Q: My daughter claims that eating any kind of melon makes her throat itch terribly. She tried a piece of watermelon recently, and it bothered her. She won't eat cantaloupe or honeydew for this reason. I hate it that she is missing out on these wonderful melons. Is this really a problem?
A: It sounds as if your daughter has developed a melon allergy and should avoid eating them to prevent a potentially serious reaction. People who are allergic to melons also may react to pollen, especially ragweed. They sometimes develop allergies to other fruits, such as peaches, and to latex (Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, September 2003).
Should your daughter need surgery, she should be tested for latex sensitivity beforehand. Someone with this type of allergy could suffer a life-threatening reaction if exposed to latex gloves.
Q: You recently answered a question from a woman who asked about her husband's blood-sugar control. She reported that they were forced to choose between food and drugs.
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You should have told her that the majority of non-insulin-dependent diabetics who stop eating processed carbs, grains and rice are no longer hyperglycemic. I see them every day in my medical practice.
The forces working against this simple approach are massive -- incomprehensible ignorance on the part of my fellow physicians and huge amounts of money from the pharmaceutical and food industries.
A: Thank you so much for pointing out the value of a low-carbohydrate diet in controlling blood sugar. A randomized trial confirms that such an approach can indeed help people with Type 2 diabetes and allow for reductions in diabetes medicine (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition online, July 29, 2015).
Q: I tried the Certo recipe for arthritis for a couple of weeks and felt better. When I ran out of grape juice, the pain was noticeable in two days.
I went back and tried it again, and the pain went away the first day. Now I am out of juice, and two days after stopping, the pain is back.
Today I found the pectin powder, but I haven't found the recipe. Could you provide it again, please?
A: Certo is a liquid plant pectin used by home canners to get jams and jellies to thicken. Decades ago, someone figured out that mixing a tablespoon of Certo into 8 ounces of grape juice made a daily dose of an arthritis remedy that can be surprisingly helpful for some people.
We are sending you our Guide to Alternatives for Arthritis, which has the recipe for this, gin-soaked raisins and a number of other unique home remedies for joint pain. Anyone who would like a copy, please send $3 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped (70 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.
Plant pectin also can be purchased as a powder, for example as Pomona's Universal Pectin. Although it is harder to mix into grape juice, it does not need to be stored in the refrigerator after opening, as Certo does.
In addition, the powder does not contain sodium benzoate, as Certo does. Concern has been raised that mixing a packet of Certo into 64 ounces of grape juice containing small amounts of ascorbic acid might result in the formation of benzene, a toxic compound. That is why we recommend you use pectin powder or prepare just one daily dose at a time.
In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Email them via PeoplesPharmacy.com. Their newest book is "Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them."