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Drugs affect Vitamin D and bone health

Joe And Teresa Graedon The Spokesman-Review

Q. My physician recently found that my vitamin D level is very low. I find this hard to believe since I drink nearly a gallon of milk weekly and take a multivitamin and calcium plus D each day.

I also take prednisone, tramadol, gabapentin, methotrexate and leucovorin. Could one of these drugs interfere with vitamin D absorption?

A. Most of your medicines have a negative impact on bone metabolism. Drugs like prednisone and gabapentin (Neurontin) alter vitamin D activity. Milk and a supplement are probably not nearly enough to counteract the complications of these medicines.

We are sending you our new Guide to Vitamin D Deficiency for more information on how to boost levels and prevent toxicity. Anyone who would like a copy, please send $3 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped (61 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. I have used Pycnogenol for almost two years. I tried it for horrible hot flashes and night sweats. I read that most women get results taking 200 mg, so I started with that dose. It did stop those symptoms, but it felt like I was trying to restart an old engine.

My periods had stopped nine months prior, and I started experiencing a lot of the unpleasant symptoms of my monthly cycle.

I dropped the dose to 150 mg and found that is a good dose for me. The flashes and sweats are not gone, but they are minimal and tolerable. Some recommend taking 1 mg/lb, and since that is close to my weight, I guess that is right for me.

An unexpected and welcome side effect is that my asthma is so much better. I was on Symbicort, maximum dosage/highest strength, and could not wean myself off, no matter how slowly I tried. I would get down to a point, then have an awful flare-up and be right back where I started.

I realized my asthma was better after using the Pycnogenol for a short while, and I tried to taper down again. This time I was successful, and I have never had to go back on the steroid since. I rarely have to use my rescue inhaler, either. It seems to take about 30 minutes for the Pycnogenol to get into my system. If my lungs feel a little tight, I make sure that I have taken the Pycnogenol first, wait if possible for it to work, then use the inhaler if I still need it. I hope this helps someone else.

A. Thanks for sharing your story. There is a randomized, controlled trial of Pycnogenol (French maritime pine bark extract) for symptoms of menopause. Many visitors to our Web site report symptom relief from this dietary supplement.

We also discovered research supporting Pycnogenol as part of an asthma treatment program (Journal of Asthma, Issue No. 8, 2004). Perhaps its anti-inflammatory action helps explain the benefits you have noted for your asthma.

Q. I was prescribed Nexium for heartburn, but it began to lose its effectiveness, and I worried about side effects. I found that yellow mustard worked faster and longer.

A. Nexium is a powerful and expensive way to treat routine heartburn. Many others have told us that yellow mustard can help ease heartburn. Other options include old-fashioned antacids such as baking soda or calcium carbonate, as well as home remedies such as a spoonful of vinegar or a few almonds after a meal.

In their column, the Graedons answer letters from readers.E-mail them via their website:
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