Q: After many top doctors told her to eat a bland diet of bagels and pasta for her irritable bowel syndrome, my sister consulted Dr. Peter Green at Columbia Medical Center. There, she was given appropriate tests and diagnosed with celiac disease. That may have saved her life.
It used to be hard to find gluten-free foods. Now they’re everywhere.
Answer: Celiac disease is finally getting the attention it deserves. This is an autoimmune condition in which the intestinal lining is damaged by the presence of gluten, found in wheat, barley and rye.
When susceptible people are exposed to foods like those recommended to your sister, they may suffer intestinal symptoms, migraines, skin rash, osteoporosis, joint pain or brain fog, among other problems. This condition also may increase the risk for lymphoma (Annals of Internal Medicine, Aug. 6, 2013). The treatment for celiac disease is to follow a strict gluten-free diet (no bagels or pasta).
The Food and Drug Administration has just issued a definition for gluten-free foods that restricts gluten to no more than 20 parts per million. The new standard should make it easier to find safe, gluten-free foods.
Q: I would like to know what has happened with the FDA’s investigation into generic Wellbutrin (bupropion). Has anyone heard about the results of the studies that were supposed to be completed by March 2013?
There is not a word on the FDA website. Even if the results were late, it’s now been several months.
I was on the brand for years, since the generic didn’t work for me. Now my insurance company will not pay for the brand name, so I’m forced to switch back to the generic. I’m worried about getting depressed again.
Answer: Last fall, the FDA admitted that one generic form of bupropion (Budeprion XL 300) was not bioequivalent to the brand name Wellbutrin XL 300. The formulation was removed from the market.
At that time, the FDA asked other generic manufacturers to complete further tests by March 31, 2013. We have repeatedly asked the FDA for the results of these tests, but we have not yet seen a report or any data. Your doctor may be able to appeal to the insurance company on your behalf.
Q: For nearly 30 years, I got “honeymoon cystitis.” After menopause, I learned from a TV show that women were using olive oil for postmenopausal vaginal dryness.
I was pleasantly surprised that it not only assisted with lubrication, but ever since I started using it, I have not experienced cystitis (urinary-tract infection) following intimacy.
Answer: We found one study on the use of olive oil as a sexual lubricant (Journal of Sexual Medicine online, May 1, 2013). The investigators reported that women who experienced painful intercourse benefited from olive-oil lubrication, pelvic floor relaxation exercises and the vaginal moisturizer Replens.
We found no studies indicating that olive oil or other lubricants would prevent recurrent urinary-tract infections. Reducing irritation during intercourse, however, is likely to be beneficial.
Q: I would like to tell you how I cured my acne, which started at the age of 10. It was ugly and painful, and I tried everything.
In my 20s, I read a natural-foods cookbook that stated: “It has been said that the flawless complexion of British women is due to their drinking barley water in quantities and regularly.” That got my attention!
I simmered a tablespoon of pearl barley in 2 quarts of water for about 45 minutes and drank a cup morning and evening. About a month into the barley-water regimen, I did a double take when I looked in the mirror. My skin was clear.
I kept drinking the water for several months, and that was the end of the acne.
Answer: Barley is a source of azelaic acid, used topically to treat both rosacea and acne (Practical Dermatology, March 2013). Azelaic acid reduces skin inflammation and prevents the development of comedones (clogged pores). Perhaps that is why drinking barley water worked.
In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Email them via their website, www.PeoplesPharmacy.com.