ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Q: Will beet root powder boost libido? I started adding a teaspoon of beet root powder to my morning juice after hearing about it on your radio show, since my doctor advised me I was pre-hypertensive.
I’m 51, and my wife and I enjoy a very active sex life even after 25 years together. A few times a week is normal.
Since taking the beet root powder, I’m pestering my wife daily, and that’s just a little too much for her. Have you heard from others whose sex drive has increased due to beet root powder?
A: Five years ago we read a study showing that beet root juice could lower blood pressure. A recent review has confirmed this fascinating discovery (Journal of Nutrition, June 2013).
Beet root helps the body create nitric oxide in blood vessels. This makes them relax, improves blood flow and lowers blood pressure. The erectile-dysfunction drugs (Cialis, Levitra and Viagra) all work through a similar mechanism. By increasing nitric-oxide levels, they improve blood flow to the penis.
We could find no credible evidence that beets boost libido, but improving circulation might have unexpected benefits when it comes to sex. If this continues to be a problem, however, you may want to moderate your beet root powder intake or find a different way to control your blood pressure.
Q: I have two friends who have developed severe red-meat allergies, one of whom was told by his doctor that it was likely tick-bite-related. What can you tell us about this?
A: The condition your friends have developed is called “alpha-gal allergy.” It is triggered by a reaction to a tick bite (Current Opinion in Allergy and Clinical Immunology online, June 5, 2013).
Eating beef, pork, lamb, rabbit, venison or buffalo meat can result in a delayed anaphylactic response (three to six hours later). Read more about this mysterious but potentially life-threatening allergy on our website, www.PeoplesPharmacy.com. Children are increasingly susceptible and may be hard to diagnose.
Q: When I was a kid in the early 1960s, if I had a sore throat, Mom would put a glob of Vicks VapoRub on the back of my tongue and tell me to swallow it.
I understand now that it’s for external use only. Was this dangerous? Has the formula changed since then? I honestly can’t remember if it helped get rid of the sore throat, but I do remember the horrible taste.
A: We’re not aware of any change in the Vicks VapoRub formula. It contains camphor, eucalyptus oil, menthol, cedarleaf oil, nutmeg oil, thymol and turpentine oil along with petrolatum (petroleum jelly). Camphor is somewhat toxic when ingested, which is why the makers of Vicks warn that it is for external use only.
Q: My doctor has recommended that I take enteric-coated aspirin to protect my heart without damaging my stomach. I have recently read that coated aspirin doesn’t always protect the heart as well as regular aspirin. Would I be safer buying low-dose chewable aspirin?
A: The study you are referring to was published in the journal Circulation (Jan. 22, 2013). Researchers gave 400 volunteers either immediate-release regular-strength aspirin or a similar dose of enteric-coated aspirin.
Some of the people taking coated aspirin had a much-delayed anti-clotting response. This may not matter for daily aspirin users like you. However, doctors may recommend uncoated or chewable aspirin for people who suspect a heart attack in progress.
Q: I’ve been sleepwalking and having really bad dreams for two years. It finally hit me that this all started soon after I started taking Toprol.
A: Toprol (metoprolol) and other beta blockers (atenolol, propranolol) can cause nightmares and disturbed sleep for some people.
Write to Joe and Teresa Graedon via their website: www.PeoplesPharmacy.com. Their newest book is “Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them.”