Q: I have a strong family history of Alzheimer’s disease. If I cannot remember a word or an important date, it scares me half to death.
I have been doing a lot of research on what to do and not do to try to prevent dementia. I recently read that herpes infections might be a contributing factor. This is very worrisome, because I have suffered from cold sores for many years.
I have started taking L-lysine to speed healing. It seems to be helping. Do you think it will help prevent dementia?
A: The herpes theory of Alzheimer’s disease has been kicking around for roughly 40 years. A Canadian pathologist suggested that the herpes simplex virus (HSV-1) that causes cold sores might also be causing “degenerative lesions” within the brain (Canadian Journal of Neurological Sciences, August 1982).
Although this idea languished for decades, researchers are now reconsidering the “Viral Hypothesis and Antiviral Treatment in Alzheimer’s Disease” (Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports, July 14, 2018). There are now at least two randomized controlled trials underway to test the antiviral drug valacyclovir (Valtrex) against Alzheimer’s disease (ACS Chemical Neuroscience, April 7, 2021).
L-lysine is an amino acid supplement that was first proposed to treat HSV-1 and prevent Alzheimer’s disease by a retired geriatrician (Neuropsychiatry Disease and Treatment, Oct. 27, 2010). Sadly, this hypothesis has never been tested in a clinical trial and remains “highly speculative.” Until there are well-controlled clinical trials, we have no way of determining whether L-lysine can speed healing of cold sores or help reduce the risk of dementia.
Q: I have been battling chronic heartburn for years. My diet is mostly vegan, and I try to rely on natural remedies. My doctor has suggested proton pump inhibitors like omeprazole, but I refuse to take it. I do rely on famotidine to ease the discomfort. Do you have any other suggestions?
A: If your diet is high in carbohydrates, you might want to consider cutting back. A small case study published in the journal Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine (November-December 2001) suggested that a high-carb diet is more problematic than fats when dealing with reflux.
Saliva is the body’s natural buffering agent. Research published in the New England Journal of Medicine (Feb. 2, 1984) reported that stimulating the production of saliva with an oral lozenge might be helpful.
Herbal teas (chamomile, ginger, sage, anise) may also aid in rinsing acid back into the stomach. Some people report that almonds or mustard can calm symptoms of heartburn. We offer many more such natural approaches in our eGuide to Overcoming Digestive Disorders. This online resource can be found under the Health eGuides tab at www.PeoplesPharmacy.com. If natural approaches fail you, famotidine (Pepcid) is a reasonable option.
Q: After reading about the soap remedy in your newspaper column, I decided to try it. That was more than three years ago. I wondered if it was working through the placebo effect, but I didn’t really care why it worked. It just worked!
It instantly removed my nocturnal leg cramps. I found that the soaps with the most perfume smell worked better than the more “pure” soaps.
I have told many people about this, including my primary care provider. Of course, they look at me like I’m crazy, but I can’t resist sharing this helpful information.
A: We first heard about using soap under the bottom sheet to prevent leg cramps in 2004. Since then, a lot of people swear by it. Others claim it is worthless. We think the aroma has something to do with the way the soap works.