Is CoQ10 a myth or a miracle?

Q: I’m wondering if you have seen or read any positive link between CoQ10 and gum health. Please advise.

A: Coenzyme Q10 is a natural antioxidant synthesized by the body. As with so many conditions, deficiencies can occur for a number of reasons and in this instance can result from either poor dietary habits or because of excessive use of CoQ10 by the body. Depending on the reason for the deficiency, supplements or dietary modifications may be effective.

This antioxidant is vital for the chain of metabolic chemical reactions that generate energy within the cells of the body. It has been used for countless medical issues, including improving heart health, assists in maintaining the normal oxidative state of LDL cholesterol, supporting the function of the heart muscle and promoting better circulation. It is even taken by some people who believe it helps to reduce the severity and frequency of migraine headaches, for strengthening the immune systems of those with HIV/AIDS, male infertility, and even for increasing a person’s life span. Co-Q10 levels are highest in the first 20 years of life. By age 80, levels can fall to lower than they were at birth. Thus, the thought that supplements taken later in life might actually allow people to live longer. Experimentation in this regard works in bacteria; however, not in lab animals. Thus, more research is necessary to determine if it actually will be effective for people.

Deficiencies in some individuals have been associated with cardiovascular problems including hypertension, arrhythmias, angina, and heart failure, as well as for the regulation of blood sugar levels and stomach ulcers. Individuals treated with statin drugs for hypercholesterolemia may be at an increased risk for deficiency because statins block CoQ10 synthesis in the body; however, there is minimal evidence published of the benefits of CoQ10 for statin-caused myopathy, and some practitioners are willing to recommend it to their patients as an option. Low levels in patients on statins may contribute to fatigue and pain in joints and muscles.

Effectiveness may occur for inherited or acquired disorders that limit energy production in body cells. CoQ10 may be effective for congestive heart failure when taken in combination with other heart medications and treatments, myocardial infarction when begun within 72 hours and taken for one year, Huntington’s disease, hypertension, migraine headaches, muscular dystrophy, Parkinson’s disease, and for improving the immune systems of individuals with HIV/AIDS. It is possibly ineffective for decreasing high cholesterol or triglyceride levels, and is likely ineffective for improving athletic performance or periodontal disease when applied directly to the teeth and gums. However, there is early evidence that when taken by mouth, CoQ10 MIGHT, and I stress MIGHT be helpful in treating gum disease. Several small clinical trials have indicated CoQ10 supplements may help prevent and treat gingivitis (inflamed gums); however, more evidence is needed before confirmation can be made. And that’s as close to a positive link as I can offer. At this stage, there is insufficient evidence to rate the effectiveness of CoQ10 for male infertility, breast cancer, diabetes, fatigue, Lyme disease, fibromyalgia and cyclic vomiting syndrome.

CoQ10 appears safe for most adults when taken by mouth or when applied directly to the gums. And, while generally well tolerated, it can cause stomach upset, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, and nausea in others. Interactions can occur with prescription drugs for hypertension, chemotherapy drugs for cancer, and warfarin which is an anticoagulant.

Because CoQ10 is fat soluble, the supplement should be taken with a meal that contains fat. Dosing depends on the reason for the deficiency and ranges from 100 mg per day divided into two or three doses for heart failure in adults to 2400 mg in three or four divided doses for Parkinson’s disease.

Thus, CoQ10 has been taken for countless medical conditions — sometimes successfully, sometimes perhaps not so successfully. We all respond differently to over-the-counters, herbs, supplements and prescription drugs, so be sure to check with your physician before beginning any regimen.

Abdominal pain requires diagnosis by a doctor

Q: I wonder what chronic pain in my lower left abdomen could be the result of. Could I have strained a muscle and it hasn’t completely healed yet?

A: Left lower abdominal pain has numerous possible causes, including a pulled muscle, diverticulitis, an intestinal obstruction, Crohn’s disease, kidney infection or stones, an inguinal hernia, ulcerative colitis, and more. I will mention a few possibilities but there are so many from which to choose that I would be hard pressed to zero in on just one.

