Q: You often suggest anti-inflammatory foods as alternatives to pharmacy pain relievers. Why not consider sesame? An ingredient in this seed, sesamin, blocks the inflammatory activity of insulin.
Answer: Thank you for the suggestion. Although we have been collecting home remedies for decades, we have not encountered any using sesame seeds. That said, we just discovered a clinical trial comparing ground sesame seed to acetaminophen (Tylenol) for knee arthritis (International Journal of Rheumatic Diseases, October 2013).
The researchers divided 50 people with arthritic knee pain into two groups. One received 2,000 milligrams of acetaminophen and 500 milligrams of glucosamine daily, while the other got 40 grams of sesame daily. After two months, those who had taken the sesame seed had significantly less pain and better function than those taking the drug. Other scientists have found that sesamin has a beneficial effect on cartilage (Glycoconjugate Journal online, December 2013).
Q: Some time ago, I had a horrible coughing fit at my bank. The teller, an Indian woman, motioned for me and handed me a couple of pieces of candied ginger from her purse. It worked immediately, and now I keep some handy for anyone needing it to quell a cough.
Answer: What a tasty cough remedy! Research dating back to 1984 shows that a compound in ginger, (6)-shogaol, is at least as effective as a codeine compound in fighting a cough (Journal of Pharmacobio-Dynamics, November 1984). More recently, scientists have confirmed that this compound also can fight fever, pain and inflammation (Immunopharmacology and Immunotoxicology, August 2013).
Q: About 10 years ago, I cleaned up my diet big-time. I was eating so many fresh fruits and vegetables, I figured I no longer needed the multivitamin and fish oil I had been taking. After about a year, I was feeling great physically, but could not concentrate as well as I used to. I read the term “brain fog” and thought that was definitely what I had.
I started taking fish oil again, just a 1,000 milligram capsule daily. Within about a month or so, my mind felt noticeably more clear and agile. I’ll never stop taking fish oil as long as I can get it.
Answer: The benefits of fish oil are controversial when it comes to cognitive function. A review of the literature points out that animal studies are consistently positive and that fish-oil supplements seem to help with mild cognitive impairment — what you are calling brain fog — but not Alzheimer’s disease (Advances in Nutrition, November 2013).
A large, long-term study of women found that those with the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their red blood cells had less brain shrinkage (atrophy) on MRI testing (Neurology online, Jan. 22, 2014). Most nutrition experts recommend eating fatty fish at least twice a week to get adequate levels of fish oil.
Q: The pain and trauma of erectile dysfunction in a loving relationship cannot be underestimated. I am a mature woman in a relationship with a man I adore who has ED. A blood pressure medication chemically castrated him first. When he stopped taking it, he was finally able to get intermittent erections, but the ED was still there, just not quite as bad.
He also was on a high dose of simvastatin for cholesterol. He stopped taking it after I found out about its devastating effects on men. He’s been off it for several days, and last night we both noticed a real difference!
My advice for women in my situation is to try to keep the love and sexiness in your life. It may take much more time to turn your man on. Make sure there is no anxiety or stress over sexual performance, and keep love and affection alive.
Answer: The connection between statin therapy and erectile dysfunction has been controversial ever since Italian clinical researchers reported ED and lower testosterone in patients taking statins (Journal of Sexual Medicine, April 2010). Scientists have just confirmed in laboratory studies that statins inhibit testosterone production (Reproductive Toxicology online, Jan. 22, 2014). It seems that this might contribute to ED, especially in older men.
We strongly recommend medical supervision for discontinuing any prescribed medication such as simvastatin or a blood pressure pill. Your advice for partners is on target.
Q: How do I get off Nexium? My doctor had me taking it twice a day and told me to cut back to one. I’ve had terrible heartburn, even though I started taking Zantac. Do you have any tips for dealing with side effects? How long will it take for the stomach to go back to normal acid production?
Answer: Although proton pump inhibitors like Nexium are useful in some situations, they can be very difficult to quit. Stopping acid-suppressing drugs suddenly leads to rebound hyperacidity.
You may need to reduce your dose even more gradually. Adding Zantac would usually be expected to ease heartburn, but there are other approaches you may want to try. DGL (deglycyrrhizinated licorice) before meals, probiotics daily and persimmon-ginger tea at mealtime may help. It can take a few months for acid production to normalize.
Q. Some lip balms made my chapped lips worse. I had rough, raw skin from my nose to my chin. Then I remembered that my mother is allergic to lanolin (sheep’s wool oil). Once I stopped using products with lanolin, the problem went away.
My son was licking his lips, and I told him to stop licking them and put something on them. He replied that it just made his lips worse. I bought him lip balm without lanolin, and his problem was solved.
Answer: Although lanolin is an excellent moisturizer, some people are sensitive to it. Like you and your son, they do better to avoid it.
In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them via their website: www.PeoplesPharmacy.com.