Q. When I get sweaty from working outside in the winter and then get chilled, I frequently start to feel a sore throat coming on within several hours. It often develops into a full-blown cold.

I believe the chill doesn’t cause the cold, but rather sets up the environment for bugs already in my system to thrive and cause the resulting infection.

A. For years, doctors believed the idea that a chill could lead to a cold was no more than an old wives’ tale. But research suggests that this link should be taken more seriously.

A study at the Common Cold Center in Cardiff, Wales, found that 29 percent of 90 study subjects who sat with their feet in icy water for 20 minutes came down with colds later that week (Family Practice, December 2005). Only 10 percent of the 90 control subjects whose feet stayed warm and dry started sniffling and coughing. The “old wives” may have been right after all, although the underlying reason still is unclear.


Q. I am constantly amazed at the out-of-the-box alternatives you offer for health problems. I hope you can do the same for my wife.

For years she has suffered from constipation, with just one or two difficult bowel movements per week. The doctor-prescribed treatments have not helped.

We recently received promotional literature about a colon-cleansing product that is said to remove toxic buildup in the colon. Would this be safe? Do you have any other recommendations?

A. We discourage colon cleansing, since these products often contain laxatives that can cause diarrhea and upset electrolyte balance. Perhaps your wife will find this story helpful:

“I am a 61-year-old woman who has struggled with constipation from the time I was a child in the 1950s. My mother would chase me around the house to give me an enema! A nurse practitioner suggested taking vitamin B-6 with magnesium, and it has worked very nicely.”

We are sending you our Guides to Digestive Disorders and Constipation, with more information on magnesium, fiber, Power Pudding and flaxseed. Anyone who would like copies, please send $4 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped (65 cents), self-addressed envelope to: Graedons’ People’s Pharmacy, No. GG-33, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027. They also can be downloaded for $2 each from our website:


Q. I saw a report citing a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine that tracked 1,202 people for eight years. It showed there was a 50 percent increase in type 2 diabetes in the people taking a supplement of 200 micrograms of selenium.

My multivitamin has 100 micrograms, so if I ate just two Brazil nuts, I’d be over the limit. How much should I worry about this?

A. The research you refer to was published on Aug. 21, 2007. It did find an increased risk of type 2 diabetes: 58 cases in the selenium-supplemented group compared with 39 cases in the placebo group during the study. The scientists had expected to find a protective effect of selenium supplementation instead of greater risk.

A smaller study did not find a link between selenium supplementation and risk of type 2 diabetes, but it lasted only six months (PLOS One, Sept. 19, 2012).

To be on the safe side, we suggest limiting your Brazil-nut consumption; they are quite high in selenium. You should ask your doctor to monitor your blood-sugar levels periodically.