For example and while unlikely, a urinary tract infection (UTI) could cause severe lower left abdominal pain in both men and women. That pain may be accompanied by fever, frequent urination with a burning sensation, and blood or pus in the urine.

Diverticulitis is an inflammatory disorder of the digestive tract. It often presents with severe pain in the left lower portion of the abdomen and may be accompanied by constipation or diarrhea, fever, nausea, and vomiting.

Kidney stones are hardened minerals and acid salts in the kidneys. Pain is common in the left lower quadrant but can also be present in the groin, side, or lower back. It may be accompanied by painful urination, nausea, vomiting, and discolored urine from blood.

Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel condition. Signs and symptoms may include loss of appetite and weight, fatigue, fever, arthritis, eye or liver inflammation, and bloody stool. Ulcerative colitis affects the digestive tract as an inflammatory bowel disorder. Severe lower left abdominal pain may be present and may be accompanied with constipation, bloody diarrhea, fatigue, cramps, and weight loss.

For women, causes of lower left abdominal pain can include ovarian cysts, ovarian cancer, endometriosis, and other gynecological issues.

Intestinal obstruction can prevent food from passing through the digestive tract, causing intermittent lower left abdominal pain. Abdominal tenderness, constipation, nausea, vomiting, and an inability to pass gas are but a few of the symptoms.

Then there’s an inguinal hernia, aortic aneurysm, and numerous other possibilities.

You need to be seen by a health care professional who can take a complete medical history, perform an examination, and perhaps order some imaging testing and lab work in an attempt to rule out some medical issues and concentrate on others. The testing is not as complex as it appears but the key to diagnosing abdominal pain is to identify the underlying cause for it. Your explanation of when the pain occurs, what precedes it and precisely where it is will help narrow the field. If your physician deems it appropriate, he or she may refer you to a specialist. Clearly you need help so don’t delay. Make an appointment now so you can either put the issue behind you or take steps to have it remedied.

Another OTC remedy for mouth lesions

Q: This is not really a question but a suggestion I have. Years ago I learned a very simple way to get rid of a mouth sore or any case mild or severe of gingivitis. Gargle with Vince Solution Oral Dentifrice. Use lukewarm water and a half teaspoon of Vince Solution in three ounces of water. Immediate results occur. The product is not easy to find but some drug stores still carry it or can order it. It is over-the-counter and very inexpensive.

I thought I would share this with you and your readers.

A: Being unfamiliar with this product, I Googled it for educational purposes to find this oral rinse and dentifrice is used to clean and refresh the gums. It is buffered for safe daily use and the product claims to release oxygen, making it a helpful adjunct in promoting better oral hygiene for the mouth, teeth and gums. It is also purported to promote healing of the mouth and gums and to relieve occasional soreness and irritation from dentures, braces, canker sores, wounds, and mouth sores.

The ingredients are sodium alum, calcium carbonate, sodium perborate monohydrate, sodium carbonate, magnesium trisilicate, tricalcium phosphate, sodium saccharin, flavor, and D&C red 28. Sodium alum is a form of alum used in the acidity regulator of food, as well as in the manufacture of baking powder. Calcium carbonate is a dietary supplement and is used as an antacid to relieve heartburn, acid indigestion and upset stomach. Sodium perborate monohydrate is a solid form of hydrogen peroxide, used chiefly as a bleaching and disinfecting agent. Sodium carbonate is known as a water softener. Magnesium trisilicate is an inorganic compound used as a food additive to absorb fatty acids and remove impurities that form in edible oils during the frying process. Sodium saccharin is a salt of the artificial sweetener saccharin. Lastly, D&C Red No. 28 aluminum lake is a dye for use in drugs and cosmetics but not for use in foods, yet it may be used as a color additive for coating tablets. The exact amount of each ingredient is not identified and for those individuals who question D&C Red No. 289, dyes are commonly added to products and are safe to ingest.

