Q. My cholesterol has ranged from 240 to 300 for years. My doctor finds these numbers unacceptable and has insisted I take medication.
First I was put on Lescol. My muscles hurt so much I could barely walk. Then I was put on Zocor. The muscle pain came back. The same pattern repeated with Lipitor. Is there any way to get my cholesterol down without one of these drugs?
A. A multifaceted approach to lowering cholesterol naturally can be successful.
A recent study (JAMA July 23, 2003) showed that consuming a “dietary portfolio” of vegetarian foods lowered cholesterol nearly as well as the prescription drug lovastatin (Mevacor). The diet was rich in soluble fiber from oats, barley, psyllium, eggplant and okra. It used soy substitutes instead of meat and milk and included almonds and cholesterol-lowering margarine (such as Take Control) every day.
Another reader offered the following: “Last year my cholesterol was 284. I read your column about 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar mixed with 4 cups apple and 3 cups white grape juice, and began taking 6 ounces of this tonic every morning before breakfast.
“Slowly but surely my cholesterol has dropped. Now it is down to 212. In addition, the arthritis pain in my knee is gone.”
We are sending you our Guides to Heart Health and Home Remedies so that you will have more information on these approaches to controlling cholesterol naturally. Anyone who would like copies, please send $4 in check or money order with a long (no. 10) stamped (60 cents), self-addressed envelope: Graedons’ People’s Pharmacy, No. CR-81, P. O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027
Q. One of your readers complained about repeated urinary tract infections. I used to suffer with this problem myself. Then I switched from taking baths to taking showers. Problem solved!
A. Urinary tract infections are frequently caused by bacteria that originate in the bowel. Some health care professionals have suggested that showering may minimize the opportunity for bacteria to migrate. Your experience may help someone else.
Q. Is there any research indicating that taking St. John’s Wort for mild depression interferes with birth control pills? Would this increase the likelihood of pregnancy?
I am a psychotherapist and often work with adults with mild depression who prefer not to use prescription antidepressants due to the side effect of decreased libido. I know Wellbutrin can be helpful, particularly for females, but have been questioned about St. John’s Wort.
A. A recent study in JAMA (Sept 17, 2003) demonstrates that the herb St. John wort can interact with scores of other drugs. The result may be reduced effectiveness.
Oral contraceptives are among the medicines that might be affected. At least two pregnancies have been attributed to this interaction.
Q. I’ve read a lot about fish oil, flax oil and their various benefits. Would good old-fashioned cod liver oil do the same things? My grandmother was enthusiastic about it.
A. We would caution against regular use of cod liver oil. It is rich in vitamin A and too much of this nutrient can contribute to osteoporosis. Purified fish oil and flax seed oil are both rich in omega 3 fatty acids but do not have extra vitamin A.