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Vitamin D eased pain in hip, leg

Q. About five years ago, I began to suffer severe pain in my left hip and leg. It was agonizing when I lay in bed. I had to crawl on my hands and knees to climb stairs. Physical therapy did not work.

Oddly, CT scans showed no arthritis. Cortisone shots helped a little.

After two years of this disability, I discovered that I was deficient in vitamin D. Like many people, I don’t get much sunlight. I began to take enough supplemental vitamin D-3 to raise my blood level.

I am now free of that terrible pain, and can walk and climb stairs freely! I no longer need painkillers. Vitamin D-3 has done wonders for my mood and well-being. I wonder if learning how to combat vitamin D deficiency would help many of your readers as it did for me.

A. Vitamin D deficiency may contribute to muscle and bone pain as well as arthritis (Arthritis and Rheumatism, February 2010). While there are some data to suggest that low levels of vitamin D might play a role in depression, this remains controversial (Nutrition Reviews, August 2009).

Experts continue to argue about the optimal blood levels of vitamin D. We explain how to test your own blood, interpret lab results and choose an appropriate supplement in our Guide to Vitamin D Deficiency. Anyone who would like a copy, please send $3 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped (65 cents), self-addressed envelope to: Graedons’ People’s Pharmacy, No. D-23, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027. It also can be downloaded for $2 from our website:>

Q. About six months ago, I started eating large amounts of raw cruciferous vegetables, unaware that this affects thyroid levels. Yesterday, I went for an annual physical with blood work, and the doctor said it looks like my thyroid is out of whack. I may be hypothyroid.

If I stop eating broccoli, cabbage and other raw crucifers, will this make the thyroid levels return to normal?

A. Research on this question is surprisingly scarce. Although some data suggest that soy may affect thyroid function, there is almost nothing about vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts or cabbage. We suspect that if your vegetable consumption is responsible for changing your thyroid hormones, it should return to normal within a few months of reducing your crucifer intake. Please let us know the results of your “experiment.”

Q. I just filled a prescription for the sleeping pill zolpidem (generic Ambien) at a discount pharmacy. The literature with this prescription said my medication was manufactured in Amman, Jordan. What’s with this?

A. Increasingly, generic drugs (and many brand names as well) are made abroad. Costs tend to be lower in places like China and India. They are among the biggest players in the global pharmaceutical manufacturing industry.

Other countries, including Thailand, Brazil and Mexico, also are suppliers of raw ingredients. We’re not too surprised that Jordan would be making generic pharmaceuticals for the U.S. market.

Q. I recently developed shingles, and the pain was excruciating. My doctor was slow to diagnose the problem because I didn’t have blisters. Once I got a prescription for acyclovir, the pain became bearable. Please tell your readers to get a quick diagnosis so they can get fast relief from this medicine.

A. Acyclovir, famciclovir and valacyclovir all are antiviral medicines that work against cold sores and shingles. The sooner they are taken, the better they work.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of this newspaper or email them via their Web site: Their newest book is “Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them.”