Q: I’ve had IBS most of my life. When I lived overseas many years ago, a doctor prescribed peppermint oil capsules. They worked wonderfully and were available at pharmacies.

When I moved back to the United States, my doctor had never heard of peppermint oil. Back then, I couldn’t find it anywhere. I wish more U.S. doctors would recommend safe, natural and affordable products.

A: IBS stands for irritable bowel syndrome. Symptoms include stomachache, bloating, gas and either constipation or diarrhea. Both stress and certain foods may make symptoms worse.

Peppermint oil may alleviate abdominal cramps, and doctors in Europe sometimes prescribe it (Deutsche Medizinische Wochenschrift, October 2021). There are conflicting studies in the medical literature, however. Although a number conclude that enteric-coated peppermint oil is effective for abdominal discomfort, others indicate that it is no better than placebo (Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics, March 2018; American Journal of Gastroenterology, Nov. 1, 2021).

Possible side effects include heartburn, nausea or stomachache. For the most part, however, enteric-coated peppermint oil capsules appear to be safe.

Q: I have arthritis, and my insurance would not pay for the prescription my doctor wrote. When I asked my pharmacist for a supplement to help my symptoms, he suggested glucosamine sulfate plus chondroitin sulfate plus MSM.

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I took this twice a day for two weeks and then as my pain eased, I went to one a day. I couldn’t believe how well it helped my arthritic symptoms.

A: Thank you for sharing your experience. We have heard from other readers who have also found these dietary supplements to be helpful for joint pain. A small randomized, controlled trial showed that the combination of glucosamine-chondroitin with MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) was better than placebo or GC alone (Acta Medica Indonesiana, April 2017).

You can learn more about these supplements and other approaches to alleviating joint pain in our eGuide to Alternatives for Arthritis. This online resource can be found under the Health eGuides Tab at PeoplesPharmacy.com.

Q: Last year, my podiatrist told me that not all toenail infections are fungal in origin. Apparently, some toenail infections are bacterial instead.

For two weeks, I applied Neosporin + Pain Relief ointment with a cotton swab to each infected toenail and the surrounding cuticle. After that, I reduced the application to weekly. It has been months now, and the disfiguring infection has disappeared and not returned.

A: For decades, we believed that most nail infections were caused by fungi (dermatophytes) such as Trichophyton rubrum or T. mentagrophytes. Other causes included Epidermophyton floccosum or the yeast Candida albicans.

More recently, however, dermatologists have learned that some nail infections may also have bacterial involvement (Journal of the American Podiatric Medical Association, March 1, 2021). Some readers have been reporting success with the antibiotics in Neosporin (neomycin, polymyxin B). Others tell us that Polysporin (bacitracin, polymyxin B) also works in some cases.

A dermatologist or podiatrist would need to identify the organisms causing a nail infection to recommend the most effective treatment.