Ask the Doctors

Hello, dear readers, and welcome to autumn! You've been keeping our mailboxes full, so let's dive right in.

Cannabidiol, or CBD, one of several hundred compounds found in cannabis, continues to generate interest. Research has shown CBD to have analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties, and the FDA recently approved the first CBD-based epilepsy drug. We heard from a reader in Pennsylvania who uses CBD for pain and inflammation. He asked us to make clear that one can buy CBD extracted from hemp. "I have 19 broken bones and three bulging discs, and I haven't felt this normal in 12 years," he wrote. "I am a believer in hemp CBD."

Hemp contains virtually no THC, which is the psychoactive compound in marijuana. However, it's a close cousin to marijuana and remains in a legal gray zone in several states. The good news for CBD users is that several senators are working on legislation to make hemp products legal throughout the United States.

After a recent column about sunscreen, a reader asked us to point out that babies need special sunscreens that are different from those used by adults.

Infant sunscreens consist of mineral blockers, like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. Adult sunscreens contain chemical additives that are not suitable for babies' delicate and sensitive skin. It's generally agreed that sunscreen use should begin at about 6 months of age. Until then, protect your baby from the sun with physical barriers like blankets, hats and umbrellas.

A column that referred to the anti-inflammatory properties of fish oil supplements for individuals with rheumatoid arthritis led a reader in Ventura, California, to wonder whether flaxseed oil could deliver the same results. Of the three main types of omega-3 fatty acids derived from foods and used by the body, flaxseed oil contains one, which is alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA. Although our bodies can convert ALA to the other two types of long-chain fatty acids (EPA and DHA) that render benefits, the degree of success relies on the presence of specific vitamins and minerals, as well as a genetically controlled enzyme process.

Bottom line: Yes, flaxseed oil will provide all the ALA you need. But due to the conversion factor of the remaining two omega-3's, it's not considered to be an even exchange for fish-based oils.

A reader from Louisiana who experiences "hanger," the irritability that can accompany a drop in blood glucose, thinks our column fell short of the mark. "Perhaps the answer could have included suggestions about what snacks would be helpful to the daughter in maintaining an appropriate sugar balance," she wrote. "The only level of control I have found that works is being able to eat the right foods on a more frequent basis than the average person."

Point well taken. If hanger is a part of your or a loved one's life, plan ahead with protein-based snacks like nuts or nut butters, cheeses or a protein bar. Do include complex carbs like fruit, veggies, legumes and whole grains. Don't reach for candy or other simple carbs, as they'll send the blood glucose roller coaster into overdrive.

(Send your questions to askthedoctors@mednet.ucla.edu, or write: Ask the Doctors, c/o Media Relations, UCLA Health, 924 Westwood Blvd., Suite 350, Los Angeles, CA, 90095. Owing to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.)

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