My son is 17 years old, and he is taking a diet pill containing various supplements, including ma huang and guarana. I am totally against it, but he refuses to listen to me and says I am too paranoid.
He says he has 20 percent body fat and wants to reduce this to about 13 percent. He thinks this pill makes him swim harder and lose fat faster. He is planning to start serious bodybuilding fitness training when his body fat gets down to the desired level.
I am worried that this pill could have bad side effects. Am I overly concerned?
We don't think so. We too worry about healthy young people taking products that contain ma huang (ephedra) and guarana, sources of ephedrine and caffeine. There is no way to predict who may be susceptible to adverse reactions.
Neal Benowitz reviewed 140 such cases reported to the Food and Drug Administration. He is professor of medicine and chief of the division of clinical pharmacology and experimental therapeutics at the University of California San Francisco.
Benowitz told us: "The concern with ephedrine is that some people taking these products at usual recommended doses have been reported to have serious adverse events. These events can be things like strokes, heart attacks, sudden death, seizures, severe high blood pressure and others." He cautions: "I would advise against using ephedra-containing dietary supplements until we know something more about safety."
I ordered some chlorophyll and peppermint tablets advertised as a supplement to treat bad breath. I noticed a wonderful side effect: They cut down dramatically on flatulence, too! Since starting these supplements, I can eat whatever I want, whenever I want.
Peppermint has been used historically as a digestive aid. Herbalists recommend peppermint tea for indigestion, cramps or gas. Thanks for sharing your success story.
My son plays basketball. Lately his feet smell very bad, and he has also developed a plantar wart that is causing him trouble. Are there any simple ways to treat these problems?
We have heard from many people that soaking smelly feet nightly in a solution of warm water and baking soda or warm water and Epsom salts can conquer the smell. Others are enthusiastic about drinking green tea, taking zinc pills or applying Neosporin ointment on the feet overnight.
Plantar warts can be treated by a dermatologist or with an over-the-counter wart plaster. One of the simplest approaches, however, is simply to soak the feet in hot water.
We are sending you our Guides to Home Remedies, Smelly Feet and Athlete's Foot for more details on these and other home treatments. Anyone who would like copies, please send $3 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped, self-addressed envelope to: Graedons' People's Pharmacy, No. RF-2, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027.
I take a rounded teaspoon of psyllium every day to prevent constipation. Is there any harm in this?
There is no problem. Not only will this soluble fiber (ispaghula) alleviate constipation, it should also lower cholesterol by 10 percent to 15 percent. This bulk-forming laxative can be used daily without worry. Always drink a full glass of water with your psyllium.
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist. Teresa Graedon holds a doctorate in medical anthropology and is a nutrition expert. Write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 235 E. 45th St., New York, N.Y. 10017, or e-mail them via their Web site, www.peoplespharmacy.com.