Q: For years I suffered from sinusitis and hay fever. It started with seasonal allergies when I was 38. Then I had summer colds and eventually all-year-long sniffling. I used to joke that I had snot dripping off my elbows.
It became intolerable. I was eating lots of dairy, especially milk and cheese. When I read about the dairy connection, I immediately cut it out of my diet.
Magically, my allergies abated. Gradually, I learned that some baked goods (containing milk) also caused a flare-up, so off with them! Now I take no over-the-counter allergy pills. The antihistamine cetirizine caused crazy brain fog that also cleared up.
Now if I wake with an itchy throat or a bit of stuffiness, which is rare, I take stinging nettle and a quercetin supplement for immediate relief.
Answer: The link between dairy consumption and nasal congestion remains controversial. Although there is little research to support this association, many readers share your perspective. Cutting back on dairy seems like a low-risk approach.
Quercetin is a natural compound derived from plants. It stabilizes mast cells that release histamine and has anti-inflammatory activity (Inflammation & Allergy Drug Targets, September 2010). Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) also has scientific support against allergies (Phytotherapy Research, July 2009). Unfortunately, allergists have not conducted clinical trials on this herbal medicine.
Q: My doctor is cool with anything reasonable that I want to try. So when I asked for a prescription for Armour Thyroid instead of the levothyroxine (Levoxyl) I’ve been taking for years, he agreed. I have been on Levoxyl ever since my thyroid was removed to treat Graves’ disease.
I’m on Medicare, and my insurance denied it because it is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration. It’s inexpensive, so I paid cash for it, just $20.
My poor daughter, who has hypothyroidism due to Hashimoto’s, asked her endocrinologist and the reaction was swift: “NO! I don’t prescribe Armour to anyone I care about. Tell your mother not to take it.”
I’m taking it anyway, and in another six weeks I’ll be getting labs done. If it’s working, great. If not, I return to Levoxyl. I haven’t noticed any difference, but I’ll go with the bloodwork.
Answer: Armour Thyroid and other brands of desiccated (dried) thyroid extract (DTE) are made from pig thyroid glands. Before there was synthetic thyroid (Synthroid or levothyroxine), doctors relied upon DTE to treat people with underactive or missing thyroid glands. These products were grandfathered into pharmacy practice.
According to the official prescribing information for Armour Thyroid, “This drug has not been found by FDA to be safe and effective, and this labeling has not been approved by FDA.” The description of the drug specifies exactly how much T3 (liothyronine) and T4 (levothyroxine) each grain of thyroid extract contains.
Most people do well on medications such as Levoxyl or Synthroid with levothyroxine alone. Some, however, report that they feel much better on Armour or another desiccated thyroid extract, presumably because it contains T3 as well as T4. You can learn more about this and why it’s important in our eGuide to Thyroid Hormones, available at www.PeoplesPharmacy.com.
Q: As a dentist, I see angular cheilitis very often. This is a common problem for elderly people with old, worn-out dentures. The denture teeth are so worn that the bite is “closed,” and this creates an excessive wrinkle in the corners of the mouth. Generally, there is also a chronic fungal infection under the dentures as well.
We dentists prescribe an ointment with a mixture of an antifungal and a steroid. You can get the same effect without a prescription by mixing Monistat with hydrocortisone. The ointment form works best.
Of course, you don’t have to be an old denture wearer to get angular cheilitis. Other people may also develop these painful fissures. I know a lot of your readers like to use home remedies for their problems, but in this case the “real” drugs work best.
Answer: Thank you for the advice on angular cheilitis, a condition in which one or both corners of the mouth become red, sore and even cracked. In many cases, this part of the mouth remains moist, making it hospitable for yeast overgrowth. That’s why an antifungal such as Monistat works so well. Topical hydrocortisone or a prescription steroid calms the inflammation and pain.