Taking red yeast rice helps some lower cholesterol

PEOPLE'S PHARMACY

March 23, 2009|By JOE AND TERESA GRAEDON

I have been on so many cholesterol-lowering drugs I have nearly lost count. Crestor, Lipitor, Zetia and Zocor all give me terrible pains in my shoulders, back and arms. I also have had dreadful muscle cramps in my calves, especially at night.

I don't know how much longer I can stand taking Crestor, but my doctor just says that without it I'm a heart attack waiting to happen. Is there any natural way to lower cholesterol? I want to stay healthy, but the pain interferes with my ability to exercise and has affected my quality of life.

If your medicine is preventing you from exercising, it could be counterproductive for your health. Many readers have lowered their cholesterol with red yeast rice. Here is one success story: "My cardiologist suggested I try red yeast rice. Within six weeks my LDL level had dropped from 187 to 123."

Although readers who have written us about their experience with this dietary supplement rarely have troublesome side effects, some susceptible people do develop muscle pain or weakness while taking this product. If you decide to try it, your doctor should monitor your progress and your liver enzymes. Taking Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) might reduce the risk of muscle pain from statins and red yeast rice.

I had severe leg pain during the night and day for about four months. My doctor did blood work and found that my vitamin D level was 8. She prescribed me 50,000 IUs per week for 12 weeks, and now my leg pain is almost nonexistent.

Doctors are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of checking vitamin D levels. A surprisingly large proportion of the population has less-than-optimal levels of this important vitamin. Lower than 20 nanograms per milliliter indicates deficiency. Some experts believe that optimal levels should be at least 30.

Replenishing vitamin D stores can reduce muscle pain. It also may lower the risk of such varied problems as depression, diabetes and heart disease (The Vitamin D Cure, James Dowd and Diane Stafford).

Many readers are frightened by the idea of 50,000 IU at a time, but since this dose is usually taken just once a week, it comes to about 7,000 IU a day. This is a common prescription dose for correcting a severe vitamin D deficiency like yours.

I read an inquiry from a bus driver who was worried that eating gin-soaked raisins to ease joint pain would trigger a positive breath alcohol result. As a certified BAT (breath alcohol technician), I would like to reassure that bus driver.

If, as your research showed, the alcohol content in nine raisins is truly only one drop, it would not be enough to trigger a positive breath alcohol test. You wrote about a North Carolina sheriff who was arrested for driving while intoxicated after eating several handfuls of gin-soaked raisins. They must have been really big handfuls if he blew a 0.07 alcohol reading.

Even if the bus driver was tested immediately after eating nine gin-soaked raisins and blew a positive result of .02 or above, a second confirmation test would be administered in 15 minutes. The 15-minute wait is to allow any residual mouth alcohol to dissipate.

It is virtually impossible to blow a false positive on the confirmation test after 15 minutes. Since confirmation test results are final and those results would be 0.00, our driver should be in the clear (unless additional alcohol was consumed along with those few raisins!).

Thank you for the explanation. The story about the North Carolina sheriff a decade or so ago did occasion some speculation about the size of his handfuls. We imagine that if the daily dose of nine raisins was consumed during off-duty hours, there should never be a concern about the breath alcohol test.

I am bothered with a patch of eczema on my face (chin area) that has not responded to any of the expensive steroid creams that have been prescribed.

A friend told me that her dermatologist had her give her son fish-oil caplets when he had eczema on his face. I have started taking fish oil, but I have not seen much improvement. My chin is still red and itchy, and the patch is getting bigger.

Do you have any thoughts on what could get this eczema under control and ultimately make it go away? I am hoping for a home remedy.

Eczema can be chronic, and the dry, red, itchy patches can make life miserable. Scientists have done controlled studies on two improbable approaches that proved helpful: drinking oolong tea or taking probiotics such as Lactobacillus GG.

In 2003, I started taking CoQ10 (Coenzyme Q10) and flaxseed-oil capsules. Five months later, my vision improved, and within the year I stopped using glasses completely.

I wore glasses for 40 years, bifocals for 15 of those. At one time my far vision was 20/200. My vision is now 20/20, and I read without glasses. My astigmatism has disappeared. At age 62, I'm delighted to have regained my vision. Of course, I still take flaxseed oil daily.

Your experience is remarkable and inexplicable. We found one study suggesting that flaxseed oil might be helpful in reversing inflammation in children's eyes (Ophthalmology, December 2007), but nothing to parallel your story.

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

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