Q. I had a gastric bypass 32 months ago. Last year I started craving mint in everything: mint coffee, ice cream, cake, cookies, even mint lip balm.

It has now gotten worse. I am worried because all I want to do is sit down with a tube of mint Chapstick and eat my heart out. I have asked other bypass people if they crave non-food items. Some have said they eat lip balm for the waxiness.

I told a doctor but he laughed it off and said mint would not hurt me. Why am I craving mint? I just found out I do have a very low iron level. Could this be the problem?

A. Your very low iron level could indeed be contributing to your craving. Iron or zinc deficiency is sometimes associated with a condition called pica. This is the medical term for craving and eating non-food substances. While mint coffee or cookies qualify as food, mint-flavored lip balm certainly does not! When you correct the iron deficiency, your craving may disappear.

Q. I recently had a prescription filled at my local pharmacy. The dosage was mislabeled big time. The label read “take 4 times a day,��? but it was supposed to be 4 times a week.

I caught the error myself before I even left the drugstore. It was lucky that I did.

Other than reporting the pharmacy to my physician, the state Board of Pharmacy and the drugstore chain itself, is there anything else to be done?

In relating this incident to co-workers, friends and family, I’ve heard many similar horror stories regarding botched prescriptions. How do pharmacies get away with this kind of thing and stay in business?

A. Pharmacists are often overworked, putting in 12-hour shifts with little time to go to the bathroom or eat lunch. When they have to fill hundreds of prescriptions a day, mistakes happen. One study published in the Journal of the American Pharmaceutical Association (March/April, 2003) found roughly four errors a day in an average pharmacy filling 250 prescriptions. That translates to more than 50 million errors a year across the country.

Everyone should follow your good example and check each prescription carefully to verify drug, dose and instructions!

Q. What can you tell me about buying medicine from Canada? I added up our costs for the year and found that my wife and I are paying more than $5,000 between us for drugs to treat high blood pressure, cholesterol, reflux and osteoporosis.

A. Brand-name prescriptions often cost significantly less from a Canadian drugstore. Make sure you deal with a legitimate Canadian pharmacy, one that has a physical address in Canada and a provincial license that can be verified.

These tips and other ways to economize are in our Guide to Saving Money on Medicine. Anyone who would like a copy, please send $2 in check or money order with a long (no. 10) stamped (63 cents), self-addressed envelope: Graedons’ People’s Pharmacy, No. CA-99, P. O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027. It can also be downloaded for $2 from the Website: www.peoplespharmacy.com.

Customs officials have been confiscating some drug shipments from Canada. A new law permits Americans to bring a 90-day supply across the border. Mail-order shipments may still be confiscated, though Customs officials say they will start relaxing their enforcement.

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  1. Yvonne
    Salem, OR

    I notice there are a lot of gastric bypass patients on here – I wonder if that has something to do with this as well??? I eat probably 20 – 30 lifesavers peppermint candies a day. I just had my labs done and I was not abnormally low in iron. I have noticed some other oddities with the bypass surgeries – sort of across the board. I cannot digest plain rice and salmon, and am super gassy ALL THE TIME. I got addicted to alcohol after my bypass but kicked it 6 years ago and have been sober since. Never had a problem before… Anyone else have weird symptoms/effects of gastric bypass?

  2. Sarah

    I too had gastric bypass over 15 years ago and now crave mint. Specifically Mentos spearmint gum. I don’t and have never smoked. So I am glad I found this article and will consult my physician on the deficiencies mentioned.

  3. Diane
    Omaha NE

    I am addicted to Mint Lifesaver candy, I cannot stop. I stopped drinking alcohol 22 years ago and stopped smoking a year ago, but this is an addiction I absolutely cannot stop. I had a Gastric bypass many years ago and am anemic, but not that low, lab reports Hgb 9. I am to follow up with doctor for more labs and hope he will put me on an iron supplement if nothing else to stop this craving. Does anyone have any suggestions that may help?

