Q. I am looking for a remedy to remove splinters. I heard about instant glue, but I am not sure how to use it.
A. Do NOT use instant glue to remove a splinter. That is likely to seal the splinter in and make it even harder to extract.
Perhaps you intended to ask about white glue. We heard from one reader who described this tactic: “I had a splinter in my heel area and used white Elmer’s Glue and a bandage for a few hours, and the splinter came out when I pulled the glue off. I thought this wouldn’t work, but I was pleasantly surprised.”
The trick is to pull the glue off after it has dried – but in the opposite direction to the path the splinter took going in. This way, the glue has a chance to pull the splinter out the way it went in.
Another way to remove splinters is to place a salicylic acid wart plaster over the splinter. After a day or two, the splinter should work its way out or be easily removed (Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, April 1989).
Q. I have an underactive thyroid due to an immune reaction (Hashimoto’s). I also have irritable bowel syndrome and don’t tolerate wheat. My body aches all over, and my doctor has diagnosed me with fibromyalgia and leaky gut syndrome.
I don’t really understand this condition and am confused about what I can and cannot eat. I would be grateful for any information you can provide about coping with leaky gut.
A. Leaky gut sounds gross and suspiciously unscientific. Nonetheless, gastroenterologists acknowledge that some people develop intestinal permeability (World Journal of Gastroenterology, May 21, 2014). When the barrier lining the digestive tract fails to function properly, the result can be intestinal inflammation and autoimmune disorders.
Q. Prebiotics? Probiotics? What is the difference? And what are the most important ingredients? There are so many companies making them that it is hard to know which one to take.
A. Prebiotics are complex carbohydrates that are consumed to provide nutritional support to intestinal microbes. Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that are sometimes used to treat gastrointestinal problems such as colic in infants or irritable bowel syndrome in adults.
The proliferation of products can indeed be confusing, particularly since they contain different strains and amounts of bacteria. ConsumerLab.com recently analyzed 41 probiotic supplements for both humans and their pets. There is a charge for the information, which you will find at www.ConsumerLab.com.
Q. My wife has had several urinary-tract infections lately. Will cranberry juice be effective for prevention?
A. Cranberry juice has a reputation for reducing the number of urinary-tract infections women suffer. Doctors and nutrition scientists have been arguing ever since the 1960s about how effective this strategy may be.
In the most recent analysis, Dutch researchers compared cranberry tablets to the antibiotic trimethoprim and sulfamethoxazole (Bactrim, Septra) for one year (PLOS One online, Apr. 4, 2014). Although the antibiotic was slightly more effective at preventing urinary-tract infections, it also led to bacterial resistance. Cranberries didn’t cause resistance.
The researchers could not find a statistically significant difference between outcomes of the two treatments. If your wife tries cranberries, she will need to be monitored to make sure the infection has not returned.
Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them via their website: www.PeoplesPharmacy.com. Their latest book is “Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them.”