The mouth is a haven for bacteria and other unwanted conditions, so the action taken and products used to combat lesions depends on what is going on inside the mouth. For example, mouth sores (ulcers or canker sores) are common and often disappear in as little as 10 to 14 days, even if no action is taken. However, that can be a long time if the lesion is painful. Individuals might try using a salt water gargle to speed up the healing process.

For canker cores, a thin paste of baking soda mixed with water has been found effective. Or, mix equal parts of hydrogen peroxide and water applied to the lesion with a cotton swab. Then there is over-the-counter Blistex or Campho-Phenique that might be used at the first sign of a canker sore. If readers are prone to frequent canker sores, they might choose to speak with their primary care physician regarding the possible use of vitamin B12 and folate to prevent outbreaks.

Then there is gingivitis, a common form of periodontal (gum) disease that causes bad breath, inflammation, irritation and redness of the gums. The gums may be tender and will generally bleed easily when flossing or brushing teeth. Healthy gums are pink and firm. Because the condition is commonly without pain, an individual can have gingivitis and be completely unaware of the fact.

The most common cause for this condition is poor oral hygiene that causes plaque to form. Plaque cannot be seen, yet it is a sticky substance that forms on teeth when the sugars and starches in foods interact with bacteria that is generally found in the mouth. Plaque can be dealt with simply by brushing and flossing daily. When an individual fails to perform this daily oral hygiene procedure for two or three days, the plaque will harden under the gum line and become extremely difficult to remove through dental cleaning. The risk of developing gingivitis is increased if an individual smokes, has poor oral hygiene, is older, is on specific medications, has a compromised immune system, has substance abuse issues, and is prone to specific fungal and viral infections. Without proper care and flossing, the condition can advance. However, daily brushing and flossing, periodic cleaning by a dentist to remove plaque and tartar, and possibly using an antiseptic mouthwash to fight bacteria should keep your mouth healthy. There is no need to purchase or use a hard toothbrush, nor should you rely on a toothpaste that promotes tartar control. Instead, purchase a soft-bristled brush that should be replaced every three or four months and go with your favorite brand of toothpaste.

If your lesions appear frequently, visit your dentist for his or her input. And, by all means if Vince Solution works for you, stick with it. Thank you for sharing this remedy.

The perils of cigarette smoke

Q: My grandkids, ages 10 and 7 are around cigarette smoke at their mom’s house and at their dad’s house, also. There are four smokers in the two houses and the kids always have a cough, ear infection and colds. It seems like they are always sick. Could it be the cigarette smoke? I think it should be unlawful to smoke around kids.

A: It’s a known fact that parents who smoke cause health problems for their children that includes ear infections, chronic coughs, colds, bronchitis, pneumonia, and worsening asthma. In fact, five states have bans on driving and smoking if there children in the car. Second-hand smoke is just that – an adult or child breathing in smoke that comes from someone in the household puffing on a cigarette, cigar, or pipe. Cigarettes contain more than 4,000 chemicals and more than 50 of those chemicals are known to cause cancer. It’s simply not healthy to inhale benzene, formaldehyde, hydrogen cyanide or carbon monoxide, yet that is what every individual does when he is subjected to someone smoking nearby. Thirty-five percent of children in our country live in homes where parents, visitors or other residents smoke in the home on a regular basis. Up to 75% of those children have detectable levels of cotinine (a breakdown product of nicotine) in their blood. The smoke that is exhaled from a smoker’s lungs is inhaled into the lungs of everyone around. Smoke gets into the air we breathe. It clings to draperies and curtains, couch and chairs. It collects on walls. Then there is third-hand smoke – the residue that permeates the clothes a smoker wears and the upholstery in an automobile the smoker leans against. A 2006 surgeon general’s report confirmed that second hand smoking is harmful, can kill, and there is no amount of exposure that is safe. The more smoke that is inhaled, the greater the health risk.

Children are more vulnerable to second-hand smoke than are adults, because their bodies are still growing and they breathe at a faster rate than do adults. Your grandchildren aren’t alone in this dilemma. It is estimated that 126 million people in this country who are non-smokers are exposed to second hand smoke at home and in the workplace. And, that smoke dramatically increases a person’s risk of developing lung cancer and heart disease. We may find fault with the seemingly uncaring smoker but it’s likely we don’t begin to realize the full impact of the act because each year it is estimated that almost 60,000 deaths occur in non-smokers who live with or work with smokers.