  4. Sally

    Great site I am 52 and for the last three months I have been going through 4 packets of Trevor extra strong mints I am of that certain age so think I need to go visit my gp I thought it was just me but looked up on web and discovered it’s not just me and that three could be an underlying problem for this thanks I am normal ish x

  5. Tesarah E.

    I am so glad I read this because I thought I was going crazy, I’ve had a bad addiction with the peppermint candy for about four months, where I must have it, I’ll skip my meals for the peppermint candy. I also had the Gastric bypass 16 months ago, I must say my Iron is low, so hopefully it will vanish once I start drinking my Iron pills. Thanks for sharing this, or I would had never known my iron was low.

  6. Terena

    Hi guys.. After reading all your comments I went to doctors had blood test and it turns out I am emimic and need iron tables! So thanks for sharing your health problems. Always get professional advice tho before taking anything for your ailments :-) xxx

  7. Terena

    Well I’m so releaved to read that it’s not just me! I felt like I needed to go to xxx strong mints anonymous classes phew :-D iv had very heavy periods since a cervical opp I had two years ago I’ve not been well since very tired and irritable the only thing that soothes me is crunching xxx. I tied polos but it’s not the same I’ve gained some weight,
    but it’s costing me a fortune as I replace meals for them. I’ve had iron problems when I was pregnant x3 but there the youngest is 22! Maybe my periods will end soon!!! Iron tablets it is for me :-D thank you guys

  8. PaulaMae

    You all have helped a lot, I have had a low iron count for years, I went to a Polo mint addiction was able to quit because I couldn’t get them anymore, my iron count is 7.17 as of last week and I just started my mint addiction again with Mentos.

  9. Julie

    OMG this sounds like me I had a gastric band 16 months ago everything has been fine then about a month ago I have started craving mints it’s driving me mad have been to the doctors for blood test just waiting results

  10. Chanty

    OMG I feel so relived! I have had an addiction to tick tacs for over a year and the other day at the store I bought 1 pack of menthol cigarettes, 2 after eight mint chocolate bars and a pack of menthol cigarettes. I realised as I watch the man bag my purchases that this is strange and although I had never drawn a direct link to the mint part of it all I have now! I’m going to get some iron instead of candy and maybe it will help a bi with the cigs too :) LOL I just want to get healthier.

  11. G.G

    OMG!! This is totally crazy. This just started to happen to me. About 1 month ago, now, I can’t stop eating fresh mint leaves! If I’m at friends houses, the 1st thing I do is a beeline to their garden, I will pull the leaves off their plants! They think I’m crazy, my mom use to have a planter with fresh leaves, sad to say it’s just sticks now! On the way to dinner the other night, we stopped at Home Depot, ran into the garden department & bought a plant just so I could eat the leaves! WHAT DO I DO???

  12. Lucinda H.

    I seriously have the same problem, life savers mints. I eat these for every meal. It is driving me crazy. I am a nurse and know better, however, I eat one and then eat thirty. It is so soothing…. I love the alive feeling I get. My mouth is so awake. I know this is crazy. I have looked around the web and found anemia may be the root cause. I guess I shall take myself to the doctors for blood work. It could be worse.

  13. Arianne

    Thank you so much for your posting re low iron levels – I’ve become what I can only describe as addicted to Trebor Xtra strong mints and XXX strong mints and its driving me nuts! I can crunch through two tubes inside 30 mins – really not good! I have been suspecting low iron levels (my periods have been heavy too) and will now definitely go and see my GP before I end up with a weight/tooth decay problem. A lot of people seem to be getting hooked on these mints, its extraordinary, like something from science fiction…..!

  14. Donna S.

    Thank you for giving me a heads up about what could be my reason for craving ‘Trebor extra strong mints’, I will now make an appointment to go and visit my doctor!

  15. K.E.

    Oh my Gosh! I have been having this problem for years, and my Dr. and Nurse thought I was crazy! Thanks so much for validating my craving!

  16. Carol Delaney

    In reference to your article about the lady who has been craving for mint, I had exactly the same problem. I could not stop eating mints, chewing gum and even my toothpaste, I would get a kick off.. I had been run down with losing a lot of blood at menstral time and my doctor reccommended I take Iron… Well I don’t know myself. I have not touched a mint, chewing gum and I cannot believe it. IRON will sort this for you and you will see the difference as soon as you start taking them!
    Carol, Dublin, Ireland

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