Eat macaroons with caution


April 18, 1999|By Joe Graedon, and Teresa Graedon | Joe Graedon, and Teresa Graedon,Special to the Sun

Q. I read about Archway Coconut Macaroons helping relieve diarrhea associated with Crohn's disease. I don't have Crohn's, but I've had diarrhea for more than two years. Even the Mayo Clinic can't explain why. I tried all sorts of things with no relief. I really didn't believe cookies could help, but my family nagged me until I finally tried them.

They are nothing short of a miracle. At last I don't have diarrhea anymore. I have to eat more than two, though. I rely on four to six cookies a day, seven days a week. My gastro doctors are amazed. I could have saved several thousands of dollars and avoided much weight loss had I known about this sooner. When I can't find the cookies, I buy bulk shredded coconut and eat four or five tablespoons a day.

A.Thank you for your story. We have heard of a few problems with this home remedy, though. One person with diverticulitis got ill eating coconut macaroons. Another person with narrowed intestines reported that the cookies caused blockage.

While we love to hear from people like you who find relief from diarrhea by eating coconut, we suggest that anyone with diverticulitis or intestinal stricture should steer clear of such cookies.

Q. I am concerned about my sister, who takes pills for high blood pressure. She seems more forgetful now than before she started taking medicine. I read in a magazine that blood pressure drugs destroy the brain. The article suggests using an Asian herb, Rauwolfia, instead of drugs. Should my sister take this instead?

A. Rauwolfia serpentina is native to India, where it was used in traditional medicine. Indian doctors prescribed it for high blood pressure and "insanity." In the mid-1950s, reserpine, a chemical from Rauwolfia root, became the first treatment for hypertension in the United States. It was also used to treat mental illness.

Although still available, reserpine is not commonly prescribed because of side effects such as sedation, low blood pressure, digestive upset, depression, stuffy nose and difficulty concentrating.

Some medicines can cause forgetfulness, but blood pressure pills do not destroy the brain. Untreated high blood pressure is far more likely to cause lasting damage.

Q. You recently wrote that people taking Lanoxin or Lasix should avoid licorice. I thought licorice candy does not contain real licorice. Why scare people out of eating something that doesn't threaten their health?

A.Some black candy is flavored with anise or artificial flavors, but other candy is made with real licorice. One man developed a serious complication, pulmonary edema, after over- indulging in black licorice twists.

Licorice can cause potassium loss, which is especially dangerous in combination with Lanoxin. Lasix and several other diuretics can also deplete the body of potassium.

Less than an ounce of licorice candy daily should be safe for most people. But those on such medications may need to be extra cautious.

Q. My 8-year-old hates to fly. Every time the plane starts to descend he cries because of the pain in his ears. Someone told me that you once mentioned a home remedy for this problem. Please share the secret again so we can get to the wedding without tears.

A.A commercial product called Ear Ease was invented by a pilot to make descent easier. The device contains a reservoir for hot water and is placed over the ears during descent. It helps to equalize the pressure and reduce pain. You can see it by checking the Web site at, or order it from the catalog Masune at 716-695-4999.

To make your own version: Soak a paper towel in hot tap water. Wring it out and put it in the bottom of a Styrofoam cup. Place the cup over the ear.

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

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