Q. I have been breast-feeding my baby for seven months and have suffered through recurring infections with Candida albicans. The antifungal pill fluconazole worked, but I needed a very high dose. That worries me. I'm interested in a more natural approach for this yeast infection. What are your thoughts on gentian violet?
A. Gentian violet is an old-fashioned topical treatment for fungal infections like thrush (Candida). One reader offered this advice: "Lactation consultants often recommend gentian violet for mothers who have yeast infections on their nipples. We have the mother put a little olive oil on the baby's lips and cheeks, paint her nipples with gentian violet and nurse the baby. The mother will have two purple nipples, and the baby will have a purple mouth."
Another reader wrote: "I have worked in women's health for 40 years. Back in the early 1970s, the older doctors often painted women's vaginas with gentian violet to treat persistent yeast infections. They always told the women to warn their husbands about the possibility of purple penises."
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Q. I was given a prescription for lisinopril last year to lower my blood pressure. During the winter, I developed a constant, horrible dry cough that just wouldn't go away.
One day at work, I started coughing and couldn't stop. It was so bad that the secretary called 911.
Various doctors tested me for sleep apnea (negative), throat polyps (negative), allergies (none) and lung function (normal). I couldn't quit coughing.
On my own I dropped the lisinopril, and within a week my cough vanished. I am upset that I was put through so many expensive tests when the real problem was a common drug side effect.
A. Hundreds of readers have reported a similar experience with ACE-inhibitor blood pressure drugs like benazepril, captopril, enalapril, lisinopril, quinapril and ramipril. Some have lost bowel and bladder control from coughing so hard.
Because blood pressure control is essential to prevent heart attacks and strokes, we are sending you our Guide to Blood Pressure Treatment, which summarizes the pros and cons of medications and nondrug approaches. Anyone who would like a copy, please send $3 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped (65 cents), self-addressed envelope to: Graedons' People's Pharmacy, No. B-67, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027. It also can be downloaded for $2 from our website: www.peoplespharmacy.com.
It is disappointing that you saw so many doctors who failed to correctly identify your cough as a common drug side effect. It should be possible to control high blood pressure without intolerable reactions.
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Q. I was addicted to eating cornstarch for 10 years. Then I was hospitalized for an unrelated problem and got a blood transfusion.
My doctor also put me on iron and potassium supplements, and my cornstarch cravings completely disappeared. Other people who crave cornstarch really should be tested for anemia so they don't have to be addicted like I was.
A. We have heard from hundreds of people who crave cornstarch or non-nutritive substances like ice and clay at our website (peoplespharmacy.com). This is called pica. It often is associated with a deficiency of iron, zinc or other minerals. People with celiac disease, which interferes with proper absorption of nutrients, may be at higher risk (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, February 1990).