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Can antiviral drugs combat Alzheimer’s disease?

August 19, 2018

Q: I have read on your website that herpes infections have been linked to Alzheimer’s disease. If there is a connection, would taking an antiviral medicine (one that combats both cold sores and genital herpes) be helpful?

A: You are asking a brilliant question. Scientists have been proposing that Alzheimer’s disease may be linked to herpes infections (Neuron, June 21, 2018).

The peptide that makes up amyloid plaques typical of Alzheimer’s disease appears to be the brain’s way of fighting infection. Learn more about this in our free one-hour radio interview with Dr. Robert Moir and Dr. Dale Bredesen. It is Show 1132, available online at peoplespharmacy.com.

Some physicians suggest that antiviral medicines should be tested as a way of treating Alzheimer’s disease (Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, March 6, 2018). In fact, two clinical trials are recruiting study subjects to test the antiviral drug valacyclovir. One is at the New York State Psychiatric Institute, and the other is at University Hospital in Umea, Sweden. Learn more at clinicaltrials.gov.

Q: When valsartan was recalled, my doctor switched me to losartan instead for my hypertension. The prescription is for “losartan-hctz.” Is that safe?

I have been on it for two weeks and have horrible indigestion, gas, stomach cramps and bad diarrhea. At the same time, he increased my metformin dosage to 1,000 milligrams twice daily.

A: The Food and Drug Administration has published an extensive list of recalled valsartan products. These medications were contaminated with a probable carcinogen. As a result, there are shortages of valsartan, and many doctors are switching patients to a similar blood pressure medicine.

Both losartan and valsartan are in the same drug class, called ARBs (angiotensin receptor blockers). Losartan can cause indigestion, stomachache, nausea and diarrhea. So can metformin.

Please let your doctor know about these symptoms. He may want to adjust the dose of one or the other of your medications.

Other possible losartan side effects include fatigue, cough, muscle or joint pain, low blood pressure and dizziness. Such drugs also may cause an allergic reaction that makes the face, lips and throat swell. If this occurs in the digestive tract, it can cause severe abdominal pain.

Q: I got addicted to Afrin nasal spray. I couldn’t go longer than 15 minutes without it.

It was a painful process to break the habit, but this worked for me: I would apply a hot compress to my sinuses (and cry because it hurt so much). Then I would eat really hot green chile salsa, which would open up my sinuses. (I found this also would work if I was just starting to get a sinus infection.)

It helped to go for a run to get the sinuses open after eating the salsa. If I get a little stuffed up now, out comes the green chile. I have read that green chile has medicinal properties. Maybe this will help someone else break a nose spray addiction.

A: When people use strong vasoconstricting nasal decongestants for more than a few days, the nose adapts. Stopping the spray can trigger rebound nasal congestion, which may lead to a vicious cycle of nasal spray overuse.

Your strategy is intriguing. Others have found that gradually diluting the spray with saline solution can help. Some people also use steroid nasal sprays (Flonase, Nasacort, Rhinocort) to overcome nose spray dependency.

Q: The only thing that has ever helped my rosacea has been milk of magnesia. Over two decades, I have tried prescription Metrogel, prescription antibiotics, Prosacea, tea tree oil, jojoba oil, sea buckthorn oil, various “healing” muds, splashing my face with apple cider vinegar (ouch!), snail slime, IPL lasers, homeopathic remedies, Chinese herbs and more “redness” creams and lotions than I can remember.

I’ve eaten yogurt and banished gluten, taken supplements, including magnesium, and used antihistamines. In the end, MoM was the only thing that worked for me on a lasting basis. The IPL laser treatments helped for about one week before the redness returned.

I applied the milk of magnesia at night about five minutes before going to bed (to give it a chance to dry) and rinsed it off first thing in the morning. There was a noticeable difference after the first night, and within five nights my skin was clearer than it had been in 20 years. I now do “maintenance” by using MoM about once a month.

Everyone’s body is different. MoM may not work for others, but given its low cost it could be worth a try.

A: Rosacea (also called “acne rosacea”) is a skin condition associated with flushing, redness and bumps on the face. The cause is unclear, but some dermatologists suggest that it is an overreaction to Demodex mites that live on everyone’s skin. There also is evidence that Helicobacter pylori infections of the stomach can trigger rosacea (BMC Infectious Diseases, July 11, 2018). Treating the H. pylori seems to help as much as or more than the usual rosacea treatments.

We could find no clinical research on milk of magnesia used topically for rosacea. You are not the only reader who has found it helpful, however.

Some people use the dandruff shampoo Selsun Blue, containing selenium sulfide, to wash their face. They report noticeably less redness. Dietary restrictions that avoid personal rosacea triggers such as black pepper, yogurt, canola oil, citrus fruits or tomatoes also might be helpful for some individuals.

Q: Our family has been adding cinnamon to our coffee for years. We put a mixture of cinnamon and cocoa powder (no sugar) into the coffee filter. Then, we put another filter on top of the cinnamon-cocoa filter in which we put the coffee. It gives the coffee a slight chocolate-cinnamon flavor. Yum! Are there any health benefits?

A: Cinnamon can help keep post-meal blood sugar from spiking (Lipids in Health and Disease, June 12, 2017). It also may help control cholesterol levels (Clinical Nutrition, online, March 11, 2018).

Some research indicates that cocoa also might have health benefits, reducing the risk of cardiovascular complications and diabetes (Clinical Nutrition, online, June 1, 2018). Coffee itself appears to reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes (Diabetes Care, February 2014).

To learn more about a variety of ways to control blood sugar, including other natural approaches, you may wish to read our People’s Pharmacy “Guide to Managing Diabetes.” It can be downloaded for $2 from our website: www.peoplespharmacy.com.

Contact the Joe and Teresa Graedon via their website: peoplespharmacy.com.

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