Q. I have been taking fish oil concentrate for heart health. After reading other readers' comments on fish oil restoring their hair to its original color, I checked mine in the bright sunlight. Lo and behold, a lot of my gray is gone. I have bleached my hair for years, but the new root growth, which was mostly gray, is now brown.
A. We agree with you that these tales are amazing. We don't know quite what to make of them. We wouldn't suggest someone start taking fish oil with the expectation that it would reverse the graying process. But as you point out, there might be other reasons to take fish oil. If gray hair changes back to its original color as a side effect, so much the better.
Q. My heels are very dry and sometimes crack, which is painful. I love to walk, and these wounds can really interfere with my favorite exercise. I've tried a lot of different hand creams with little success. Do you have any suggestions?
A. We've heard from several readers that products containing lanolin can be helpful for dry, cracked skin on the feet. Some include Udder Cream, Bag Balm or Lansinoh nipple cream for breast-feeding mothers. Other readers are enthusiastic about a barnyard moisturizer called Hoofmaker. It is used by horse groomers and can be found at pet stores and/or feed stores.
Q. I take Coumadin to prevent blood clots. Sometimes my INR (international normalizing ratio) swings from below 2.0 to over 3.0 in as little as two weeks. How much does eating a salad or some broccoli affect the clotting factor? And what other variations in my habits could alter the INR?
A. The INR is a measure of how fast blood is clotting, and thus of how well the anticoagulant Coumadin is working. It's a bit like Goldilocks' porridge: Too little Coumadin action exposes you to a possibly life-threatening blood clot. But with too much Coumadin activity, you might be in danger of hemorrhage.
Vitamin K, which is found in many foods, especially green vegetables like broccoli, can counteract Coumadin's action. Consequently, you need to keep your intake of vitamin K even from one day to the next.
Foods are not the only things that could interact with your Coumadin. Many medications also interact, so be sure every doctor you see knows that you are taking this drug and checks for compatibility.
Quite a few herbal medicines could also pose problems with Coumadin. Ginkgo, garlic and ginger are among those that might increase your risk of bleeding.
Q. I have recently started taking small amounts of kava to relieve anxiety in stressful situations. It seems to work fairly well, but I'd like to know if there are any side effects.
A. Kava might cause liver damage. Although the Food and Drug Administration has issued a warning, it has not banned this herbal product.