Q: I have never had gout, but I know people who have had it. I read that cherry juice could have a positive effect on gout.
So when one friend had a bad case of gout, I bought him a bottle of cherry juice and a box of fresh cherries. He had relief very quickly and continued to drink cherry juice on a regular basis. He tells people I cured him of his gout.
I mentioned cherries to another woman who had gout. She told me that when she was leaving the doctor’s office with a prescription, his nurse whispered to her, “Just get some cherry juice.”
A: Gout is a very painful disorder in which uric-acid crystals accumulate in one or more joints, triggering an attack. Several observational studies have shown that people who eat cherries or take cherry extract are less likely to have a gout flare-up (Arthritis and Rheumatism, December 2012; Journal of Clinical Rheumatology, June 2015).
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As the scientists note, this is an association and simply could mean that people with less severe gout can rely on cherries instead of medicine.
Rat research shows, however, that tart cherry juice can lower uric acid (Journal of Nutrition, June 2003; Malaysian Journal of Nutrition, Vol. 15, No. 1, 2009).
Even sweet cherries seem to have anti-inflammatory effects (Journal of Nutrition, March 2013).
Q: What is asafoetida? Are there any health problems or benefits associated with its use in cooking?
It was discussed on “The Dr. Oz Show.” I remember as a nurse in Georgia in the 1950s, rural children came into our hospital with bags (asafetidy bags) of this disgusting-smelling product hanging around their necks.
A: Asafoetida is a botanical product that has traditionally been used in India to promote good digestion. Known as hing, it often is added to beans or legumes during cooking to enhance flavor and reduce flatulence.
Asafoetida is indeed very stinky. The folk remedy of hanging it in a bag around a child’s neck to protect the youngster from illness might have worked by keeping people away. More recent research has shown that it has antiviral activity against some rhinoviruses that cause colds (Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, Feb. 28, 2008). This plant product also contains compounds active against the herpes virus that causes cold sores (Iranian Journal of Pharmaceutical Research, Spring 2014).
Some people react to consuming asafoetida with digestive distress, such as heartburn, nausea or vomiting. Others may develop a headache. Allergic reactions also might be possible.
Q: I am 57 and recently began taking a probiotic supplement for IBS symptoms I have had most of my adult life. The probiotic has helped tremendously.
I also have always suffered with generalized anxiety. The probiotic seems to have had a positive effect on my anxiety level. I wish I had discovered it years ago.
A: Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that are taken to improve health. The bacteria themselves may be administered in foods, such as yogurt with live cultures, or in capsules.
Scientists have begun to pay attention to important links between the brain and the digestive tract. Consequently, a number of studies have examined whether probiotic supplements improve mood or anxiety. A recent review of seven studies found evidence that probiotics can improve psychological symptoms (Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine online, Nov. 14, 2016).
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 Web site: www.PeoplesPharmacy.com. Their newest book is “Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them.”