Q. I have worked outside for most of my career, which is great, but it can be a challenge in the summer. Several years ago I became very run down during a brutally hot summer. On a whim I dumped some salt in my hand and licked it up. I felt better immediately!
Normally I maintain a low-salt diet, but increasing my salt intake during the summer really helps my stamina. How do you know how much is enough? I am 59, and I have low blood pressure, good cholesterol levels and take no medication.
A. There is still controversy as to whether a hardworking person like you needs to get more salt when sweating profusely. Some experts say no.
Those who say yes point out that salt helps with rehydration. In one study, athletes exercised until they were exhausted and dehydrated (Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition online, Aug. 22, 2010). Neither the placebo beverage nor Gatorade with electrolytes quickly restored their exercise capacity, though a more complex electrolyte drink (Rehydrate) did.
Rely on your body to self-regulate its salt needs. Nearly a decade ago, Israeli researchers did an experiment in which they administered various doses of salt in capsules, so the volunteers could not taste it (Appetite, June 2003). Afterward, those who had gotten the lowest sodium dose chose saltier snacks, while those who had received the highest dose had an aversion to salt.
Some people find it helpful to sip a little pickle juice. Dill pickle juice is occasionally used to prevent cramps, as this reader recalls: "My brother's coach had the players drink dill pickle juice a few hours after a heavy workout to prevent cramps. That was 40 years ago!"
Q. I can't take aspirin or other over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or naproxen. They all make my stomach hurt!
I am having trouble with joint pain, though, and wonder what you can suggest. Tylenol works, but I hate to take too much.
A. Anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB), naproxen (Aleve) and aspirin, as well as prescription pain relievers such as Celebrex, diclofenac and meloxicam, all can irritate the digestive tract. They also may raise blood pressure or trigger irregular heart rhythms.
Acetaminophen (Tylenol) does not bother the stomach, but with regular use it, too, can raise blood pressure plus harm the liver, kidneys, ears or lungs.
The Guide to Alternatives for Arthritis that we are sending you provides information on medications such as salsalate that are less likely to irritate the stomach. Nondrug approaches such as turmeric, fish oil, tart cherries, pineapple and gin-soaked raisins also may offer relief without side effects.
Anyone who would like a copy, please send $3 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped (65 cents), self-addressed envelope to: Graedons' People's Pharmacy, No. AA-2, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027. It also can be downloaded for $2 from our website: peoplespharmacy.com.
Q. I suffer from occasional bouts of angular cheilitis. I find that applying Listerine to the sores helps to eliminate the problem within a few days.
A. Angular cheilitis is a fancy name for sore red cracks at the corners of the mouth. These may be triggered by a fungal infection, explaining why Listerine, with its antifungal herbal oils, might be helpful.
In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Send questions to them via peoplespharmacy.com.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun