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Q. Your column on quinine water proved almost fatal for me. Nighttime leg cramps have been an ongoing problem, so I bought a bottle of tonic water.

On Saturday I had a 5-ounce glass before supper. Sunday morning by 9 a.m. I was in the emergency room with a frightening skin reaction. I was treated promptly, but needed to be hospitalized for many days.

My platelet count on admission was 2,000, and it dropped further to 1,000. Now it has gradually come back up to 266,000. I have been diagnosed with idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, and my hematologist said the onset was caused by the quinine water. Even a drop of it would have the same effect on me. He said I should not have it in the house!

I do hope this information will be valuable for any ITP patients who might consider using quinine water.

A. We were horrified to read of your reaction to quinine. This is precisely why the FDA banned it for over-the-counter use. Some people are extremely sensitive to quinine, and you are clearly among them.

Many folks don't realize that tonic water gets its distinctive flavor from quinine. For you, that small glass had enough active drug to trigger a life-threatening blood reaction.

People who have taken quinine safely in the past have complained about not being able to get it easily to treat leg cramps at night. Tonic water offers them an alternate source of quinine. Thank you for reminding us all that even small amounts of this chemical can be very hazardous for some people.

Natural thyroid supplement

Q. I have had a terrible time getting my thyroid dose adjusted. I hate taking drugs, but my doctor says my fatigue, constipation, dry skin and brittle fingernails are due to thyroid hormone problems. I am on Synthroid, but the doctor is having trouble getting the dose right.

I try so hard to stay healthy. I take vitamins and minerals and eat lots of vegetables. I love broccoli and cabbage and am now eating soy protein instead of meat. I have heard that soy can provide estrogen so that I may not need hormone replacement therapy.

Is there a natural thyroid supplement that works better than Synthroid?

A. Conventional medical wisdom insists that Synthroid (levothyroxine) is the preferred form of thyroid treatment. Some patients, however, claim that they do better on desiccated (dried) thyroid gland.

One reason for your problems may be the minerals and vegetables you are consuming. Iron can interfere with the absorption of Synthroid if you take them at the same time.

Some vegetables, including broccoli, cabbage, turnips and soybeans, contain a chemical that can interfere with thyroid hormone formation. Whether large amounts of these foods cause problems for patients on Synthroid is unknown, but you may want to exercise moderation.

We are sending you our "Guide to Thyroid Hormones," which explains symptoms and treatment of thyroid problems. Anyone else who would like a copy, please send $2 with a long (No. 10) stamped, self-addressed envelope to Graedons' People's Pharmacy, No. T-929, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, N.C. 27717-2027.

Getting calcium

Q. I recently flunked a bone density test. I've been told I have osteoporosis. I am on Axid for reflux, and the doctor said he didn't want that to get any worse.

He prescribed Miacalcin nasal spray, but I wonder if Fosamax would be a better choice.

A. Because of your digestive problems, Fosamax may not be appropriate. Some people have experienced serious heartburn and esophageal irritation from Fosamax.

Write to Joe and Teresa Graedon in care of The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, N.Y. 14240.

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