In this, as well as many more instances, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Smoking should not be allowed in the home or around others. Many states have passed laws that prohibit smoking in public places. Restaurants, offices, bars and other facilities are banning smoking. Sound mean? Not at all. Sounds safe to me. Thank heavens towns, cities, and governments have stepped up to the plate and prohibit smoking in many public places.

There are ways individuals can continue the smoking habit if they so desire. They can step out of doors, onto a porch, or take a walk around the block while puffing away. This keeps the family or household members healthy, and the smoker happy. We need to protect our children in every possible way. We help them across the street, attempt to feed them well-balanced meals, and dress them warmly in cold weather, so I recommend we all step up to the plate and make our homes smoke-free facilities. We’ll all be better off for it.

Smoking is an addiction and it isn’t an easy one to give up but there is help available. Additional information and methods of kicking the habit can be found through the American Lung Association’s website www.lung.org.

The heart is one remarkable muscle

Q: My friend is 50 years old and has had a series of medical issues over the past year. On his last trip to the hospital he was ultimately found to have a weak lower portion of his heart. I don’t understand how such a small organ can malfunction in one area and be healthy in another. Can you fill in the blanks?

A: The heart is a hollow muscular organ that pumps blood throughout the body. The average human heart beats 72 times each minute, pumping up to 5.7 liters of blood during that same period. It has four chambers, two upper atria and two lower ventricles. The right atrium receives blood from the veins and pumps it on to the right ventricle. The right ventricles then pumps that blood to the lungs where it receives oxygen and releases carbon dioxide. The left atrium receives the oxygenated blood and pumps it, in turn, to the left ventricle that pumps it to the rest of the body. Long-standing failure can occur on the left, right, or both sides of the heart but typically the left side, and specifically the left ventricle (the main pumping station) being the chamber affected. Left sided failure may cause shortness of breath and fluid to back up into the lungs. Right sided failure may cause edema because of fluid backing up into the feet, legs and abdomen.

Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the most common form of heart disease and one of the most common reasons for heart failure to occur. This is often a condition that develops over time from a buildup of fatty deposits within the coronary arteries. Areas of the heart deprived of oxygen-rich blood cause symptoms to occur. Faulty heart valves can prevent blood from flowing in the proper direction, forcing the heart to work harder than it was intended in an attempt to keep blood flowing as it was meant to. With time, this can weaken the heart. Hypertension also causes the heart to work hard and is a common cause of heart failure. The heart muscle may thicken and weaken. Cardiac arrhythmias (abnormal beating) may create additional work for the heart. Over time, failure can result. Then there are countless conditions such as emphysema, infection, blood clots in the lungs and more that can aggravate the heart.

Diagnosis can be made through an echocardiogram that can help a physician determine how well the heart pumps, lab testing to check for kidney function and heart failure, an electrocardiogram (ECG) that can detect arrhythmias, CT scan or MRI, or angiogram that can help identify arterial narrowing.

Treatment depends on the cause for the failure. Lifestyle changes that may include dietary modifications, discontinuing smoking/drinking/weight reduction if appropriate and remaining active will go a long way toward improving his health. Valves can be repaired, medication can be prescribed, and devices that include an implantable pacer or defibrillator can get your friend back on the right track.

Your friend should be under the care of a good cardiologist who can detect the cause for the failure and make the appropriate recommendations for getting him back on the road to recovery. You indicate other medical conditions that could impede his progress but hopefully those are also being addressed.

Blood pressure readings can be frightening

Q: My husband is a young senior citizen who lately has been lethargic, sleeping lots, lacking energy, and just not behaving as he normally does. He’s usually a get going guy but something has changed. We thought it might be his heart so his primary care physician thought a trip to a cardiologist might be appropriate. That specialist ruled out problems there following heart catheterization. He was finally diagnosed with labile hypertension that fluctuated dramatically even while sitting in his doctor’s office. We’re naturally relieved it isn’t his heart but now want to address this blood pressure issue. What can you tell us about it?

