DEAR DR. BLONZ: I was ill recently and I believe it was due to the great amount of stress I was under at work. A friend recommended Rescue Remedy for stress and lack of sleep, but I don't really like taking homeopathic stuff. Have you heard of it? Also, I have been reading the monthly Nutrition Action magazine put out by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) for over 20 years, and always feel like I get something out of it, just as I do with your column. My son, who is a molecular biologist, kind of pooh-poohs magazines like this. What do you think? -- T.N.
DEAR T.N.: I am not a supporter of homeopathy. Check out tinyurl.com/mosf6o5 for a recent column on this topic. As for Rescue Remedy, it is my understanding that this product is based on substances referred to as Bach flower remedies. A report in the August 2010 Swiss Medical Weekly presented a systematic review of randomized clinical trials using Bach flower remedies and it concluded there was no difference between the use of the remedies and placebos. As a result there is no basis for me to endorse this product. As for its potential for harm, there is no evidence that it would be harmful, except, perhaps, to one's pocketbook and the delay in addressing the true source of the problem(s).
Regarding CSPI, I have been a member/subscriber to Nutrition Action since they began and consider CSPI to be an important voice. They have an excellent crew of researchers, writers and legal experts and their work represents a positive force. You might also check out the Berkeley Wellness Letter. I am a member of their editorial board and find their evidence-based approach to provide excellent guidance.
DEAR DR. BLONZ: Does beer have a greater diuretic effect than other types of alcohol? When out with friends, I tend to have a couple, but then find myself up multiple times during the night. Would it help to eat salty foods while drinking? -- S.G.
DEAR S.G.: Alcohol affects how much urine the kidneys produce and send into the bladder for elimination. Interestingly enough, it is the amount of alcohol, more so than the amount of fluid, that determines this effect. This means that a shot of liquor, a bottle of beer or a glass of wine can translate to the same diuretic effect.
Your mention of salty foods adds an additional wrinkle. Taking in sodium chloride (salt) tends to increase thirst, since the body is engineered to eliminate excess sodium, but it first has to dilute the sodium to a tolerable concentration. This explains why we cannot satisfy thirst by drinking seawater: It contains a salt concentration above that desired by the body, so any consumption of seawater to satisfy thirst sets the body back even further. You can see where things might head if you then seek to satisfy a salt-bred thirst by consuming alcoholic beverages. Even if you drank plain water, your body would still need to produce urine to get rid of its excess sodium.
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