, but leaves me wary that the overconfident provider is setting him or herself up for a fall. Which is what always happens.

Sleep Specialist
Many people with treatment-resistant headache disorders become much more treatable once they have sleep problems resolved. Although my sleep seemed fine, I saw a sleep specialist with a background in neurology. Sadly, my sleep is practically perfect. I sleep eight hours, wake up rested, nap when I need to without having it interfere with that night’s sleep.

New Headache Specialist
A Seattle-based headache specialist that I’d never seen before was recommended highly, so I saw her in May. We hit it off immediately. Too bad we focused on my blog, headache patients in general and clinical trials. I left enrolled in a clinical trial for Lyrica and with a potential advertiser for The Daily Headache, but without having discussed any of my questions or other treatment options.

I already had Monday’s appointment with my first Seattle headache specialist, so I didn’t make another appointment with specialist #2. Seeing specialist #1 again reminded me that she’s the right doctor for me.

Lyrica Trial
In the spirit of giving back — and possibly finding an effective drug — I enrolled in a clinical trial of Lyrica. Currently I’m keeping a headache diary and am to start the meds (Lyrica or a placebo) at the end of the month. I’m pretty sure I’ll drop out before then.

Six months, the length of the study, is a long time to wait before I can get a prescription and test Lyrica out on my own. I have other treatments in the works and don’t want to confound the equation. Besides my impatience makes waiting more than a year to find out if I took Lyrica or the placebo agonizing. I can’t decide.

Wheat-Free, Dairy-Free Diet
This one needs it’s own post, which I’m working on. In sum, it looked like there could be a connection, then it looked clear there wasn’t. Now I have no clue.

That’s the update. Disappointing, huh? I have another round of ideas percolating. They seem like good ones this time, not acts of desperation. We’ll see.

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Hypnotism “Legitimate” Health Care Treatment

Hypnotism is becoming a more mainstream medical treatment, particularly for pain management, according to the Mayo Clinic Health Letter. It also has a track record of being an effective headache treatment. From the Mayo Clinic:

“A trance often can be induced most quickly in people who are in severe pain. A therapist may suggest that the pain will fade or that an area of pain will become numb. In some cases, hypnosis works as well or better than pain-relieving medications.

“Hypnosis is generally considered safe, but it only works in patients who are compliant. In other words, hypnosis can’t make people act against their own wills. Psychiatrists, psychologists and other health care providers with training in hypnosis can offer medical hypnotism. It’s important to verify that the therapist has experience in treating the medical condition, too.”

In Hypnosis: An Altered State of Consciousness, another Mayo Clinic article, hypnosis and its application to health care is well-described, including what it is, who it’s for, how it works. It also debunks common myths.

The emphasis placed on finding a good provider got my attention. One article says that you should be as careful in finding a hypnotherapist as you are in choosing a doctor.

Hypnosis as a practice is not regulated in most states, so it pays to be very careful when selecting a therapist. Certified lay
hypnotherapists are individuals who have completed 200 or more hours of training in hypnosis but don’t have additional professional health care training. Licensed health care professionals who practice hypnotherapy, such as psychologists, doctors and social workers, are trained in
hypnosis in addition to their university training.

Apply the same care in choosing a hypnotherapist as you would a doctor. Ask someone you trust for recommendations. When you find a potential hypnotherapist, ask questions such as:

  • Do you have training in a field such as psychology, medicine, social work or dentistry?
  • Are you licensed in your specialty in this state?
  • Where did you go to school, and where did you do your internship, residency or both?
  • If you’re a lay hypnotist, how much training have you had and from what school?
  • What professional organizations do you belong to?
  • How long have you been in practice?
  • What are your fees?