Dear Dr. Gott: I have had multiple sclerosis (MS) since I was in my late 20s. I’m now in my early 50s and have been in remission for a while.
What can you tell me about MS and bee stings? I got stung a couple of days ago, and I started walking much better and feeling perkier. I have energy that I haven’t had in years. One of my daughters told me about bee-sting therapy.
Dear Reader: The medical use of honeybee products is known as apitherapy. Bees have played a role in alternative health care since the Egyptians used their byproducts to cure arthritis. Those byproducts have since been used to treat chronic pain, a number of skin conditions, burns of the skin, coughs and a great deal more.
Researchers have found that specific compounds in the venom, namely melittin and adolapin, can work toward reducing pain and inflammation through a process that allows the body to release natural healing compounds in its own defense. It is rumored that thousands of multiple-sclerosis patients in the United States appear to be using bee venom as an alternative to interferon, corticosteroids and other drugs. I don’t know how so many have tapped into this approach, because there are only about 50 physicians nationwide who use bee-venom therapy to relieve the symptoms of MS.
There certainly is a great deal to be said about alternative approaches to almost any condition. In this instance, though, there is always the risk of potentially life-threatening allergic reactions, so any undertaking should be under the strict guidance of a qualified physician.
Your daughter is cutting edge on the information circuit. Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., has begun a preliminary one-year study funded by the Multiple Sclerosis Association to research apitherapy as a potential treatment. I don’t know whether any clinical trials are under way, but you might want to follow that road to determine whether you meet their guidelines.
Dear Dr. Gott: I have been diagnosed with sciatica. I will be getting my third injection this week. The first two helped to some degree, but my pain continues. Will I ever find relief? They have ruled out neuropathy; however, I continue to be miserable and hurt all the time. What else can they look for? Is it possible to improve the pain situation? I also have type II diabetes.
Dear Reader: The hallmark of sciatica is pain that radiates from the lumbar (lower) spine to the buttock and down the back of the leg. It often occurs as a result of a herniated disc, injury to the sciatic nerve, tumor, degenerative disc disease or spinal stenosis. Common symptoms are pain that can be moderate to excruciating, numbness and a tingling feeling in the foot and/or toes. One risk factor is diabetes, which increases the possibility of nerve damage.
Sciatica responds well to stretching, hot or cold packs, over-the-counter medications, physical therapy and prescription drugs. As you have already experienced, epidural corticosteroid injections follow, but their effectiveness may only be short term. In fact, the guideline is three per year. Chiropractic manipulation, massage, acupuncture and ultimately surgery are additional options you might wish to discuss with your physician.
Dear Dr. Gott: I would appreciate your comments regarding a statement made recently by a naturalist advising against eating fish because of high levels of contaminants.
If this is true, why doesn’t the Food and Drug Administration provide more warnings and recommendations regarding this matter? I am a retired OB-GYN and have particular interest in the impact this may have on a pregnant woman and the fetus. Thank you for providing your opinion on this matter.
Dear Doctor: You bring up an important issue that we sometimes choose to forget — there are contaminants in fish. But there are also contaminants in most of the food items we ingest. Everything is relative. The degree of risk depends on the amount eaten.
The most common contaminant is mercury. The recommendation set by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration is for a person to eat up to 12 ounces of fish (two average servings per week) of a variety low in mercury. Choices might include shrimp, salmon, catfish, pollock and canned light tuna. When albacore is chosen, the recommendation is six ounces per week because of the elevated amount of mercury in a single serving. Their guidelines indicate that young children, nursing mothers, pregnant women and those who may become pregnant avoid shark, tilefish, king mackerel and swordfish because of high levels of mercury.
Fish and shellfish contain protein, selenium, vitamin D and other essential nutrients. They are low in saturated fats and contain omega-3 fatty acids, which may reduce the risk of heart disease. Fish is truly a healthful food far superior to many of the foods we eat regularly.
Dear Dr. Gott: I have read your articles about oil of oregano. I found it at a health store, but cannot find any information on how to use it. I went to the library and checked out several books on herbs, but no luck. Even the health-food store had no information on it.
I am troubled by bouts of sinusitis and upper-respiratory problems. I don’t know whether I should spray it in my nose or take it internally. Can you provide more information?
Dear Reader: Perhaps the reason no directions are placed on a container is because it is used for several medical purposes. In one of my columns, I responded to a woman who attempted to treat her rosacea, but found it was too strong. I recommended at that time she cut it with an equal part of a carrier, such as olive oil, before applying it to her skin. In your instance, I can only suggest you might want to dab a little (again, half strength) on a wet, warm washcloth and inhale the vapors.
Proponents claim oil of oregano is good for a variety of illnesses, including sinus disorders, because it has some antifungal and antibacterial properties; however, to the best of my knowledge, there have been no published trials for its related medical use.
To provide related information on other herbal and home remedies, I am sending you a copy of my Health Report “Compelling Home Remedies.” Other readers who would like a copy should send a self-addressed stamped No. 10 envelope and a $2 check or money order to Newsletter, P.O. Box 167, Wickliffe, OH 44092. Be sure to mention the title.
Dear Dr. Gott: While in my early teens, I developed my first cold sore in the left corner of my lower lip. It was small and lasted only a few days, but as the years went by, I had more outbreaks. They became more frequent, and the sores would be larger and last longer. Eventually, by my late 20s, I had another sore about the size of a fingernail that hadn’t gone away or even diminished after more than two weeks.
At that time, I remembered that my mother would soak a wound in saline solution in order to clean it and promote healing. With that in mind, I placed a warm, moist towel on the sore to soften it and then dabbed as much table salt that would stay in place onto it. I repeated this procedure several times a day, and, within three days, the cold sore was completely gone. I didn’t have another outbreak for 16 years. When I did get another one, I repeated the same procedure again and got the same results. I haven’t had another cold sore since, and that was eight years ago. The salt does sting during application, but it lessens quickly.
DEAR READER: This is a new treatment to me, but I am printing it for my readers’ benefit. It is harmless and cheap. So readers, please write me your results from this home remedy, and I will print a follow-up column with the results.
Dr. Peter Gott is a retired physician and the author of the book “Dr. Gott’s No Flour, No Sugar Diet,” available at most chain and independent bookstores, and the recently published “Dr. Gott’s No Flour, No Sugar Cookbook.”