Q. More than 20 years ago I was diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Tests revealed no cause. Diarrhea attacks accompanied by severe abdominal pain rarely gave me time to find a bathroom before it was too late. I would suffer several times a week.
At 6' 2" I weighed only 147lbs and could not gain weight even eating 5000 calories a day. Imodium A-D daily provided minimal help.
Ten months ago I read in your column about a man with Crohn's disease who had been helped by eating two Archway Coconut Macaroons daily. I had nothing to lose so I gave it a try. IT HAS CHANGED MY LIFE!
In these past ten months I have had only a few mild attacks, none involving pain. Even the worst of these was milder than a good day before. I stopped carrying a change of clothes in my car, as I haven't needed them once.
Twenty years of suffering and all I needed to do was eat cookies! There is not one medication on the market that can boast fewer side effects. My weight is now stable at 180 lbs, ideal for my height.
A. Many people are grateful to Donald Agar for sharing his discovery of the anti-diarrhea benefits of coconut macaroons. We believe the essential ingredient is the coconut, since several readers have reported benefit with coconut alone.
This approach won't work for everyone, but we are surprised how many people seem to respond well. One young man even reported that coconut-containing candy bars (Mounds) helped his antibiotic-induced diarrhea.
Q. At 51 I feel like I am too young to have arthritis, but I definitely have some joint pain. When I type at the computer my thumb and little fingers hurt. When I play too much tennis my knees ache.
My stomach is way too sensitive to take aspirin, ibuprofen or other arthritis pills. I'd like to try the raisins soaked in gin that I've read about in your column. How well do they work? Please send the recipe and any other suggestions you might have.
A. Gin-soaked raisins have not been tested scientifically, but some people report success. One reader shared the following:
"I am an alternative medicine buff and have tried many things for natural health. Most work, but slowly.
"The golden raisins and gin you have mentioned worked for me! I've had joint stiffness and back pain for a number of years. After two weeks of nine raisins daily, these maladies were 90 percent gone.
"To test its worth, I went off the regimen for a week. Back came the problems. So I started back with the raisins, and within a week, voila!"
We are sending you our Guide to Home Remedies with the recipes for gin-soaked raisins, Certo in grape juice and a juice-vinegar drink many people favor. Anyone who would like a copy, please send $2 in check or money order with a long (no. 10) stamped (60 cents), self-addressed envelope: Graedons' People's Pharmacy, No. R-1, P. O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027.
Q. I have read that fennel seed tea is good for gas but I worry about trying it because the seeds smell like licorice. I am very sensitive to licorice and must avoid it! Can I use fennel safely?
A. Natural black licorice can raise blood pressure, cause fluid retention, deplete potassium and disrupt hormonal balance. But fennel does not cause these problems and is a traditional remedy for flatulence.