Q. I learned in a yoga class that rolling my stomach – somewhat like a belly dancer – cures constipation. Put “yoga exercises for constipation” in a computer browser, and you’ll find additional exercises. Everyone I have ever shared this with says it works.
Constipation isn’t a subject that comes up in a conversation ordinarily, so many folks don’t know about this. I have taught folks in nursing homes to roll their stomachs. (A person who has had surgery needs to check with the doctor first.)
A. We appreciate your story. The references we found suggest that people with functional bowel disorders experiencing constipation as a symptom do turn to yoga along with other complementary therapies (BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, July 24, 2008). We could not find a well-controlled trial evaluating efficacy, so those who try this exercise will have to judge its benefits for themselves.
Q. I suffered from chronic angular cheilitis for years, along with digestive problems. Doctor after doctor dismissed any relationship between the two. I finally saw a nutritionist, who identified the problem as B vitamin malabsorption.
I started taking B vitamins sublingually (under the tongue), so they would be absorbed without relying on the GI tract. I have not had any cheilitis for more than a year and a half. She also recommended a gluten-free diet that has stopped my gastric symptoms.
After 20 years of bloating, gas and abdominal pain and countless doctors, one nutritionist knew the answers.
A. It rather sounds as though your nutritionist is treating you for celiac disease. In this autoimmune condition, the body reacts to gluten from wheat, barley or rye and attacks the small intestine. The resulting problems with absorption of nutrients can cause a wide range of problems, including those painful cracks at the corners of the mouth (angular cheilitis).
Doctors were once taught that celiac disease was an extremely rare disorder. We now know that it is far more common than they thought, but the diagnosis is still missed more often than it should be. You can learn more about dealing with celiac disease and other frequently missed diagnoses in our book “Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them.” It is available at www.PeoplesPharmacy.com.
Q. I am a veterinarian. In my world, fairly high doses of EPA and DHA (components of fish oil) are recommended for osteoarthritis. For instance, a recommended dose for a 50-pound dog is 3,200 mg.
Is there any carryover to this concept in people with osteoarthritis? Are high doses of fish oil safe in people?
A. Fish oil has traditionally been recommended for the relief of joint pain, but it has been somewhat difficult to determine the effective dose. In a recent randomized trial, rheumatoid arthritis patients getting 5,500 mg of fish rich in EPA and DHA daily did better than those getting the placebo dose of 400 mg a day (Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases online, Sept. 30, 2013).
Previous studies have not identified many serious side effects of fish oil in people, but men who take high doses are at increased risk of prostate cancer (Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Aug. 7, 2013). We always appreciate the parallels between veterinary and human medicine, as well as the differences.
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist. Teresa Graedon holds a doctorate in medical anthropology and is a nutrition expert. Their syndicated radio show can be heard on public radio. In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them via their website: www.PeoplesPharmacy.com.