A: Simply put, hypertension is a common disorder marked by consistent abnormally high blood pressure readings in the arteries whose responsibility it is to carry blood from the heart throughout the body. We’ve all seen pictures in a doctor’s office of the respiratory system showing a bare tree having a large trunk, many thick branches, and substantially smaller branches that as a complete unit, has the job of constricting and dilating to shunt the flow of blood throughout the body. In order for blood to circulate properly, a specific level of pressure is necessary. Depending on what an individual is doing, readings will vary. For example, during sleep, we consume less oxygen, making the job easier for the arterial system to function properly. Readings will commonly be lower. When we’re running a marathon, physically exercising, or stressed, the system performs in a more aggressive manner, causing a temporary increase in readings.

An average reading is about 120/80 for many. The first number is referred to as a systolic reading, the second is a diastolic reading. Each beat of the heart causes a different pressure within the system but the two numbers commonly increase and decrease together. Typically, if the systolic is up, so is the diastolic. Readings are often measured and recorded by using a sphygmomanometer (blood pressure cuff) and stethoscope, however another method that provides additional information is the 24 hour ambulatory monitoring and home monitoring method. This device records readings at regular intervals (even during sleep) and reduces white coat hypertension (an increase in blood pressure some individuals experience when in a physician’s office)may .

We all suffer from hypertension for a variety of reasons at one time or another. This does not imply that one or two high readings are necessarily cause for concern. High readings generally come to the forefront when they persist for extended periods of time or the adverse affects present rapidly and without apparent cause to the patient. Almost 95% of those with a diagnosis of high blood pressure are found to have what is referred to as essential or primary hypertension, implying there is no identifiable medical cause as the source. Looking at the bigger picture, however, pregnant women may have a form that concludes at the end of their pregnancy; then there are secondary, isolated secondary, white coat, malignant, and labile hypertension categories for others.

Labile hypertension, a condition that almost 15% of the adult population has, is defined as variations of blood pressure. Signs and symptoms may include fatigue, lethargy, headache and ringing in the ears. Emotional stress from work-related situations, medical problems, financial concerns and simply getting stuck in traffic can trigger elevated readings, requiring some patients to be placed on anti-hypertensive medication to help stabilize their readings.

Hypertension can be treated with diet, exercise, weight loss if appropriate and, when necessary, medication. However, your husband’s lethargy and behavioral changes may be because of depression, anemia, hypothyroidism, or other treatable conditions, so follow the advice of your husband’s physician so he can gain the stability he needs. Good luck.

Celiac disease and colagenous colitis share similarities

Q: Several years ago you wrote about celiac disease. Well, I was surprised to read about the same symptoms I have. I have since been diagnosed with colagenous colitis with bloating, diarrhea, etc, following a colonoscopy.

I was never told to avoid gluten products, despite the fact that I find ice cream and cheeses aren’t tolerated very well by me.

Could my avoiding gluten be a way of avoiding the bloating and other symptoms? I would appreciate any advice you may have.

A: Celiac disease is an immune reaction from eating gluten which is found in rye, wheat and barley products. For those individuals diagnosed with celiac, ingesting products that contain gluten triggers an immune response in the small intestine that, over a period of time, produces inflammation. This inflammation damages the lining of the small intestine and can prevent absorption of some nutrients. Malabsorption may lead to damage of other areas of the body, including the brain, liver and bone that actually depend on specific nutrients in order to function normally. As you have discovered, the condition may cause bloating, diarrhea, changes in bowel habits, fatigue, joint pain, paresthesias (tingling and numbness) of the extremities, osteoporosis from less than optimal absorption of calcium and vitamin D, skin rash, and weight loss.

While the exact cause of celiac remains unknown, it is thought to be an autoimmune disorder with familial or genetic components. Despite this statement, not all individuals with a family history will develop the condition. Those with type 1 diabetes, microscopic colitis, Sjogren’s syndrome and autoimmune thyroid disease seem to be at an increase for development.

