Q. I am fed up with all the conflicting advice about how to stay healthy. One day vitamin D is great; the next, experts say it doesn’t work for bones. On the following day, vitamin D is saving lives.
I have also seen flip-flops about eggs, salt, calcium, fluoride and hormone replacement therapy. Such reversals undermine faith in the Food and Drug Administration, drug companies, doctors and researchers. How do they expect us to trust anything they say?
We understand your frustration. Americans have been told for decades to cut back on eggs even though recent research shows they do not raise cholesterol. There is a raging controversy about the wisdom of widespread salt restriction (American Journal of Hypertension, January 2012).
Risks associated with calcium supplements (Heart, June 2012) and hormone replacement therapy (Annals of Internal Medicine online, May 28, 2012) just add to the confusion. You can’t go wrong with Grandma’s wisdom: exercise, vegetables and a good night’s sleep.
Herbs for toenail fungus
Q. I used to have ingrown toenails. I had them removed by surgery (both sides were sliced up and removed, not the whole nail). The nail bed was burnt to stop those portions growing back.
Now my nails have a really bad fungal infection. The nails have not grown for about a year, and they are very thick, curved, yellow and flaky. What can I do?
Trauma can sometimes trigger fungal infections in the nails. Prescription pills to treat nail fungus can have serious side effects, including liver damage.
There are a number of home remedies that you might try first, but you’ll need to be patient. It can take several months for any nail-fungus treatment to work. Foot soaks in cornmeal mush, Listerine and vinegar or Pau D’Arco tea may be surprisingly effective. Other treatments include Vicks VapoRub, tea tree oil, hydrogen peroxide, oregano oil and vitamin E.
Ticks and delayed allergy
Q. One evening five weeks ago, I had a weird allergic reaction. I hadn’t had any supper or taken any medicine, so my hives were puzzling. But I had had a hamburger for lunch. And I often get tick bites.
Three days later, I read your column about alpha-gal allergy and knew immediately that it was what I had. My physician had never heard of alpha-gal. He sent me to an allergist who had never seen it either. A blood test revealed an antibody level of 5.48; anything over 0.35 is positive. Without your column, who knows? I could have landed in the hospital.
Alpha-gal allergy is so peculiar that even many doctors don’t know much about it. The condition is triggered by the bite of a lone star tick, and it results in a delayed but potentially very serious reaction to eating meat. Some sufferers experience digestive distress, hives, difficulty breathing or anaphylactic shock. Anaphylaxis can be lethal.
Once a person has been sensitized, the only solution is to avoid beef, pork, lamb and any other sort of mammalian meat. Chicken and fish are fine. Some people carry prescription epinephrine (EpiPen) in case of accidental exposure. There’s more information about alpha-gal allergy at www.PeoplesPharmacy.com.
King Features Syndicate
Write to Joe and Terry Graedon via their website: www.PeoplesPharmacy.com. Their newest book is “Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them.”