by Dr. Keith Roach
DEAR DR. ROACH: I am 88 and have had osteoarthritis in my hands and knees since I was in my 50s. I began taking Tylenol and Advil for pain. But on a recommendation from a health food store clerk, I started taking turmeric. Since that first dose, I have never had to take any pain medication again. I also have not had a knee replacement. My specialist is very pleased with my condition, and encourages my use of turmeric. I plan to up the dose from 150 mg daily because of research that shows its benefits in avoiding Alzheimer’s disease. ~ D.D.L.
ANSWER: Turmeric has been shown to be helpful in some people with osteoarthritis, and is unlikely to have serious side effects; however, stomach upset is possible, and turmeric should be used with caution in people on warfarin or other anticoagulants.
However, there is no good evidence showing that turmeric prevents or treats dementia.
DEAR DR. ROACH: I have been hearing a lot about making yogurt at home. Is homemade yogurt a recipe for food poisoning? ~ H.C.
ANSWER: Homemade yogurt is easy to make, can be more healthy than store-bought as it has very little sugar, and can be made very safely with minimal precautions. The key is to make sure the milk is fresh and sterile, then to carefully add in healthy bacteria. All you need to do is boil fresh milk to a bare simmer (to kill any unhealthy bacteria); cool it down to 100-110 F (37-42 C), which is an optimal temperature for growth of the healthy bacteria that help prevent the growth of unhealthy bacteria or yeast; stir in a few tablespoons of plain yogurt with active healthy bacterial cultures; and keep it in a warm place for six to 12 hours or so. You can use the yogurt you just made as the starter for the next batch. Add in some pureed fresh fruit, and you have a healthier, tastier and cheaper yogurt than you can buy at the store.
DEAR DR. ROACH: The 71-year-old woman from a recent column who finds sticking her finger to test her blood glucose too painful to be willing to do it likely was never told that while sticking her finger at the tip IS painful, sticking at the side of the end of the finger is barely painful, if at all. I find myself surprised that those who stick fingers for blood at the hospital don’t seem to know this either. Shame on them. ~ R.S.
ANSWER: There are more nerve endings at the tip of the finger, so that is more painful for most. There often is better blood flow on the sides as well. Thank you for writing with this reminder.
DEAR DR. ROACH: Several years ago, I attended a presentation about insomnia. A registered nurse discussed how, in her career as a nursing home nurse, she had many residents with insomnia. She stated that she had amazing success with these residents. The snack they gave them was crackers and cheese or peanut butter crackers. I was skeptical at first, then one night at 2 a.m., on my fourth night of insomnia, I tried eating 2 teaspoons of peanut butter. Bingo! I slept. Whenever my insomnia occurs, I eat 2 teaspoons of peanut butter, and in less than 15 minutes I’m sleeping. I use a nothing-fancy store brand of peanut butter. Please pass this information on to other readers with an explanation. ~ B.J.T.
ANSWER: I appreciate your writing to give another option for this common problem. One reason that some people think this may work is that the protein content in peanut butter is a source of tryptophan, which increases serotonin levels to help one relax. I also have read that this effect is so small as to be clinically meaningless, and that any sleep effect is due to placebo. I suspect the truth is a combination.
Two tablespoons of peanut butter is almost 200 calories, so this is not a good choice for someone struggling with too much weight. I’m also not one for “fancy,” but be sure to choose a peanut butter with no trans fats and no added sugars.
Dr. Roach regrets that he is unable to answer individual questions, but will incorporate them in the column whenever possible. Readers may email questions to ToYourGoodHealth@med.cornell.edu.
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