The colagenous colitis you have been diagnosed with is a rare but treatable inflammatory disorder of the digestive system characterized by inflammation and thickening of the lining of the large intestine. Those individuals at an increased risk for developing the disorder are males over the age of 40; however, cases have been reported in children as young as 7.

Symptoms may include fatigue, dehydration, chronic watery diarrhea, and weight loss. The diarrhea may occur as often as 30 times in a day, a situation that understandably may lead to dehydration. Specific foods – particularly those high in fat and fiber, a variety of spices, dairy products, and uncooked fruits and vegetables might be triggers for an episode to occur in some individuals. Interestingly and having mentioned foods, some research indicates little evidence of the link between food and colagenous colitis. Therefore, if you feel your bloating and other symptoms might be kept at bay by discontinuing products that contain gluten, I recommend you make dietary modifications. If you find your symptoms lessen or dissipate altogether, you will certainly have your answer.

For others, specific medications including budesonide, prednisone, metronidazole, cholestyramine, aminosalicylates and bismuth subsalicylate have been effective in treating the disorder. Symptoms may also be treated with anti-diarrheal drugs such as loperamide. When loperamide fails to control symptoms, bismuth subsalicylate may be added. It is estimated that about 25% of all patients diagnosed with collagenous colitis will require long-term therapy, simply because the symptoms may appear once the treatment is discontinued.

Pets deserve to be as healthy as humans

Q: Do our pets carry any parasites that could be transmitted to humans? What are the types that are found in humans and where would we be exposed to them?

A: In answer to your question regarding pets, that’s a clear yes. And, it remains a clear yes when we consider animals in the wild that we may come in contact with, those that we eat on a regular basis when we sit down to dinner, and the fish that we eat if it isn’t properly prepared. The condition is known as a zoonotic disease, one that can be passed from animals to humans. Zoonotic disorders may be caused by parasites, bacteria, fungi and viruses, some of which are quite common. There are instances when an individual can become quite ill with diarrhea, fever and muscle aches and pains, and other instances when the human will have no symptoms at all, nor will he or she ever get sick. Cows and pigs may carry parasites such as trichinella or cryptosporidium. Raccoons may carry baylisascaris. Puppies and kittens may be infected with hookworms or roundworms.

This is not to imply that all the animals we eat and all the pets we have in our homes are somehow infected, because they aren’t. Initially, there are steps we should take to avoid the possible scenario and question you present. If you walk your dog, be sure to take a plastic bag along and pick up any fecal droppings, disposing of them properly. And, follow this with washing your hands thoroughly as soon as possible.

Tapeworms are not common in our country today, yet eating undercooked meats from infected animals can result in a tapeworm infection. The critters can live in the intestines of some animals that become infected with the parasites when they drink contaminated water or graze in a pasture. And, restaurant kitchen workers who fail to wash their hands frequently when handling raw fish and meats set the stage for transmitting parasites.

If you have specific questions and doubts about your pet’s health, speak with your veterinarian. He or she can either provide answers or can perform testing to be assured your pet is parasite-free. The animal you share your home with doesn’t want to be infected with a parasite any more than you do so take measures to insure the good health of both of you.

Parasites in stool can cause issues

Q: I have noticed little white worms in my stool recently. I’m incarcerated and need to figure out if they are from dirty conditions here or maybe from something that I ate or touched. I’m normally a very clean person so what would cause this?

Thank you for your time on this matter.

A: There are two main types of parasites that can cause intestinal disease in the intestines – helminths and protozoa. Helminths such as tapeworms, pinworms and roundworms are the most common helminths in our country. Roundworms and tapeworms grow in the body and can cause serious health problems. Protozoa have one cell only, can multiply, and may cause serious infections to develop in the intestines. The most common forms of protozoa are giardia and cryptosporidium. Parasites in either form may be transmitted when an individual comes in contact with infected feces as can occur through contaminated water, food, and other sources.

