If estrogen's so great, shouldn't guys get it?

People's Pharmacy

September 02, 1997|By Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon, Ph.D. | Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon, Ph.D.,SPECIAL TO THE SUN King Features Syndicate

I take estrogen because my doctor says it is really wonderful for protecting women from osteoporosis and heart problems and that it may even prevent Alzheimer's disease. Why can't men benefit from estrogen? I worry that my husband might have a heart attack. He is overweight and doesn't exercise. Wouldn't estrogen help him as much as me?

In men, estrogen may cause unacceptable side effects, including lowered libido, enlarged breasts and blood clots. A recent Australian study of transsexuals on estrogen showed better cardiovascular function, but several studies of men taking estrogen to treat prostate cancer suggest that this hormone can increase cardiovascular complications for males.

Your husband might, however, benefit from such plant sources of estrogen as soy. Some researchers have hypothesized that soy foods may help protect men from prostate cancer. And substituting soy milk on his breakfast cereal and soy protein for ground beef in casseroles might also have cardiovascular benefits.

We are sending you our Guide to Estrogens: Benefits, Risks & Interactions. It discusses the sources and use of plant-based estrogens. Anyone else who would like a copy may send $2 with a long (No. 10) stamped, self-addressed envelope to Graedons' People's Pharmacy, No. W-991, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, N.C. 27717-2027.

We went to the beach last month, and my wife was eaten alive by sand flies and no-see-ums.

We are supposed to go back for a family get-together, but she doesn't want to go. Is there any safe repellent she can use? We have heard that Deet is dangerous, and she doesn't like the way it feels on her skin. Why is she so tasty to the bugs and I am not?

Personal biochemistry, carbon dioxide output or skin temperature may play a role in why certain folks seem to attract biting insects. Although Deet is indisputably the most effective insect repellent, there are other products on the market. Concerns have been raised about applying Deet in high concentrations to large portions of the skin. Newer formulations may be less sticky or greasy, and insect repellent can be applied to clothing with virtually no risk.

Readers have often suggested diluted Avon Skin-So-Soft Bath Oil as a means of repelling insects. Others have been unimpressed with its power. There are also "natural" insect repellents containing citronella oil. We cannot guarantee whether they will work for your wife or whether they would be safer than Deet.

I read in your column about a man who was having trouble with gas after eating lentils, split peas, navy beans and such. I suggest a pinch of ground ginger in the pot of beans while they are cooking. It will not change the taste of the food, and I find it helps a lot.

Thanks for the tip. We've never heard of using ginger in cooking to avoid gas. One "expert" we know recommends peppermint tea as an antidote for flatulence. Some folks get benefit by taking Beano with a gas-producing meal, while others take hTC activated charcoal pills before and after eating.

Can you overcome your genetics? I am only 29 but am beginning to go bald. My father has almost no hair and my mother's father is also bald.

I have heard that there is a pill that can halt hair loss. Please tell me the name. I understand the problem has something to do with testosterone. Does the treatment interfere with masculinity?

The pill you refer to is finasteride, originally developed to treat prostate enlargement. This medication, under the brand name Proscar, prevents the conversion of testosterone to DHT, which is thought to be responsible for male-pattern baldness as well as enlarged prostates.

Research shows finasteride slows hair loss significantly. It is awaiting approval for this use at a lower dose under the brand name Propecia. Side effects appear rare, but a few of the men studied developed erection difficulties.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of this newspaper or e-mail to Pharmacindspring.com.

Pub Date: 9/02/97

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.