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Ask the health expert: Vrinda Suneja, M.D.

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February 22nd, 2011

Erickson Living health and wellness experts can be found at Erickson Living communities all over the U.S. This month our expert is: Vrinda Suneja, M.D., Medical Director, ' Fox Run, Novi, Mich. Dr. Suneja received her medical degree at Maulana Azad Medical College in New Delhi, India. She completed her residency in internal medicine at Sinai Grace Hospital (affiliated with Wayne State University) in Detroit, Mich. Board certified in internal medicine, Suneja joined Fox Run in November 2003.

Please note: The following questions were submitted by readers. The answers are intended for general information purposes and should not replace your doctor s medical advice.

Q. Years ago I found that taking activated charcoal supplements did a great job eliminating my abdominal gas pains. But should I be concerned about interactions with other medicines that I now take for my heart and other health conditions?

A.Activated charcoal has been shown in some studies to help reduce gas (especially flatulence), but the scientific evidence is far from conclusive. Although it has worked for you in the past, your concerns about it affecting your other medications are valid. Activated charcoal works by absorbing substances from your digestive tract and this includes many medications. It may also affect your overall digestion, causing problems like constipation. That being said, it may be alright to use occasionally if you take it two hours before or after your other medications. Talk to your doctor about your use of activated charcoal and any other over-the-counter medications or supplements you take, and also about other ways to control your occasional gas, such as dietary changes.

Q. I always seem to have a runny nose. My father also had the same problem in his later years. I am 79 years old and have diabetes. Any suggestions?

A.A runny nose may be caused by rhinitis or an inflammation of your nasal lining. It may be the result of colds or flu, allergies, or medications. The lining of your nose might also be irritated by a dry environment, air pollutants, spicy foods, alcohol, or even strong emotions. Sometimes the exact cause of a runny nose is unknown. Treatment is typically centered on treating the cause, like avoiding irritants. In some cases, decongestants or nasal sprays containing steroids can be used. Your doctor is your best resource for determining the cause of your problem and the best treatment. Send questions by e-mail to expert@erickson.com.

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