Q: The dentist recommended xylitol for my dry mouth. Wow, diarrhea city! What else can I use for a dry mouth?
A: You are not the only one to complain about the compounds in sugarless gum and some products recommended for dry mouth. Another reader shared your discomfort:
“Any of the sugar alcohols like maltitol, sorbitol and mannitol give me terrible diarrhea, even in very small amounts. Sugar-free gum and some mouth moisturizers contain xylitol and are out of the question for me.”
A different reader offered this alternative: “I recently discovered that extra-virgin olive oil works well for a dry mouth. I keep a small bottle of olive oil under my pillow. When I wake up with a dry mouth or have to go to the bathroom, I just put three to four drops on my tongue. It stimulates saliva production almost immediately and helps make my mouth moist. This lasts for a few hours.
“Olive oil is natural, excellent for health and quite economical. Other stuff has a lot of chemicals in it and is very expensive.”
Q: According to some research, cinnamon, turmeric, garlic, ginger and rosemary are spices that have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer activity. Some spices also may help to prevent dementia and control blood sugar and blood pressure. Do you need to take them with food for them to be effective?
A: There are studies demonstrating that such spices do have antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory power (Clinical Nutrition Research, October 2015). A pilot study demonstrated that a combination of sage, rosemary and lemon balm seemed to help people with word recall (Phytomedicine, Jan. 15, 2018).
You can learn more about these and many other flavorful plants in our book “Spice Up Your Health: How Everyday Kitchen Herbs & Spices Can Lengthen & Strengthen Your Life.” It is available at peoplespharmacy.com.
We generally think that spices work best when used with foods. Traditional combinations such as curry contain ingredients (black pepper, ghee or coconut oil) that improve the absorption of curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric.
Q: I finally figured out that the itch that follows sweating along my bra line is actually a latex allergy. Finding a latex-free bra has proved challenging, so now I wear all my bras inside out/outside in. Usually the latex is on the inside, and the outer covering is a smooth satiny fabric. This has made a wonderful difference!
A: We never thought of wearing a bra inside out, but it seems like a simple solution to your problem. Latex-free bras are available online.
Many women experience under-breast rash in hot weather. In some cases, the irritation may be caused by a fungal infection similar to jock itch.
Numerous readers have shared their remedies for this situation. One wrote: “I had a terrible rash last summer (both under my breasts and in the fold under my stomach). Someone told me to try Dr. Bronner’s tea tree liquid soap and Gold Bond medicated powder. Twice a day (morning and before bed) I wash the areas with the tea tree soap, rinse and dry well and then use the medicated powder on the areas. It has cleared up the rash completely, though I do not like the medicated aroma.”
Q: I have always watched my diet, exercised and consumed lots of water, never soda. When the hot flashes of menopause became too strong, I wanted something besides water. According to the research I found, flavored seltzer water could be the answer. I drank tons of it.
After about eight months, a kidney stone hit out of nowhere. The emergency room nurses and doctors told me it was the carbonation. I haven’t touched seltzer water since.
A: Hot summer months are the time of year that kidney stones are most likely to show up. Perhaps that is because people are more likely to become dehydrated when the temperature rises. This concentrates the urine, which makes stone formation more likely.
The No. 1 recommendation for preventing stone formation is to drink lots of water — between 2.5 and 4 liters daily (Journal of Urology, March 2013). Carbonated water (aka seltzer water) is a bit more complicated. Soft drinks, especially colas, seem to increase the risk of repeat kidney stones (Annals of Internal Medicine, Nov. 4, 2014). Mineral water, whether still or sparkling, did not increase the likelihood of a problem. Carbonation might even be somewhat beneficial (Urolithiasis, February 2016). Plain seltzer water with lemon juice provides citrate, which can help prevent the formation of kidney stones (Archivio Italiano di Urologia, Andrologia, July 7, 2015).
Q: I know you have warned against using Vaseline to moisturize the inside of the nostrils. My question is: What can be used to relieve a dry nose?
When I asked my thoracic surgeon about using Vaseline, he told me that in his long career, he has never seen a case of lung disease attributed to this.
A: A pharmacist wrote to us to recommend an OTC product, AYR Nasal Gel, for moisturizing dry nasal passages. This water-based product should be found next to the AYR Saline Spray in the nose drop section of the pharmacy. If you don’t find it, the pharmacy should be able to order it.
He continued: “You are perfectly correct that usage of Vicks, Vaseline or similar petroleum-based products in the nose may very well result in lipoid pneumonia, an extremely dangerous condition.”
Q: My husband had a cardiac arrest and died 20 days after being prescribed trimethoprim for an infection. He already was taking lisinopril to control his blood pressure.
The post-mortem concluded he had plaque in two of his cardiac arteries and had suffered a heart attack. There was no mention of possible drug interactions, although he had had no prior heart symptoms.
A: The potentially life-threatening interaction of trimethoprim with an ACE inhibitor such as lisinopril or enalapril is under-recognized. This antibiotic often is prescribed in combination with sulfamethoxazole to treat common infections. It is called co-trimoxazole, SMZ-TMP or TMP-SMX (Bactrim, Septra).
All ACE inhibitors and ARBs like valsartan and losartan can interact with this antibiotic to raise potassium to lethal levels (BMJ, Oct. 30, 2014). Too much potassium can cause cardiac arrest that is hard to distinguish from a heart attack.
We have written extensively about this and other deadly interactions in our book ”Top Screwups.” To protect yourself, you may want to check our top 11 tips for preventing dangerous drug interactions (Pages 108-110). The book is available at your local library or at peoplespharmacy.com.
Contact the Graedons at peoplespharmacy.com.