Q: I have scars on my arms and legs after an outbreak of poison ivy. Are there any natural remedies for?
A: Dermatologists and plastic surgeons report that no single therapy has been proven effective for reducing scars (Facial Plastic Surgery Clinics of North America, August 2011). Although some research suggests that onion extract (found in several over-the-counter products) might help, the evidence is not consistent.
Vitamin E oil research also is inconclusive. Many visitors to our website (www.PeoplesPharmacy.com) report that vitamin E applied topically has been helpful, but it can trigger a nasty rash in up to a third of those who use it.
Q: My doctor has taken me off calcium because of studies showing that calcium supplements may increase the risk of heart disease. Is it safe for me to take calcium carbonate for heartburn?
A: Many people were surprised by research showing that calcium supplements were associated with a higher risk of heart attacks (BMJ online, April 19, 2011; Heart, June 2012). Taking calcium carbonate for occasional heartburn should not put you in danger, but there are other options. These range from herbal tea to sugarless gum, ginger or baking soda.
For information about handling heartburn, we are sending you our Guide to Digestive Disorders. It also can be downloaded for $2 from our website: www.peoplespharmacy.com.
Q: Three nights ago, I was awakened by a feeling of the room whirling around. Ever since then, I cannot bend down or turn my head without vertigo, and I have vomited as well.
I have taken Bonine, but it does not seem to help. What can I do?
A: If you are suffering from benign positional vertigo (BPV), medications won't help. The cause of this condition is calcium crystals in the inner ear drifting out of position.
You'll need a diagnostic work-up to see if this is the problem. If it is, a manipulation called the Epley maneuver can be helpful to get the crystals back where they belong. A recent article in Neurology (July 24, 2012) reported that YouTube videos can help patients with BPV learn to manage this at home. Go to youtube.com and search for "Epley maneuver."
Q: I suffered from migraine headaches for nearly 27 years. I would have one or two a week this entire time, sometimes more.
They were usually so bad that all I could do was go to bed. In addition to the horrible head pain, I would vomit. I felt depressed because I never knew when the next one might come and disrupt my plans.
I went to many doctors and tried everything I could, from powerful drugs to biofeedback. Nothing helped.
Then I looked into the causes of migraines and altered my diet accordingly. I eliminated all trigger foods, including aged foods (cheese, salami, etc.), beans, tea, MSG, sulfites, chocolate, red wine, alcohol, oranges and red meat. I switched to omega-3-containing foods like salmon and simple fresh vegetables.
If I feel as if I might get a headache, I eat some hot Mexican food, which seems to stop it. I also get acupuncture regularly.
I get about one migraine a month now, and they aren't as severe. I hope this helps someone else.
A: Thanks for sharing your success story. We, too, hope this helps someone else.
There are more than 300 possible headache triggers, from perfume and secondhand smoke to sour cream and potato chips. People who would like to learn more about possible triggers and treatments for migraine may wish to request our Guide to Headaches and Migraines, with many natural approaches. It also can be downloaded for $2 from our website: www.peoplespharmacy.com. There is more information and a support community for headache sufferers at www.WePatients.com.