Birth control pills lower libido

By JOE GRAEDON AND TERESA GRAEDON, Ph.D. Published:

Q. I was amused to hear that scientists have finally figured out that birth-control pills reduce a woman's sexual desire. I've known that for years.

When I was younger, the effect wasn't as obvious, but in my 20s and 30s I knew that the pills really reduced my sex drive. I'm surprised that other women haven't figured out that the pill can affect libido. Then again, I suspect that the pharmaceutical industry has no interest in broadcasting this message.

A. A new study of 124 women in The Journal of Sexual Medicine (January 2006) reveals how oral contraceptives might diminish sexual desire. The estrogen in these pills apparently increases production of a protein that binds to testosterone. Less testosterone in the bloodstream may account for lowered libido. The effect might persist after birth-control pills are discontinued.

Q. I have an allergy to certain metals against my skin. I first noticed it when I had a pair of sunglasses with temples that wrapped behind my ears. Where they touched, it itched incessantly. The solution was simple. I got plastic sleeves that slipped over the temples.

Belt buckles have begun to have the same effect. When I told my doctor about it, he prescribed ketoconazole. The itching and rash disappeared for a short while, but now they're back.

Is there any solution besides an anti-fungal drug that could cause liver problems? I don't want to wear suspenders. Gold and stainless steel (a ring and watch) don't have this effect.

A. Some people are allergic to nickel in metal. Rash and itching are the most common symptoms. They can occur around metal studs on jeans, on ring fingers or under a metal watchband.

Pure gold (12 carat or more), silver or stainless steel should be safe. Avoiding nickel is the best solution.

Coating the belt buckle with clear nail polish may help temporarily. A new belt without nickel in the buckle might solve the problem permanently.

Q. For several years I have been taking atenolol for my blood pressure, Zoloft for depression and Prevacid for acid reflux. During this time, my breathing has gradually gotten worse, and now I can't walk more than 20 or 30 feet without stopping to catch my breath as if I'd been running for miles. Up to a couple of years ago, I walked four to five miles a day at a fast pace, so this is an alarming change. Could it have anything to do with my medicines?

A. Atenolol (Tenormin) is a possible candidate. This beta blocker can affect the lungs and cause fatigue. Susceptible people may experience asthma and have trouble catching their breath.

Beta blockers like atenolol, metoprolol and propranolol have been first choices for treating high blood pressure for decades. Some researchers have begun to question the effectiveness and safety of such medications (The Lancet, Nov. 6, 2004 and Oct. 29, 2005).

Do not discontinue atenolol on your own, but discuss this issue with your physician.

Q. I have heard that sour cherry juice can ward off gout attacks. Have you heard of this remedy? My doctor thinks it is ridiculous.

A. Cherries have traditionally been recommended for gout prevention, but the medical evidence has been limited. One study has shown, however, that uric acid drops after people eat Bing cherries (Journal of Nutrition, June 2003).

Elevated uric acid triggers the excruciating pain of a gout attack, so this finding supports the potential usefulness of cherries against gout. Another reader reported: "I used tart cherries to cure a gout attack, and it worked. The real news is that the pain from osteoarthritis of the hip joint diminished also. I've been able to reduce my use of Celebrex from 400 mg/day to 200 mg/day and still have less pain." Cherry juice or cherry concentrate in pills (CherryFlex) may be helpful.

Q. I've read in your column about Vicks VapoRub and the dangers of placing it inside the nostrils. We've had a series of colds in our household, and I'd like to treat them without unnecessary medication.

Vicks seems good, but I heard once that you should not rub it on your chest if you'll be outside the next day. Presumably it opens your pores, so the cold air could cause pneumonia. Is there any truth to this?

A. The maker of Vicks VapoRub warns: "Do not take by mouth or place in nostrils." Inhaling the petroleum-jelly base could be harmful to lungs.

Rubbing Vicks on your chest, though, won't put you at risk of pneumonia.

The herbal ingredients in Vicks, especially menthol and thymol, can help ease coughs. We have gathered many nondrug approaches for congestion in our Guide to Cold Remedies, which we are sending you along with our Guide to Unique Uses for Vicks. Anyone who would like copies, please send $3 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped (63 cents), self-addressed envelope to: Graedons' People's Pharmacy, No. QVi-276, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027.

Q. I have been struggling with a skin condition called Granuloma annulare. After three years, two dermatologists and a lot of frustration, I found an article that said viruses do not like acid and Granuloma annulare was considered viral.

I put two and two together and decided to try white vinegar. I soaked my hands in the vinegar 15 minutes every day for a month. The results were amazing. After one month, 85 percent of the lesions are gone from my hands.

I am happy to report that this natural remedy worked for me. Maybe there are others who will benefit.

A. Granuloma annulare is a skin condition of unknown cause. It can occur over knuckles and other joints, and dermatologists do not consider it serious.

Your success with vinegar is fascinating. Because this condition sometimes disappears by itself, we cannot verify that the vinegar was responsible. Nevertheless, this remedy is inexpensive and safer than steroids.

Q. I have a problem with a yeast condition (seborrhea) that covers my scalp, especially behind my ears. Should I avoid yeasty food like yogurt?

A. Yogurt does not contain yeast, and there is little data to suggest diet has an impact on seborrheic dermatitis (super dandruff). Some readers tell us that massaging old-fashioned (yellow) Listerine into their scalps helps this condition.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer questions from readers. E-mail them via their Web site: www.PeoplesPharmacy.com. Their newest book is "The People's Pharmacy Guide to Home and Herbal Remedies" (St. Martin's Press).

