Q: I have a family history of Alzheimer’s and have been doing a lot of research on how to try to prevent it. I just read that cold sores and other infections may contribute.
This is quite upsetting to me, as I get cold sores frequently. I have started using L-lysine tablets to reduce outbreaks. Is there any evidence that it will protect my brain?
A: A recent study from Harvard offers a novel theory on Alzheimer’s disease (Science Translational Medicine, May 25, 2016). The conventional view holds that plaque made of harmful beta-amyloid protein destroys neurons.
The new hypothesis suggests that beta-amyloid protein is part of the body’s immune response to pathogens as varied as those that cause cold sores, Lyme disease or HIV. It appears to act as a natural antibiotic, but it can cause damage when the immune response goes haywire.
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For more than 40 years, scientists have been reporting an association between herpes virus infection (HSV type 1) and dementia (Alzheimer’s and Dementia, June 2015). We don’t know whether treating cold sores with L-lysine or antiviral drugs (acyclovir, famciclovir, valacyclovir) would help reduce the risk.
There has been very little research on the effectiveness of L-lysine against HSV-1 infections (Dermatologica, Vol. 175, No. 4, 1987). Many visitors to our website do report that this amino acid can help prevent cold-sore outbreaks.
Q: I have lower back pain and tightness caused by muscle inflammation. My doctor prescribed naproxen.
After a week, my blood pressure increased by 30 points. I stopped taking it, and my blood pressure went back to normal. Can you offer any natural or herbal suggestions for inflammation and muscle pain?
A: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as naproxen, ibuprofen, diclofenac and meloxicam often raise blood pressure. In addition, there is an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes. Some people may be especially susceptible to these side effects and should turn to alternatives for relief from pain or inflammation.
Natural products such as boswellia and turmeric have anti-inflammatory activity. So do cherries, ginger and bromelain, a compound found in pineapples. Home remedies such as gin-soaked raisins and pectin in purple grape juice also help some people.
Q: I am a gardener and have always been a mosquito magnet. I read about vitamin B-1 and have been taking it for several days. I just went outside this evening and didn’t get one bite! Usually they are all over me. I will continue to take B-1 until cold weather.
A: There is almost no scientific research to support vitamin B-1 (thiamine) against mosquitoes. That said, some readers report similar success. Individual body chemistry may have an important effect on whether and how well this remedy works. Most people need to apply a proven mosquito repellent such as DEET, picaridin or lemon eucalyptus oil.
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.”