People's Pharmacy


November 25, 2005

My father came from China. He couldn't handle alcohol, and I've inherited this trait. I experience reddish skin, elevated heart rate and bloodshot eyes after only a small amount of alcohol, such as half a beer.

The research I've done suggests that I may be deficient in an enzyme that metabolizes alcohol. Is there anything that will allow me to have a few drinks socially without being embarrassed or asked, "What's the matter with you?"

We checked with Fulton Crews, director of the Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies at the School of Medicine of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He pointed out that humans have genetically determined variations in the enzymes that metabolize alcohol. Many Asians have a variant that increases acetaldehyde in the bloodstream. This causes flushing and other symptoms.

Crews says such a variant serves as a natural protection from alcoholism. There is nothing you can take to reduce this reaction, so he suggests you stick to nonalcoholic beverages.

I have Raynaud's syndrome. When I get cold, my fingers turn white, then turn blue and then go red. When they turn white, it feels like I've been out in the snow for hours.

My doctor told me to move to a warmer climate. That's impractical. Winter is coming, and I hope you have some advice.

People with Raynaud's may experience tingling, numbness or even pain in fingers and toes as their digits turn pale. Spasms in small blood vessels are thought to precipitate an attack, especially in response to cold.

Staying warm is the usual recommendation for Raynaud's, but as you point out, that's not always practical. Doctors sometimes prescribe blood pressure medicines like prazosin or nifedipine. Pentoxifylline may also improve circulation.

Viagra also might help Raynaud's victims when other approaches do not work.

What can I use for my brittle, dry nails? They split too easily and snag on things.

Moisturizing your nails can help. Some readers tell us that almond oil is especially beneficial. Other products worth consideration include Hoofmaker from Straight Arrow Products (800-827-9815) and Burt's Bees Lemon Butter Cuticle Creme (800-849-7112).

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 888 Seventh Ave., New York, NY 10019, or e-mail them via their Web site:

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