Drugs may not be the best way to lessen one's fear of flying


My husband ruined our holiday. We were all set to visit my parents with our children. But when we got to the airport he chickened out and refused to get on the plane. We flew without him and I couldn't enjoy the visit.

My husband is wonderful except for an irrational fear of flying. He is not afraid of anything else, but the thought of getting on an airplane terrifies him.

Is there some prescription medicine that he could take to calm him down enough to travel with the family?

This year's headlines about air crashes have made it harder on folks who fear flying. Anti-anxiety medications such as Valium (diazepam) or Xanax (alprazolam) may not solve the problem, though. It's possible he would still balk at boarding.

A better solution might be to have him see a cognitive behavioral psychologist who specializes in defusing people's fears. Such a professional can teach him techniques to overcome his phobia.

A good book to start the process is "Don't Panic" (Harper Perennial) by Reid Wilson.

I take Lanoxin and Coumadin and have been told that oatmeal is not compatible with these medicines. It contains vitamin K, and I'm allowed only a small amount of this vitamin.

Do Cheerios fall into the same category, or would they be an acceptable breakfast?

Enjoy your Cheerios, but steer clear of the bran muffins. Both medications you take can be affected by food, so you are wise to be careful.

The blood-thinner Coumadin (warfarin) becomes less effective if you eat too much vitamin K. While it is true that oatmeal contains vitamin K, the amount in a single serving ( 1/3 cup rolled oats cooked in a cup of water) is modest, about 25 micrograms. Wheat bran has a little more, but neither can compete with lentils, soybeans, broccoli, cabbage or spinach. The amount of vitamin K in a serving of Cheerios is likely to be even less than that in cooked oatmeal.

The heart medicine Lanoxin (digoxin) does not interact with vitamin K. But taking it at the same time as a high-fiber meal may interfere with proper absorption. A bowl of oatmeal with some oat bran thrown in could throw your dose of Lanoxin off. Cheerios however, doesn't contain enough fiber to be a problem.

We are sending you our guide to drug, food and grapefruit interactions, in which we describe how diet can affect common medications. Anyone who would like a copy, please send $2 with a long (No. 10), stamped, self-addressed envelope to Graedons' People's Pharmacy, No. FJ-916, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, N.C. 27717-2027.

I am a 49-year-old man doing battle against heart disease. I had single bypass heart surgery three years ago. At that time, my total cholesterol was 276. With a low fat diet and a daily dose of Lescol, I've gotten it down to about 200.

Recently, the cholesterol count went to 226. The only change in my life is a weight-lifting program I started a month ago. Could the weight lifting be responsible for my increased cholesterol?

Our cardiologist consultant thinks your cholesterol increase may due more to the variability of test results than to weight lifting, as long as you aren't taking steroids to build up muscle. Aerobic exercises such as walking, jogging or biking would be a good addition to your program.

Have your doctor schedule another cholesterol test and pay more attention to lipid ratios (total cholesterol/HDL) than cholesterol alone.

Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist. Dr. Teresa Graedon is a medical anthropologist and nutrition expert.

Pub Date: 12/17/96

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