Q: I am 63 years old and have suffered from seasonal (pollen) and environmental (dust and mold) allergies for as long as I can remember. After reading in your newspaper column about quercetin, I decided to give it a try. I am so glad I did!
Nothing, and I mean nothing, has helped as much as taking 500 mg of quercetin twice a day. I would like to use this daily year-round to prevent nasal allergies. However, I don’t think any studies have been done to see if it is safe in the long term. What is your opinion?
A: Your experience is very interesting. Quercetin is a natural flavonoid found in foods such as berries, fruits (apples, grapes), vegetables (onions, kale, broccoli, tomatoes), green tea and red wine.
Test-tube studies suggest ways quercetin calms allergic symptoms. However, we could find only a few clinical trials of quercetin for allergies. Japanese researchers used a related compound, isoquercitrin, in a study of people allergic to Japanese cedar pollen (Allergology International, September 2009). This two-month placebo-controlled trial demonstrated that the compound controlled itchy, red eyes.
Italian researchers studied a supplement called Lertal that contains quercetin along with Perilla extract and vitamin D3 (Italian Journal of Pediatrics, July 18, 2019). Children taking the supplement were much less likely to have allergy symptoms or need rescue medications than those on usual care. The researchers envision the supplement as an effective long-term preventive treatment for allergies.
Q: I love to eat beans, all kinds. Unfortunately, they don’t like me.
I’ve tried Beano, but it doesn’t always help. I also have lactose intolerance and trouble digesting cruciferous vegetables. Can you recommend any products that would help?
A: You may need to up your dose of Beano. The person who invented Beano told us many years ago that a higher dose sometimes helps when the usual dose doesn’t do the job. There is now Beano Ultra 800 to make that easier.
Other options include an Indian spice called hing (Ferula asafoetida). Cooks there add it to lentils and beans to prevent flatulence.
In our Guide to Digestive Disorders, we offer other potential solutions, such as fennel, “bitters,” Pepto-Bismol and probiotics. You can find this electronic publication with more details in the Health eGuide section at www.PeoplesPharmacy.com. We include a list of medications that can cause flatulence. It would also be helpful to rule out celiac disease.
Q: You have written about ashwagandha as a way to manage insomnia. People should be very cautious about trying this, even though it’s been used for centuries.
My husband took it for insomnia and stress, but after only one capsule he became very ill: bloating, upset stomach and diarrhea. It lasted for almost 24 hours, and he was miserable. Obviously, some people can have an extreme reaction to it.
A: In these stressful times, ashwagandha’s reputation for helping people manage anxiety and insomnia may tempt many to try it. A clinical trial with 80 volunteers found that ashwagandha (along with deep breathing, caffeine limitation and a multivitamin) was more effective against chronic anxiety than psychotherapy (PLOS One, Aug. 31, 2009). A few volunteers in both groups had digestive upset or felt overstimulated. Some people using ashwagandha have reported sleepiness or headache as well as gastrointestinal problems.
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In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of King Features, 628 Virginia Drive, Orlando, FL 32803, or email them via their website: www.PeoplesPharmacy.com. Their newest book is “Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them.”