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New research hasn’t cleared aluminum

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Q: I was diagnosed with psoriasis several years ago. My dermatologist prescribed a number of medications, including steroid creams, but I did not get much relief. My doctor started talking about adding chemotherapy (methotrexate), and I balked at such a heavy-duty treatment.

I found an online forum of psoriasis patients. Some had tried topical glycerin and found it helpful. I figured I had nothing to lose and was astonished to see how well it cleared my skin. Why don’t doctors know about this approach?

A: Researchers at the Medical College of Georgia have found that glycerin (glycerol) helps guide skin-cell maturation (Journal of Investigative Dermatology, December 2007). This basic research may suggest a reason for the good results you have gotten. Most doctors would not know about topical glycerin, as it has not been used in clinical trials yet.

Glycerin is a colorless, odorless, sweet-tasting inexpensive compound used in both topical and oral pharmaceutical preparations. It is used in many skin preparations for its moisturizing and lubricating qualities.

Q: After menopause, sex became painful and almost impossible. I tried Estring, an estrogen product you place up inside, but that caused a terrible yeast infection. I tried all kinds of lubricants, but they lost their slipperiness before correcting the pain and dryness.

Then I tried hyaluronic acid. It’s found in some topical products, but I take it in capsules. Hyaluronic acid is said to add moisture to skin and joints.

I intended just to lubricate my knee joints from within for easier skiing. What a wonderful surprise when the dryness “down there” started disappearing shortly after I began the capsules.

Now I have sex anytime I please, and the pain and dryness are so minimal that they aren’t a problem anymore. Hyaluronic acid is a bit expensive but so very worth it! My knees are doing well, too.

A: Hyaluronic acid is a natural compound found in the body’s connective tissues and skin. It has been used as an injection into joints and found to work as well as an oral NSAID similar to ibuprofen (Arthritis Research and Therapy online, Jan. 21, 2014).

In the UK, hyaluronic acid vaginal gel (Hyalofemme) is used to ease vaginal dryness. A study comparing this gel to vaginal estrogen cream showed equal effectiveness (Archives of Gynecology and Obstetrics, December 2013). We could find no evidence that oral hyaluronic acid would ease vaginal dryness, but your story is intriguing.

Q: I tried cornmeal paste on a fungus-infected big toenail. I think I did it just once or twice and decided it was dumb, and I didn’t do it again.

Lo and behold, I recently noticed the fungus is gone, and I have a nice, pink big toenail! The remedy is cheap, easy and harmless.

A: Thank you for sharing your story. We have heard from many other readers who have found that soaking the affected foot in a cornmeal bath can get rid of nail fungus.

Those who would like details on how to do this will find them (along with many other nail-fungus remedies) in our Guide to Hair and Nail Care. 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. H-31, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027. It also can be downloaded for $2 from our website: peoplespharmacy.com.

Q: You have written about the dangers of aluminum, but you have not been keeping up with the evidence. Back in the 1960s, a few studies found high levels of aluminum in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease. The research called into question the safety of everyday household items such as aluminum cans, antacids and antiperspirants.

But the findings of these early studies weren’t replicated in later research. Experts have essentially ruled out aluminum as a possible cause of Alzheimer’s. Why won’t you back off?

A: We wish that the worries about aluminum had truly been laid to rest by recent research. Unfortunately, epidemiology and experimental data show otherwise.

An aluminum researcher recently published a review titled: “Prolonged exposure to low levels of aluminum leads to changes associated with brain aging and neurodegeneration” (Toxicology, Jan. 6, 2014). Scientists have clearly established that aluminum is toxic to brain cells (Immunology Research, July, 2013). Although the connection between aluminum and Alzheimer’s disease remains controversial, new research has not exonerated this mineral.

Write to Joe and Teresa Graedon at PeoplesPharmacy.com.

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