Letters to Dr. Rick, April 2014

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“Dr. Rick” deShazo, columnist and host of “Southern Remedy” radio and TV shows produced by Mississippi Public Broadcasting is a professor of medicine and pediatrics at UMC

Dear Dr. Rick,

Many of my friends are using essential oils to treat their various ailments. Several have used peppermint oil to treat acid reflux, and one has used peppermint oils for treating hiccups that she had for three days. What is your opinion about these and other natural remedies.
– Susan

Many people are interested in oils, herbals, supplements, and mega-vitamins. All of these products fall under the category of nutraceuticals. For the most part, none of these are assessed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for their ingredients, safety or how well they work.  They are available through a loop hole in the law that requires these assessments for prescription and non-prescription drugs.

Essential oils are derived from plants and prepared in liquid solutions that smell good. It is “essential” because it has a distinctive scent of the plant. However, they are not essential for good health. Plant extracts like these have been used as home remedies for eons with the most familiar one being “oil of wintergreen” which contains an aspirin-like product. For the most part, they are diluted in alcohol, so the compounds themselves can be a fire hazard. Most are used on the skin or in aromatherapy, but some individuals suggest they may be useful for various ailments when taken by mouth. Side effects described have included allergic reactions and dermatitis, among others. You never know what you are getting when you buy these because they are not regulated. My recommendation is to avoid these as treatments for any medical condition, as we don’t know what is in them or how they were made. But they really smell good! – Dr. Rick

Dear Dr. Rick,
Please talk about Super Beta Prostate and how and whether or not it helps with problems that have to do with getting up throughout the night to go to the bathroom. Are these okay to use if already taking Flomax (Tamsulosin)?
-Al

Super Beta Prostate is a nutraceutical. The government doesn’t require studies to determine the safety or efficacy of these products or the concentration of the component parts. The product you mention lists zinc, copper, manganese, chromium, molybdenum, selenium and boron as ingredients, all of which are classified as potentially “toxic metals” by OSHA. Overdose of heavy metals can have serious medical consequences. Note the disclaimer at the bottom of the bottle, “This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.” I think you should take the manufacturer at his word and not use this to treat, cure or prevent any disease, and save yourself $43 a bottle. We know what and how much is in Tamsulosin and it really does help prostate symptoms…to the max! – Dr. Rick

Dear Dr. Rick,
I walk 4 to 5 times a week, 30 minutes each time, and have been doing this for about 3 years. I started having pain in my right heel a few months ago. I went to the doctor and he said it was plantar fasciitis. He recommended new walking shoes, rolling my foot on a full 2 liter bottle for 15- 20 minutes each day, and he had me on prednisone for a few weeks. My foot still hurts. I do not want to quit walking for my exercise.
My question is, will this condition get better or worse?  I have diligently started doing stretches that I have read should help, and I have added extra support to my walking shoes. I do not want to do permanent damage to my foot. So, what information can you give me about this condition?
-Cheryl

Sorry you are having this problem, one of the most common causes of foot pain in adults. The plantar fascia is thick, white tissue that looks sort of like wide masking tape, starting at the heel bone and running under the surface of the foot to the toes. It keeps the many foot bones in place when the heel rises during walking or running. The pain is often worse when stepping onto the foot when getting out of the bed in the morning or when standing up after being seated. It occurs most often in folks whose lifestyle causes repetitive impact on the heel, like runners, dancers, or people who walk around a lot, especially if they are overweight, have flat feet or high arches and wear shoes that do not adequately protect their heels.

The good news is, no matter what you do, it goes away in about 80% of people within a year. Rest, icing, stretching, over the counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, arch supporting footwear, orthotics, gel pad inserts or heel cups, splints, taping, steroid injections, shockwave therapy and casting have all been used to treat this. When there are this many treatments, you know there is no particular treatment that is best. In my opinion, the place to start is to get fitted for an athletic shoe by a trained professional who can determine which shoe is best for your particular foot. If wearing a fitted athletic shoe does not sort this out, working with a physical therapist on referral from your doctor would be the next step.

P.S. I have this too, and my year is just about up, I hope!
– Dr. Rick

Dr. Rick deShazo, professor of medicine and pediatrics at the University of Mississippi Medical Center and a practicing physician, is the host of Southern Remedy.  The medical information presented by Southern Remedy is meant to provide general information about the topics discussed, and should not be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes.  The information conveyed does not create any type of patient-physician relationship and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment. Please consult your health care provider before making any healthcare decisions and for guidance about your specific medical condition.

1 Comment

  1. Ramona Martin on December 18, 2016 at 2:01 pm

    Dr Rick is my Dr and he is awesome ????

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