Q: I took Celebrex for more than 10 years for arthritis, but it eventually lost effectiveness. My new insurance company would not cover Celebrex unless I tried three other medications: meloxicam, ibuprofen and naproxen.
My doctor suggested fish oil, and it provided significant relief, about what I had experienced with Celebrex. Then I read your article about gin-soaked raisins and tried them, too. I now have less pain and discomfort than I ever did with Celebrex.
A: Joint pain can be challenging because all the drugs that are prescribed have side effects. Ibuprofen, meloxicam and naproxen can be hard on the digestive tract. All these drugs, including Celebrex, also may raise blood pressure and increase the risk for cardiovascular complications. Another drug, prednisone, can cause insomnia, hypertension, diabetes, swelling, osteoporosis and cataracts.
Fish oil and gin-soaked raisins offer less risk. Some people, like you, find they can be quite helpful. Other anti-inflammatory foods and spices include turmeric, tart cherries, ginger, grape juice and pineapple.
Q: I suffered with unrelenting diarrhea caused by a C. diff infection that was not fazed by powerful antibiotics. My insurance company spent thousands of dollars on my treatment, but still the diarrhea came back immediately after I stopped the meds.
I finally wound up in the hospital, and a gastroenterologist prescribed vancomycin and Flagyl. When that didn't work, he said that since I needed a colonoscopy, he would do a fecal transplant at the same time.
My husband was the donor. First his blood and stool were tested to make sure he was not giving me anything bad. After the colonoscopy, I never had diarrhea again.
A: Thousands of people die every year from complications of Clostridium difficile (C. diff) infections. Antibiotics like clindamycin can kill off beneficial bacteria in the colon, allowing C. diff bacteria to take over. The resulting diarrhea and dehydration can be life-threatening.
C. diff is extremely difficult to treat. As you discovered, the infection often comes back once the medicines are stopped. A new study from the Netherlands has confirmed that repopulating the gut with healthy bacteria is far superior to antibiotics in treating this infection (New England Journal of Medicine online, Jan. 16, 2013).
"Poop transplants" from healthy donors can be accomplished through colonoscopy, enemas or a tube passed through the nose into the small intestine.
Q: Ice-cream headaches cure my hangovers. I've read that it helps send more blood to the brain as a defense mechanism to try to keep the brain warm. I'm assuming the increased circulation helps my brain recover from the effect of the alcohol.
A: When we first heard from readers that inducing "brain freeze" by eating ice cream quickly could stop a migraine headache, we were astonished.
Then a group of scientists reported on research in which they triggered brain freeze in volunteers by having them drink ice water. Sophisticated Doppler equipment measured blood flow within the subjects' heads and found that the pain of brain freeze began when an artery just above the palate started to dilate, presumably to protect the brain from getting too cold.
It seems that this change in blood-vessel diameter might be related to the effect on migraine headaches.
We don't have any theories on why it might help a hangover headache, though.