Interestingly, parasites can live in the intestines indefinitely – as in for years – without causing any symptoms at all. Should symptoms occur, they may include diarrhea, abdominal pain, a rash or itching around the anus, fatigue, weight loss, and as you have discovered, worms in the stool. My guess is, the little white worms you see are probably pinworms. A tape test can be done, or can be visualized by medical personnel, followed by an exam under a microscope for Giardia or eggs of other parasites.

Examination by a physician will include fecal testing that will identify either helminths or protozoa. A Scotch tape test is commonly performed that touches the tape to the area of the anus, followed by examination under a microscope to determine if eggs are present. Depending on the results, antibiotics and/or medication to control any diarrhea will follow. Depending on the severity of the condition found, one dose may be adequate for control but for others, the medication may be prescribed for several weeks.

Your first step is to speak with your physician and have a test done to determine what type of parasite you have and what medication you should be on. Be sure to take the drug according to the directions provided for as long as is recommended. Along these lines and if you are in a confined area, you just might be doing the penal system a service by bringing your problem to the attention of your infirmary, as several individuals you share quarters with might also have the same symptoms.

If you choose to go the home remedy route for prevention of future cases of intestinal parasites once your present bout is eradicated, you might consider probiotics, eating raw garlic, beets, carrots, and pumpkin seeds which are all purported to kill parasites. Probiotics are live microorganisms (commonly bacteria), similar to those found in the human system and are referred to as good bacteria taken to prevent numerous conditions, particularly those of the gastrointestinal tract. If you have the capability, consider adding yogurt and cheeses to your daily diet.

Those silver locks are turning black

Q: I am 70 years old and have had silver hair for several years. All of a sudden my hair is starting to turn black. I never had black hair. When I was younger my hair was auburn or very light brown. My hairdresser has been in business for more than 40 years and she has never heard of anyone’s hair going from silver to black. I have never tinted my hair.

I did have a jaw bone graft in preparation for a dental implant about the time my hair started to change color. I am in very good health. I do aerobics and weight exercises for 75 minutes five times a week. I take Simvastatin and Micardis for cholesterol and blood pressure (both of which are under very good control), Omeprazole and L-thyroxine. I also take a daily senior multi-vitamin, calcium, magnesium and iron.

I earned and like my silver hair and don’t want it to change. Any idea why it is changing and what I can do?

A: There are several possibilities to consider. Initially, your jaw bone grafting may have been autologous (harvested from your own body) or it may have been synthetic and composed of biocompatible substances. For obvious reasons and when possible, autologous grafting is preferred because there is a decreased risk for graft rejection. Local anesthesia is often used to numb the area, followed by antibiotics, pain medication, and an antibacterial mouth wash. There are numerous procedures but generally speaking, they are successful and aren’t generally rejected by the body. Anesthesia is commonly out of a person’s system in 24 hours post procedures and according to many sources, it is in no way linked with changes in hair color. Some researchers indicate that the underlying cause for your grafting may have contributed to changes in texture, but not the anesthesia. Having said this, I personally know one patient who underwent knee surgery, had anesthesia for the procedure, and quite promptly turned gray when she was young and never had a hint of gray prior. So, I guess there are either exceptions to the rule or Mother Nature intervened.

Another possibility might be medication. Countless men and women who take prescription medication experience color changes. If some of your medications were not begun until after your procedure, they could be contributory. Or, they could have exhibited an adverse reaction following surgery. For example, L-thyroxine appears to be a very safe drug, yet individuals who are on it indicate they have gone from gray to brown, from blond to red, and so forth. Despite these findings reported to physicians, health care providers do not feel there is any connection.

What is known is that the pituitary gland releases hormones that activate melanocytes that produce melanin in our skin. Melanin is what most of us experience when we go out of doors in the sun in the summertime and our skin tans. Further, hair color changes have been reported by individuals with high blood cholesterol levels, hypertension, stress, and anxiety.

I’m sure you were proud of your gray mane and would like it back and the only way to counteract it is to first ask your primary care physician if any of your medication is to blame and then to have your hair colored.