Credible research finds blueberries beneficial

Q. I’ve heard that blueberries have a beneficial effect on the brain. Can you tell me more about this? Is the research recent and credible?

A. James Joseph, Ph.D., at Tufts University is a leading neuroscientist and expert on the effects of berries on brain function. He has done a number of studies in both aging rodents and humans demonstrating cognitive benefits from blueberries.

We see this research as highly credible (Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, Feb. 13, 2008). Joseph recommends frozen berries as an economical way to get the antioxidant potential of this fruit.

Q. I began losing sleep about three years ago due to chronic pain. I’ve tried everything I can think of but get no more than an hour and a half of sleep at a time. I usually crash from exhaustion around 6 a.m. Some mornings, I don’t get even that sleep.

I’ve started sleepwalking and often wake up suddenly somewhere in my house after hurting myself by falling (creating a literal meaning for falling asleep, only I usually fall awake at that point). This is frightening and frustrating. What suggestions do you have for me to get some sleep?

A. Sleep is crucial for good health, not only to function during the day, but to help keep immune function strong. Blood pressure, blood sugar, weight control and pain management are all better with a good night’s sleep.

A hot bath an hour or two before bed can help reset your body clock through temperature change. A magnesium supplement before bedtime also may help. Melatonin is a natural sleep chemical that also can assist in overcoming insomnia. Some sleeping pills may be beneficial in helping restore sleep without a morning hangover.

We are sending you our new Guide to Getting a Good Night’s Sleep, with details about the pros and cons of sleeping pills and many more nondrug approaches. Anyone who would like a copy, please send $3 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped (59 cents), self-addressed envelope to: Graedons’ People’s Pharmacy, No. I-70, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027. It also can be downloaded for $2 from our Web site: www.peoplespharmacy.com.

Q. I’ve been reading about people unable to take NSAIDs like ibuprofen or naproxen for arthritis pain. I want to share a solution I devised for my mother.

The doctor diagnosed her with two types of arthritis and prescribed prednisone to reduce the inflammation. I looked it up and found some serious irreversible side effects. Even the doctor admitted it was a nasty drug, but it fights inflammation.

I did some research and instead gave her OTC pregnenolone with niacinamide. Pregnenolone is a natural steroid. Within only four days, her gnarled, crippled arthritic hand was back to normal. I was amazed.

She stopped taking the pills, but the pain has never come back. Her hand remains good. This combination was just short of a miracle.

A. Pregnenolone occurs naturally in the body as a precursor to hormones like progesterone and cortisol. Niacinamide is a form of vitamin B-3.

A recent pilot study suggested that the pro-hormone pregnenolone might be helpful against certain symptoms of schizophrenia (Neuropsychopharmacology online, April 1, 2009). Although pregnenolone is a fascinating compound, we could find no studies to support its use against arthritis. Your mother’s experience was miraculous, but we don’t know if anyone else would benefit.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. E-mail them via their Web site: www.PeoplesPharmacy.com.

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