Q. For nearly 30 years, I got “honeymoon cystitis.” After menopause, I learned from a TV show that women were using olive oil for postmenopausal vaginal dryness.
I was pleasantly surprised that it not only assisted with lubrication, but ever since I started using it, I have not experienced cystitis (urinary-tract infection) following intimacy.
A. We found one study on the use of olive oil as a sexual lubricant (Journal of Sexual Medicine online, May 1, 2013). The investigators reported that women who experienced painful intercourse benefited from olive-oil lubrication, pelvic floor relaxation exercises and the vaginal moisturizer Replens.
We found no studies indicating that olive oil or other lubricants would prevent recurrent urinary-tract infections. Reducing irritation during intercourse, however, is likely to be beneficial.
Q. After taking various antidepressants for many years, I tried to stop. The first time, I decreased the levels of medication over five weeks. I experienced many incapacitating withdrawal symptoms and went back on the drug.
The second time, I decreased the dose over five months and recently stopped taking it completely. It was very difficult, as I experienced crying jags and unwarranted fits of anger along with dizziness, insomnia and electrical sensations in my extremities. At last, however, I have been off the drug entirely for three weeks, and the withdrawal effects have finally stopped.
If I need help with depression in the future, I’d prefer a more natural approach. Do you have any suggestions?
A. Nondrug treatments can be effective for mild to moderate depression. Talk therapy, a structured exercise program and light therapy all have scientific support.
Dietary supplements also may be worth a try. We heard from another reader: “My partner quit antidepressants because of negative side effects. We heard of Sam-e during a holistic health course two years ago, and he has kept his depression under control on 800 mg per day ever since. It is just as effective as the prescription he was taking.”
You can learn about the pros and cons of antidepressants, tips on weathering withdrawal and information on nondrug approaches in our Guide to Dealing With Depression.
Q. I would like to tell you how I cured my acne, which started at the age of 10. It was ugly and painful, and I tried everything.
In my 20s, I read a natural-foods cookbook that stated: “It has been said that the flawless complexion of British women is due to their drinking barley water in quantities and regularly.” That got my attention!
I simmered a tablespoon of pearl barley in 2 quarts of water for about 45 minutes and drank a cup morning and evening. About a month into the barley-water regimen, I did a double take when I looked in the mirror. My skin was clear.
I kept drinking the water for several months, and that was the end of the acne.
A. Barley is a source of azelaic acid, used topically to treat both rosacea and acne (Practical Dermatology, March 2013). Azelaic acid reduces skin inflammation and prevents the development of comedones (clogged pores). Perhaps that is why drinking barley water worked.
In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of this newspaper or email them via their Web site: www.PeoplesPharmacy.com. Their newest book is “Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them.”
2013 King Features Syndicate Inc.