I really love chocolate, and if there are proven health benefits, I will be very happy indeed! I still have doubts whether chocolate can be healthy. How about sharing information on side effects and disadvantages?
A. Chocolate can lower blood pressure, improve the flexibility of blood vessels, help prevent blood clots, reduce insulin resistance and help keep bad LDL cholesterol from causing mischief. New research shows that Swedish women who eat more chocolate are less likely to suffer a stroke (Journal of the American College of Cardiology, Oct. 18, 2011).
The main drawback to chocolate is that it tastes so good, people may overdo. That means too many calories. Concerns have been raised that chocolate may contribute to heartburn, migraine headaches or irregular heart rhythms in susceptible individuals.
Q. My cardiologist insists that I have to take low-dose aspirin and Plavix to prevent a heart attack. The trouble is that I have arthritis and bursitis. Because of the Plavix and aspirin, I can’t take the usual ibuprofen or naproxen.
Sometimes I cheat, but then I worry that my aspirin won’t work as well as it should to protect my heart. What alternatives can I use to ease my pain?
A. Although NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are the first treatment most people try for joint pain, they can have serious side effects and may undo the benefits of aspirin. Someone in your situation really needs to find a home remedy that will ease your discomfort. Fortunately, there are quite a few that may work, and most will not interact with your heart medicines.
Tart cherries, for example, contain anti-inflammatory compounds. Many readers find them helpful; others are enthusiastic about gin-soaked golden raisins. Grape juice, apple-cider vinegar, pineapple extract and herbs such as boswellia, ginger and stinging nettle can all be beneficial.
You will learn more about these and other options in the Guide to Alternatives for Arthritis that we are sending you. Anyone who would like a copy, please send $3 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped (64 cents), self-addressed envelope to: Graedons’ People’s Pharmacy, No. AA-2, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027. It also can be downloaded for $2 from our website: www.peoplespharmacy.com.
Q. My primary-care doctor prescribed Cymbalta for neuropathy, a very painful burning sensation in three of my toes. It seemed to work, but it is expensive.
The doctor I saw at the VA recommended capsicum, since Cymbalta is not on their list.
The capsicum really works. In fact, I can go as long as two months between a dosing series. One toe is completely healed, and the others are much better.
A. Capsicum is the technical name for peppers, both bell as well as hot peppers.
Capsaicin, the spicy essence of chile peppers, has been used to treat peripheral neuropathy.
Capsaicin cream must be applied repeatedly to deplete the nerve endings of something called substance P. At that point, they are less able to transmit pain sensations.
Be careful not to get the cream in your eyes or nose, as that can be extremely painful.
Joe and Teresa Graedon, authors of “Favorite Home Remedies From The People’s Pharmacy,” answer questions from readers.