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People’s Pharmacy: Special diet plus coconut controls Crohn’s

Q. My husband has had Crohn’s disease since he was 17, and he’s now 48. Fourteen years ago, just before our first child was born, he was in the hospital with a bad flare-up and was very close to surgery.

As he was recovering, the doctors wanted to put him on lifetime steroid meds. He didn’t want to go that route and did some research. He discovered the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD), which would change his life forever.

His gas production significantly decreased within a day or two on the diet. He’s been med-free and has had no flare-ups ever since (14 years!).

The diet is very demanding. You essentially cut out all grains, even foods like soy and rice, and all forms of sugar except honey. I use a lot of almond flour in cooking.

And yes, he eats a lot of coconut through macaroons and other baked goods I make. For my husband, the diet is not a cure for Crohn’s, but it keeps the disease in check.

A. Thank you for sharing this amazing story. A recent article in the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition (January 2014) offers a case series in which the SCD approach improved symptoms and lab results.

We have heard from dozens of readers that coconut can be helpful in controlling hard-to-manage diarrhea. Our book “Favorite Foods From The People’s Pharmacy” (online at discusses food as medicine and provides a popular recipe for coconut macaroon cookies.


Q. I have rosacea, and as I’ve gotten older, the outbreaks on my cheeks and nose have become more pronounced. I have tried Prosacea, Finacea, dietary change and various creams – even Vagisil!

Nothing worked until a daily application of pure aloe vera (no colors or scents) virtually eliminated the blistering. It dries the bumps, and it seems to prevent new outbreaks. The rosy pigment under the skin remains but is lighter. That’s a great improvement.

A. We are glad to learn of your good response to topical aloe vera. There appears to be only a little research on this treatment, but aloe vera does have anti-inflammatory activity and has been suggested for alleviating rosacea (Journal of Drugs in Dermatology supplemental, July 2008).


Q. I have been suffering for six months with hemorrhoids. I was buying a tube of Preparation H at least once a week and getting very little relief.

When I Googled for an herbal remedy, I found a suggestion for horse chestnut. I already had a box of Venastat on hand that I was meaning to try for spider veins. The results have been fantastic, more than I could have hoped for! I have to take it every day, though, or the symptoms return.

A. Horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) has been used to treat varicose veins. It makes veins less fragile. The same activity benefits hemorrhoids, which are a particular type of varicose vein (Alternative Medicine Review, April 2001).

Venastat is a standardized extract of horse chestnut. Thank you for sharing your success.


Q. I have heard that Concord grape juice will lower cholesterol and alleviate joint pain. Do you know anything about that?

A. Concord grape juice contains antioxidants that improve blood-vessel flexibility (American Journal of Hypertension, January 2014). Other research suggests that it has beneficial effects on cholesterol (Nutrition Research, November 2008). Readers have been telling us for decades that grape juice combined with Certo (plant pectin) can ease joint pain and stiffness.

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