Q. I took Vioxx for three years to ease arthritis pain. When it was taken off the market, my doctor switched me over to Bextra. Two months later I had a stroke. My doctor says I should no longer take Bextra, Celebrex or any other drug like that. What can I do for my stiff painful joints?
A. We are so sorry to hear that you had a stroke while taking Bextra. Vioxx was taken off the market because it raised the risk of heart attacks and strokes. David Graham, MD, safety reviewer for the FDA, estimates that as many as 140,000 people may have suffered heart attacks while on Vioxx. Although Bextra and Celebrex remain on the market, there are still concerns about safety.
Until the controversy about such drugs is resolved, you may need to try other options. Some people may be able to use aspirin or ibuprofen without damaging their stomachs. Others will have to rely on acetaminophen or dietary supplements such as glucosamine, ginger, turmeric or boswellia.
For concerned readers of this column, we have prepared a new Guide to Alternatives for Arthritis. Anyone who would like a copy, please send $3 in check or money order with a long (no. 10) stamped (60 cents), self-addressed envelope: Graedons’ People’s Pharmacy, No. AA-2, P. O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027.
Q. I was fascinated by a question regarding dog flatulence. We have had a similar problem with our dogs, and since they sleep with us, we were inspired to find an answer. We found they needed different food. Some ingredients in dog food, like corn or soy, may be hard for dogs to digest.
A. Doggy flatulence can be overwhelming for humans in close proximity. Dog food may be the culprit, so it makes sense to check with your vet about a low-gas diet.
Soy provides high quality protein, but it also contains complex sugars that don’t break down readily. A product like CurTail (www.CurTail.com) contains the same enzyme found in Beano and may help control the fermentation that leads to gas.
Q. I have begun eating spinach salad every day, but have been told that that might be dangerous. What is the recommendation regarding spinach?
A. Traditionally, people susceptible to kidney stones or gout were advised to avoid spinach. It is rich in oxalic acid, which may increase the risk of kidney stones. Spinach is also high in purines, building blocks for uric acid. Too much uric acid may lead to gout.
Spinach may not be the culprit, however. A 12-year study of 47,000 men showed that moderate intake of high-purine vegetables like spinach does not increase the risk of gout. Spinach is high in B vitamins and iron and is a good source of fiber.
Q. I just wanted to tell you that I have been using Rogaine for female pattern baldness for the last 12 months. I noticed hair growth after about 6 weeks, and now, a year later, the top of my head has at least 50 percent more growth.
The hair filled in around the hairline first and lately the rest has grown in. It’s not completely full, but I no longer have bare spots.
A. Oral minoxidil was first developed for high blood pressure. By accident it was found to stimulate hair growth and a topical lotion (Rogaine) was developed for men. This product may actually work better for women with hair loss, as long as they keep on applying it.

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