People’s Pharmacy offers alternative health advice.
Q. I saw a letter from a reader who was unable to come off proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs).
Several years ago, a reader wrote about her success getting off the medicine by taking fennel seeds. I had the same problem and tried the fennel seeds.
I also was able to come off PPIs. For the past three years, I’ve been drug-free, with only occasional mild heartburn symptoms. I hope you will continue to recommend this to readers who don’t know how to stop esomeprazole and similar medicines.
A. People who take acid-suppressing drugs like esomeprazole (Nexium), lansoprazole (Prevacid), omeprazole (Prilosec) and pantoprazole (Protonix) for more than a few weeks risk acid rebound when they stop. One woman shared her experience:
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“I’d been taking omeprazole but forgot to take it with me when I traveled to California for two weeks. One day, my whole chest was on fire. I saw a local pharmacist, and he said it was because I stopped the omeprazole and I was experiencing rebound hyperacidity.”
There are several strategies for weaning off PPIs. One involves gradually reducing the dose of the drug while drinking fennel-seed tea or taking fennel-seed capsules. Other readers report success sipping a persimmon-ginger-cinnamon punch.
For more details about these and other natural ways to control heartburn, we are sending you our Guide to Digestive Disorders.
Q. When I had shingles, I applied apple-cider vinegar to the rash. I thought it would burn, but within minutes it eased the itching and burning of the shingles. Later my daughter had shingles and used the same remedy. The only downside was the vinegar smell.
A. A shingles attack can cause extreme pain. Prescription antiviral drugs (acyclovir, famciclovir, valaciclovir, etc.) always are the first line of defense and can speed healing if used early enough.
Some people say applying topical amber Listerine brings relief from the discomfort. Be cautious, though. One woman noted a friend tried Listerine for her shingles and thought she was on fire. She suggested trying a very small area to determine if the remedy is helping or hurting. We would add the same caveat for vinegar.
Q. In your column a person reported his cholesterol had dropped significantly after eating oatmeal with 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon each morning. This caught my eye, since my cholesterol without medication was around 275. With medication it was 226.
I started eating oatmeal with cinnamon each morning. After about three months, my cholesterol dropped to 185.
My doctor took me off the medication, and my cholesterol has stayed below 200. A friend who tried this method told me this past week that her cholesterol also has dropped significantly.
A. A daily helping of oatmeal can help lower total cholesterol, presumably due to the action of the soluble fiber in the oats (Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism, June 2015).
Adding cinnamon to the mix might help even more. Consuming cinnamon has been shown to lower fasting blood sugar, total cholesterol, LDL and triglycerides, while raising beneficial HDL cholesterol (Annals of Family Medicine, September-October 2013).