Hello again, dear readers, and welcome to the monthly letters column. Although it’s almost autumn, the heat waves keep on coming. Please take precautions. Stay hydrated, avoid peak heat hours and use your fans or air conditioning. If needed, seek out air-conditioned public places, such as shopping malls, libraries or local cooling centers. And now, your letters:
-- A reader whose mother has reached the age of 100 without eating vegetables wonders if this means she can skip that food group as well. “My mother, who speeds down the hall with her walker at an assisted living facility, has shunned vegetables her entire life,” she wrote. “She enjoys candy, cookies and bacon. I have inherited her distain for vegetables, but I force myself to eat them. Might I also forgo vegetables?”
While reaching 100 shows that her mother is doing something right, we just cannot ignore the abundance of literature supporting the health benefits of vegetables. Our advice -- we’re sorry! -- is to please keep eating them.
-- Many of you wrote regarding a column about gallstones. A reader from Hazelton, Pennsylvania, asked about a drug regimen to shrink gallstones.
“After numerous surgeries, my MRI shows I have gallstones,” he wrote. “I’m afraid to have another surgery and have asked to be put on ursodiol to shrink the gallstones, but my doctor ignores my request. Would ursodiol affect gallstones?”
Gallstones are crystalline masses that form within the gallbladder and interfere with function. Ursodiol, a bile acid taken as an oral medication, will reduce certain gallstones. It’s a conservative approach, and instead, most patients opt for cholecystectomy, a laparoscopic procedure to remove the gallbladder. Since you want try ursodiol first, make that very clear to your physician. Ask direct questions: Will ursodiol help my specific case? If the answer is no, ask why. If the answer is yes, request a prescription. If you don’t get clear answers, consider taking your test results to a different physician.
-- A reader with Grover’s disease, a challenging skin condition marked by raised red bumps on the body that are very itchy, offered a suggestion:
“I discovered that applying a thin coating of mentholated petroleum over the bump does two things for me,” he wrote. “First and fabulous, the itching pain ceases immediately. Second, over two to four days, the bumps dry up and don't spread, as they do if one scratches them.” This advice comes from an engineer who reports he has tried numerous approaches.
Thank you again for taking the time to send us your questions, comments and kind thoughts. We love hearing from you and will see you here for another letters column next month.
(Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write: Ask the Doctors, c/o UCLA Health Sciences Media Relations, 10880 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1450, Los Angeles, CA, 90024. Owing to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.)