DNC News

Migraine Headaches: a new protocol for treatment using fermented a fish product called SeaCure

Reading a recent study on the treatment of migraine headaches has given me reason to contemplate the philosophies of naturopathic practice. Before I tell you about the new study, let me give you some background.

When I was in school we were trained to treat migraines by treating food sensitivities. About 70-90% of all migraine headaches are triggered by eating certain particular trigger foods.[1] Which food is the culprit varies from person to person but some foods are likely suspects. Foods containing high amounts of amines (chocolate, cheese, citrus, alcohol) are frequent triggers. Other foods seem to be allergic triggers (wheat orange, egg, tea, coffee, milk, beef, corn, sugar, and yeast in that order).[2]

This sounds very good in theory. But have you ever tried to convince someone to stop eating their favorite foods? A great many people refuse to even try a hypoallergenic diet, afraid that it might work. So, I have learned to try the 'magic bullets' first before trying these dietary measures. There are a couple of good ones and sometimes they work.

Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) has been used for centuries to treat migraine headaches and in some studies it has proven effective in as many as 70% of the participants.[3] Another herb, Butterbur (Petasites hybridus) is growing in popularity. In a recent double-blinded trial, Butterbur reduced migraine frequency by 50% after a 12 week period.[4 ] High doses of riboflavin (400 mg/day) produced a 59% response (>50% improvement) rate in a three-month trial.[5]

All potential quick fixes; they work like drugs. As long as the patient takes them, they feel better. They don't fix the problem. Then along comes a new treatment for migraines. James Sensenig, ND has an article in the current issue of Alternative Medicine Review [6] using a surprising combination of nutritional products. The main ingredient he used is a hydrolyzed protein made of fermented fish called SeaCure. We've been using SeaCure for about 8 years for other things. When we first startedusing it, SeaCurewas new on the market with little supportive research and very few hints what to use it for. There were a few clinical trials done by the UN decades earlier, copies of which I've lost. This early research was in treating pediatric diarrhea in malnourished third world populations. We've known Jim Sensenig long enough to trust his judgment. He said try it, we tried it.

SeaCure is made by fermenting fish, drying the resultant glop and encapsulating the powder. This process produces a predigested highly absorbable protein. It smells like the flavoring agent for dried cat food. We tried it in situations where people were recovering from injury; after chemotherapy, after surgery, after car accidents. It worked well. In fact far better than it should have looking at the amino acids it contained. I learned to tell patients that the product was supercharged protein. One study came out with a theory suggesting that the small chains of amino acids in the product acted like neurotransmitters stimulating repair and better absorption in the small intestine.[7]

Over the years SeaCure became something of a clinical pearl, a thing you know that works well, even if you don't know why. It is now a common treatment for inflammatory conditions of the intestine. Irritable bowel disease, Crohn's disease, celiac disease, ulcerative colitis and other vaguer GI complaints often respond to a six week trial of SeaCure. We've been hearing rumors for a few years that SeaCure and it's updated formula Foundation were being used for migraines. Now we have the results of an open trial using these products.

Due to the short term of this study (90 days) only patients who were having at least two migraines per month were selected. No applicants with head or neck trauma were accepted. No consideration was given to current or previous use of pharmaceutical, over the counter or natural products. Forty people participated in this early trial. Two products were used by the participants. The first which is SeaCure's updated version called Foundation is 70% fish protein and the remaining 30% a mix of chlorophyll extracts and probiotic bacteria.

The second product , called Renew is a blend of ingredients designed to improve liver and kidney function. After 90 days, 32 of the 40 (80%) experienced a reduction in migraine frequency. Twenty-four (60%) of the participants experienced almost total relief from migraine attacks. Eighty percent of the study participants experienced sustained improvements in quality of life during the study. This quality of life improvement measurement was calculated using a standard questionaire which did not solicit responses about headaches. Participants had fewer headaches but also led happier lives.

How or why does this protocol work? Is there some magic ingredient in one of the formulas that blocks migraine attacks? I don't think so. Rather the explanation is probably what the product does do. The combination improves nutrient absorption from the intestines, improves intestinal discrimination preventing absorption of unwanted sewage and enhances the eliminative processes of the kidney and liver. The body works better and in the process feels better and so gets fewer headaches. Rather than using a plant extract or megadose vitamin as a drug to prevent the headaches, this new protocol may work by improving function.

This is what naturopathic doctors are supposed to do. Feverfew, Butterbur and riboflavin, although all available over the counter in health food stores, are basically drugs in disguise. Dr. Sensenig's new protocol is far closer to traditional naturopathic ideals. The real goal in naturopathic medicine is to get the body to heal itself. We want to supply the body what it needs to heal, we want to find the right stimulus to inspire it to heal, we want it to heal, to get better.

Often we find ourselves acting as medical doctors in disguise. We prescribe 'natural' treatments following the same allopathic model a MD does. Pick a drug that makes the symptoms go away. Instead of using antibotics to kill germs we use grapefruit seed extract. Instead of an antihistamine we use ephedra. These natural medicines are closer to allopathic drugs than they are to true naturopathic cures. They temporarily suppress the symptoms of disease. They don't change disease, they don't cure disease.

So anyone who comes in complaining about migraines, watch out. Sensenig's protocol appears to work and I'm going to use it. Even if it does smell like cat food.

1. Egger J. Is Migraine food allergy? a double blind controlled trial of oligoantigenic diet treatment. Lancet Oct 15 865-9 1983.
2. Grant E. Food allergies and Migraine. Lancet 1:966, 1979.
3. Johnson E S et al. Efficacy of feverfew as prophylactic treatment of migraine. Brit Med J 291 569-573 1985.
4. Grossman W. Migraine prophylaxis with a phytopharmaceutical remedy: the results of a randomized placebo-controlled double-blind clinical study with petadolex. Der Freie Arzt. No.3:44-49 1996.
5. Schoenen J, Jacquy J et al. Effectiveness of high-dose riboflavin in migraine prophylaxis. A randomised controlled trial. Neurology 50:466-70, 1998.
6. Sensenig J et al. Treatment of migraine with targeted nutrition focused on improved assimilation and elimination. Alt Med Rev (6)5: 488-494 2001.
7. Englender C. Symptom reduction in Irritable Bowel Syndrome with Pre-digeted fish protein supplement.Townsend Letter for Doctors 60-64 Aug 2000.

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