Arsenic probably safe in sciatica product

People's Pharmacy

July 26, 1998|By Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon | Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Q.I have been plagued with sciatica for over a year. In desperation, I ordered a product guaranteed to cure it, but when it arrived, I read the ingredients on the label: Arsenicum album 12x, Chamomilla 3x, Colocynthis 3x, Sulphur 6x. I was alarmed by the idea of taking something with arsenic, which I always thought of as a poison. Is this product safe?

A.Judging from the way the ingredients are listed - the "12x" and the "3x," for instance - you have received a homeopathic remedy. The amount of arsenic has been diluted to such a degree that it is unlikely to pose a hazard. Whether it will work to relieve your sciatica is another question.

Q. When I reached the magical age of 40, I decided that I probably needed to start taking better care of myself with nutritional supplements. I starting taking two Tums, vitamin E, vitamin C, and a baby aspirin in addition to the Synthroid that I had been taking at the same dose for 10 years.

After nine months, I realized that there was something wrong - fatigue, weight gain, etc. - and went to have my thyroid checked. It was low. My Synthroid was increased, rechecked, and still low.

Meanwhile, I was asking my physician and pharmacist if any of these things could affect the absorption of Synthroid, and was told "no." After my dose had been doubled, in frustration I decided to quit taking everything else. My thyroid level jumped, and I am currently back on my original dose.

In a recent column, you mentioned that calcium in the form of Tums can affect the absorption of thyroid replacement hormones. I suspect that is what happened to me. Can you give me more information?

A. Minerals such as iron and aluminum can prevent absorption of levothyroxine (Synthroid, Levo-T, Levothroid, Levoxyl) if they are taken at the same time. Recently, researchers in Baltimore reported that calcium may also impair thyroid hormone absorption. In three women, blood tests and symptoms showed that their levothyroxine was not working properly when they took it with calcium carbonate.

Many people who need thyroid replacement must also take calcium to prevent osteoporosis. Separating the pills by four hours or more avoids this interaction.

Write to the Graedons in care of The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278, or e-mail to

King Features Syndicate

Pub Date: 7/26/98

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