Q. I am a 25-year-old female looking for answers regarding a major decrease in libido. I have read that birth control pills can affect libido, and I understand that many women on the pill are experiencing the same problem I am.
I have been taking birth control pills for at least five years. I have been in a serious relationship for four years, and my decreased libido has been hard on our relationship. I feel bad!
I know that it is not him. I have tried switching to two different birth control pills, but I've had no success. What can you recommend?
A. An article in The Journal of Sexual Medicine (January 2006) confirms that many women on oral contraceptives experience diminished interest in sexual activity as well as reduced arousal and enjoyment. This may be linked to lower levels of testosterone. Hormone replacement therapy may have a similar impact.
Your physician might be able to suggest a different form of contraception. She might also want to check your testosterone levels.
We are sending you our Guides to Female Sexuality and Treating Sexual Dysfunction with more information on testosterone and other approaches to restore libido. 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 PZ-9, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027.
Q. I keep reading about taking aspirin on a daily basis to cut my risk of a heart attack. Now the experts are saying this daily dose of aspirin also will help cut my chance of developing breast cancer.
How much aspirin does it take to do this? Some sources recommend a low-dose aspirin, and others say you need at least one tablet daily.
A. The heart-protective effects of aspirin were discovered in the 1950s. Yet, even after all this time, there is controversy over the proper dose.
James Dalen, M.D., recently reviewed the most important clinical trials involving aspirin. He concluded that 160 mg (half a regular tablet or two 81 mg aspirins) is the most appropriate daily dose for preventing heart attacks and strokes (American Journal of Medicine, March 2006). The optimal dose for preventing cancer has not yet been determined.
Even low doses of aspirin can cause stomach irritation or ulcers in sensitive individuals. That's why your doctor should supervise any long-term aspirin regimen.
Q. My doctor told me to take half a tablet of Lipitor a day. In a magazine ad, it said not to cut tablets, but didn't say why. Do you know why Lipitor shouldn't be broken?
A. Some pills have special coatings or time-release formulations that would make splitting them dangerous. Cutting such a tablet would make its absorption unpredictable.
This is not the case with Lipitor, however. Researchers at Veterans Affairs and Kaiser Permanente in California determined that splitting atorvastatin (Lipitor), lovastatin (Mevacor) and simvastatin (Zocor) was an effective way to lower costs without compromising cholesterol control. The study was published in The Journal of Managed Care Pharmacy (November/December 2002).
Q. I try to take good care of my skin, but washing my face every day with soap and water dries it out. Is there a cleanser that is not greasy and won't be too drying?
A. Cetaphil has been recommended for years. Now there is a new nongreasy product called CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser (CORIA Labs).
Q. My 12-year-old daughter is a ballet dancer and has started pointe. Her feet smell so bad that we gag if she takes her shoes off. Do you have any remedies for foot odor?
A. Foot odor seems to be a common problem among young ballerinas. The mother of a 20-year-old dancer offered this advice:
"First, get some 'shoe dogs.' These are cedar-filled bags that absorb the moisture in the shoe and help with the odor.
"Second, ballet students also wear classic soft ballet slippers. Canvas slippers are better than leather, since the canvas kind can be washed every other week, if need be. With daily classes, shoes don't dry out, so purchasing a few pairs will help. They should be stored in mesh bags, not plastic, and outside the dance bag, not in it.
"Third, try a dry, rub-on antiperspirant on the feet once a day. This also helped my son with his sweaty, smelly soccer feet.
"Fourth, if she is new to pointe, she may be wearing pads in the shoes to protect her toes. She should use natural lambswool pads that allow the skin to breathe."
Q. My friends all swear by your recipe for golden raisins soaked in gin to relieve arthritis pain. The problem is that I am morally opposed to alcohol in any form. Even though I realize the gin evaporates, I cannot buy gin in the first place. Now that glucosamine has been discredited, I am looking for a substitute.
A. There are lots of alternatives to gin-soaked raisins. Remember, though, that such home remedies have not been tested in any scientific manner.
Many readers maintain that drinking a tablespoon of Certo (plant pectin used for making jam) mixed in 8 ounces of grape juice can relieve joint pain. Others tell us that a combination of honey, vinegar, grape juice and apple juice is helpful. The Indian spice turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties. Some people find that taking it eases their stiffness. Glucosamine may help people with moderate to severe pain.
We are sending you our Guide to Alternative Treatments for Arthritis with more details on these and other remedies for joint pain. Anyone who would like a copy, please send $2 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped (63 cents), self-addressed envelope to: Graedons' People's Pharmacy, No. AA-2, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027. It can also be downloaded for $2 from our Web site: www.peoplespharmacy.com.
Q. A few weeks ago, a reader wrote to you about cold sores. This person derided the use of "silly" remedies like lysine.
I know from experience that lysine works, but plain old buttermilk works just as well and even quicker.
A. Physicians, pharmacists and housewives have all written to tell us that taking the amino acid lysine or drinking buttermilk both work to prevent cold sores (fever blisters) or canker sores (aphthous ulcers). There are no placebo-controlled trials, but this seems like an inexpensive and low-risk approach.
Q. I had an outbreak of more than 50 warts on my left hand. To get rid of them, I used a solution of 1 gram sodium ascorbate (a form of vitamin C) in an ounce of water. I applied it six times a day for two weeks. The local application of ascorbate can achieve a much higher concentration than you can get by taking it orally.
A. We've come across dozens of wart remedies, but this is a new one for us. Thank you for sharing it.