Q. I was amused to hear that scientists have finally figured out that birth-control pills reduce a woman's sexual desire. I've known that for years.

When I was younger, the effect wasn't as obvious, but in my 20s and 30s I knew that the pills really reduced my sex drive. I'm surprised that other women haven't figured out that the pill can affect libido. Then again, I suspect that the pharmaceutical industry has no interest in broadcasting this message.

A. A new study of 124 women in The Journal of Sexual Medicine (January 2006) reveals how oral contraceptives might diminish sexual desire. The estrogen in these pills apparently increases production of a protein that binds to testosterone. Less testosterone in the bloodstream may account for lowered libido. The effect might persist after birth-control pills are discontinued.

Q. I have an allergy to certain metals against my skin. I first noticed it when I had a pair of sunglasses with temples that wrapped behind my ears. Where they touched, it itched incessantly. The solution was simple. I got plastic sleeves that slipped over the temples.

Belt buckles have begun to have the same effect. When I told my doctor about it, he prescribed ketoconazole. The itching and rash disappeared for a short while, but now they're back.

Is there any solution besides an anti-fungal drug that could cause liver problems? I don't want to wear suspenders. Gold and stainless steel (a ring and watch) don't have this effect.

A. Some people are allergic to nickel in metal. Rash and itching are the most common symptoms. They can occur around metal studs on jeans, on ring fingers or under a metal watchband.

Pure gold (12 carat or more), silver or stainless steel should be safe. Avoiding nickel is the best solution.

Coating the belt buckle with clear nail polish may help temporarily. A new belt without nickel in the buckle might solve the problem permanently.

Q. For several years I have been taking atenolol for my blood pressure, Zoloft for depression and Prevacid for acid reflux. During this time, my breathing has gradually gotten worse, and now I can't walk more than 20 or 30 feet without stopping to catch my breath as if I'd been running for miles. Up to a couple of years ago, I walked four to five miles a day at a fast pace, so this is an alarming change. Could it have anything to do with my medicines?

A. Atenolol (Tenormin) is a possible candidate. This beta blocker can affect the lungs and cause fatigue. Susceptible people may experience asthma and have trouble catching their breath.

Beta blockers like atenolol, metoprolol and propranolol have been first choices for treating high blood pressure for decades. Some researchers have begun to question the effectiveness and safety of such medications (The Lancet, Nov. 6, 2004 and Oct. 29, 2005).

Do not discontinue atenolol on your own, but discuss this issue with your physician.

Q. I have heard that sour cherry juice can ward off gout attacks. Have you heard of this remedy? My doctor thinks it is ridiculous.

A. Cherries have traditionally been recommended for gout prevention, but the medical evidence has been limited. One study has shown, however, that uric acid drops after people eat Bing cherries (Journal of Nutrition, June 2003).

Elevated uric acid triggers the excruciating pain of a gout attack, so this finding supports the potential usefulness of cherries against gout. Another reader reported: "I used tart cherries to cure a gout attack, and it worked. The real news is that the pain from osteoarthritis of the hip joint diminished also. I've been able to reduce my use of Celebrex from 400 mg/day to 200 mg/day and still have less pain." Cherry juice or cherry concentrate in pills (CherryFlex) may be helpful.

Q. I've read in your column about Vicks VapoRub and the dangers of placing it inside the nostrils. We've had a series of colds in our household, and I'd like to treat them without unnecessary medication.

Vicks seems good, but I heard once that you should not rub it on your chest if you'll be outside the next day. Presumably it opens your pores, so the cold air could cause pneumonia. Is there any truth to this?

A. The maker of Vicks VapoRub warns: "Do not take by mouth or place in nostrils." Inhaling the petroleum-jelly base could be harmful to lungs.

Rubbing Vicks on your chest, though, won't put you at risk of pneumonia.

The herbal ingredients in Vicks, especially menthol and thymol, can help ease coughs. We have gathered many nondrug approaches for congestion in our Guide to Cold Remedies, which we are sending you along with our Guide to Unique Uses for Vicks. Anyone who would like copies, please send $3 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped (63 cents), self-addressed envelope to: Graedons' People's Pharmacy, No. QVi-276, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027.

Q. I have been struggling with a skin condition called Granuloma annulare. After three years, two dermatologists and a lot of frustration, I found an article that said viruses do not like acid and Granuloma annulare was considered viral.

I put two and two together and decided to try white vinegar. I soaked my hands in the vinegar 15 minutes every day for a month. The results were amazing. After one month, 85 percent of the lesions are gone from my hands.

I am happy to report that this natural remedy worked for me. Maybe there are others who will benefit.

A. Granuloma annulare is a skin condition of unknown cause. It can occur over knuckles and other joints, and dermatologists do not consider it serious.

Your success with vinegar is fascinating. Because this condition sometimes disappears by itself, we cannot verify that the vinegar was responsible. Nevertheless, this remedy is inexpensive and safer than steroids.

Q. I have a problem with a yeast condition (seborrhea) that covers my scalp, especially behind my ears. Should I avoid yeasty food like yogurt?

A. Yogurt does not contain yeast, and there is little data to suggest diet has an impact on seborrheic dermatitis (super dandruff). Some readers tell us that massaging old-fashioned (yellow) Listerine into their scalps helps this condition.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer questions from readers. E-mail them via their Web site: www.PeoplesPharmacy.com. Their newest book is "The People's Pharmacy Guide to Home and Herbal Remedies" (St. Martin's Press).

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