Skin tags could signal metabolic trouble

Q. You recently wrote about using castor oil to get rid of skin tags. I discovered that my skin tags appeared after I had eaten too many sweets. Reduced sugars equaled no skin tags.

A. Thanks for the observation. Physicians have noticed that skin tags appear to be more common in people who are overweight and at risk for metabolic syndrome (Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research, January 2016). It appears that elevated levels of insulin linked to insulin resistance are associated with multiple skin tags and a condition called acanthosis nigricans (Dermatology and Therapy, March 2017). People with increasing numbers of skin tags or who notice their skin darkening around the neck and in armpits or groin folds should check with their doctors. Although these skin changes are not dangerous in and of themselves, they could signal insulin resistance and an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes. Your approach of eliminating sweets makes sense.

Q. Staying asleep is a constant problem for me. I have been strongly advised to try Xylaria nigripes (Wulinshen). What do you know about it?

A. Xylaria nigripes is a Chinese medicinal fungus found in termite nests. Known as Wu Ling Shen, it traditionally was used to treat insomnia and help people recover from trauma (International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms, Vol. 19, No. 10, 2017).

There is not a great deal of research on this fungus. However, a placebo-controlled trial conducted in China showed that it was no more effective than placebo in treating insomnia (Journal of Ethnopharmacology, Jan. 9, 2013).

You might find outdoor exercise during the day helps to reset your body clock so you can stay asleep more readily. Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia also can be helpful.

Q. Would benfotiamine help my neuropathy? I have severe nerve damage from my toes to my knees. My doctor says he can’t prescribe anything for my pain.

A. Benfotiamine is a synthetic variant of the B vitamin thiamine. It has been used in conjunction with alpha-lipoic acid to alleviate diabetic neuropathy (Minerva Medica, October 2017). Benfotiamine can prevent damage to small blood vessels, which helps explain its usefulness in diabetic neuropathy (Diabetes, Obesity & Metabolism, December 2015).

As far as we can tell, this compound has been studied primarily for treating diabetic neuropathy. It does appear to reduce inflammation of microglial nerve cells, however (PLOS One, Feb. 19, 2015). These cells are active in producing neuropathic pain (Current Medicinal Chemistry, Aug. 2016). One study in rats indicated that benfotiamine can reduce inflammatory pain as well as the pain of diabetic neuropathy (European Journal of Pharmacology, Jan. 13, 2006).

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