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MEDICINE | THE PEOPLE'S PHARMACY

He Needs Help for Excessive Flatulence

January 26, 1998|JOE GRAEDON and TERESA GRAEDON

Question: I have a very embarrassing problem with flatulence, and I'm only 39. While my doctor discovered that part of my problem is due to lactose intolerance, even when I cut milk out of my diet or take Lactaid Ultra pills, I still have gas.

I am also taking Metamucil twice a day to counteract constipation that occurs as a side effect with another medication I take. Does this have an effect?

What can I do? This situation may sound funny, but my wife and co-workers can tell you it's no laughing matter.

Answer: We appreciate your dilemma. Intestinal gas can be uncomfortable as well as embarrassing. One woman began staying home from church because she was afraid she would disrupt the service.

Part of the problem might be the Metamucil. The psyllium seed powder in this and other laxatives has been reported to cause bloating, cramps and flatulence for some people.

Diet can also play a significant role. As you discovered, milk sugar (found in many processed foods and pills) can cause excessive gas in susceptible individuals. Other foods that may contribute include onions, beans, cauliflower and broccoli.

Ask your doctor whether there are any substitutes for the medicine that is causing you constipation. A change might help a great deal in controlling what may have become a vicious cycle.

*

Q: Your article about the person whose frequent hand-washing made her skin chapped and rough prompted me to write. A number of years ago, I worked for the Postal Service. Handling canvas mailbags removed all moisture from my hands and made them rough and red. The fingertips split and became extremely sensitive.

The most effective treatment I found for this problem was Corn Huskers lotion. It is not greasy and can be applied any time of the day or night. You'll find it at almost any drugstore and even some grocery stores.

A: You aren't the first reader to recommend Corn Huskers hand lotion. One couple even went so far as to suggest its use as a sexual lubricant: "My wife and I have used Corn Huskers for over 25 years. It's just the right consistency, very slick, not greasy and stays where you put it."

*

Q: I have been reading about the bird flu in Hong Kong with concern. Most people in my office got their flu shots already, but now some of them are home sick with the flu anyway. Are you sure the bird flu hasn't snuck into this country?

A: The so-called bird flu (Type A H5N1) has not reached the United States and so far does not seem to be causing an epidemic in Hong Kong. There is, however, a strain of flu called Type A Sydney that was not included in this year's vaccine. Outbreaks of this influenza are cropping up around the nation. This might be what is making your co-workers sick.

Although the flu shot does not protect against A Sydney, there are two antiviral prescription medications that may be helpful. Either amantadine (Symmetrel) or rimantadine (Flumadine) can speed recovery if taken within 24 to 48 hours after onset of symptoms.

* Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist. Teresa Graedon holds a doctorate in medical anthropology and is a nutrition expert. Send questions to them at People's Pharmacy, c/o King Features Syndicate, 235 E. 45th St., New York, NY 10017, or e-mail PHARMACY@mindspring.com.

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