Archive for Saturday, September 1, 2001

Bacteria diagnosis resolves longtime heartburn

September 1, 2001


I suffered from severe stomach trouble for 50 years until recently when my doctor checked for H. pylori bacteria. After I tested positive, he gave me antibiotics that killed the bacteria within two weeks.

Lo and behold, for the first time I can remember, I am free of continuous heartburn and belching. Pylori bacteria eat into the stomach lining to cause ulcers and other problems. People with chronic stomach complaints like mine need to be tested instead of popping heartburn medicine like it was candy.

Millions of people are infected with the Helicobacter pylori germ. Not only does it cause ulcers and chronic stomach upset, but more ominously it has been associated with stomach cancer.

Scientists are still unclear about exactly how people catch this bacteria and pass it around. Big families and crowded conditions seem to promote the spread of infection.

Eradicating the germ requires combined antibiotic therapy, especially because the bugs are developing resistance to the most commonly used medications. Once H. pylori is eliminated, however, people often report that long-standing stomach trouble and even bad breath clear up.

We have discussed H. pylori and its treatment in our "Guide to Digestive Disorders." For a copy, send $2 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped, self-addressed envelope to: Graedons' People's Pharmacy, No. G-3, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, N.C. 27717-2027.

What can you recommend for smelly feet? My teen-age grandson has discovered girls and is very concerned about his "problem."

Disinfecting shoes by saturating a paper tissue in rubbing alcohol and leaving it in the shoe overnight might reduce the bacteria that cause odor. Applying an antiperspirant to the feet might cut down on sweating and also help.

Readers tell us that soaking feet in a baking-soda solution (2 tablespoons to 2 quarts of water) for 30 minutes can be beneficial. We have also heard that taking chlorophyll or zinc supplements can eliminate odor.

I'm having personal and social problems with sneezing. I have loud, hard sneezes and go into sneezing "fits" that leave me feeling weak. I am active and healthy and don't smoke. Is there any anti-sneeze spray available over the counter than I can use to end or even just lessen such body-wracking sneezing?

You might want to consult an allergist to find out what is triggering your sneezing attacks. The OTC nasal spray NasalCrom might reduce your sensitivity to allergens and cut sneezing.

Nonsedating prescription antihistamines such as Allegra or Claritin might help, as might a steroid nasal spray such as Beconase, Flonase or Nasonex.

In response to a query about a child's bed-wetting problem, you suggested a prescription drug or an alarm system that sounds at the first sign of moisture. I have a different suggestion.

I was a bed-wetter as a child. The doctor recommended that when I went to the bathroom, I should do an exercise. I was told to go a little and then hold a little, go a little, hold a little. Eventually my bladder got strong enough to hold all night.

I used the same method when I potty-trained my son. He is 4 now and has never wet the bed. Maybe this technique would work instead of medication or noisy alarms.

Your approach is worth a try.

I recently asked my gynecologist to check my testosterone levels. I have had very little sex drive since going through menopause, and I've heard low testosterone could be responsible.

She ordered the test but warned me that she wouldn't be comfortable prescribing male hormones for me unless my levels were really low. The results came back low-normal, so now I am on my own.

I am considering taking DHEA, which I understand is converted to testosterone and estrogen by the body. I take Premarin and wonder if there is an interaction.

DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) is a hormone found in both men and women. It serves as a building block for other sex hormones, such as testosterone and estrogen.

Claims have been made that DHEA can slow aging, boost energy and libido, and help people lose weight. Supporting data are inconclusive, however. A recent study did find that women who took 50 mg of DHEA daily were more interested in sex.

Side effects of DHEA include acne and facial hair growth in women. Men might be at greater risk of prostate cancer. Combining DHEA with Premarin might lead to an excess of estrogen, which could contribute to blood clots or breast cancer. No one should take DHEA or other hormones without medical supervision.

We are sending you our "Guide to Female Sexuality." Others who would like a copy should send $2 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped, self-addressed envelope to: Graedons' People's Pharmacy, No. Z-2, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, N.C. 27717-2027.

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,

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