Many of you have written me with health questions. In today's health alert, I respond to some of the more commonly asked ones. -

Question: I have had major problems with my back for years. It feels like my back is compressing whenever I sit in a hard chair and I can't stand over 20 minutes at a time without feeling the same way. I've had X-rays done and my doctor could not find anything wrong. I wonder if my calcium is too low due to nursing for a long period of time. I also have been diagnosed with candida. I wonder if my muscles may not be doing their job. Could this have anything to do with my back pain? - N.C., Morning Sun, IA

Answer: This is a very complicated situation. Not knowing your background, I can only answer in how I might evaluate a similar case. I would start with a DEXA (bone density) scan of your spine, which gives a good indication of calcium content. Low calcium may be associated with osteoporosis, but deficiency of magnesium, boron, and other minerals is more likely. These minerals are necessary for calcium to be properly absorbed into the bone.

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Nursing does rob calcium from bones, so a DEXA scan should be performed. You may have weakened or ruptured ligaments in your back. If the muscles are called in to "do their job" in stabilizing a joint or preventing pain, it almost always means ligaments are weak, torn, or ruptured. Then muscles tighten and spasm to protect the joint, since the ligaments are not doing it. If you do have ligament problems, you can cure them permanently with prolotherapy. (You can read more about prolotherapy on my website )

Candida can be associated with many symptoms including muscle pain, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, and much more. I get the feeling your problem is something else, however. I would recommend seeing a doctor from ACAM: (in CA, 949-583-7666; outside CA, 800-532-3688) or ICIM (866-464-5226) who is aware of looking for and treating causes rather than simply covering up symptoms with drugs and chemicals.

Question: Do you know how I can keep my face wrinkle free? I eat lots of vegetables and I'm sure that helps, but do you have any suggestions? Thanks. - Mrs. F.B.S., Long Beach, CA

Answer: In my experience, the best way to prevent wrinkles is diet, clean life, relaxation, and respect for the sun. Stress (frowning), smoking, free-radical activity, and solar damage cause wrinkles. I believe in sun exposure, but it's important to shield the face if you're out for prolonged periods. An organic diet, primarily vegetable based, is the real key, in my experience.

My wife and I have virtually no wrinkles. Observing the same in others who eat a vegetable-based diet, I have assumed the benefits to skin come from the enormous antioxidant capacity of such a diet. Essential fatty acids (omega-6 and especially omega-3) are crucial to help the skin maintain its hydration, as well as drinking lots of clean water. Retin-A gel, available by prescription is another wonderful way to slow or reduce skin aging. A synthetic form of vitamin A, it provides significant antioxidant protection and can actually reverse some fine wrinkling. Skin creams containing lipoic acid (one of my favorite B vitamins) also have been found to prevent skin aging. Nordstrom's carries a good one.

Question: I've been diagnosed with COPD and my doctor prescribed Combivent, Serevent, and Flovent. I understand these drugs can cause osteoporosis. What should I do? - E.S, Los Angeles, CA

Answer: If you suffer from asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, or any other chronic lung disease (COPD), it's very likely your doctor will prescribe a steroidal inhaler like the ones you mention.

While these steroids are marvelous for opening your lungs, especially in an emergency, they also can cause bone loss.

Fortunately, there are several alternative treatments I use that are very effective. The first is intravenous hydrogen peroxide. The late medical pioneer Charles Farr, MD, PhD showed that intravenous peroxide provides relief to many patients with emphysema.

Because this treatment delivers oxygen to your body, I think it's great for any chronic lung problem. You can read more about this treatment on my website .

One vitamin that also delivers oxygen to your blood is vitamin C. Its antioxidant qualities also protect your lungs. It's the most abundant antioxidant in pulmonary tissue and smoking rapidly destroys it. I recommend at least 1,000 mg three times a day. You also need to take large doses of vitamin A (not beta-carotene).

This terrific substance helps the lining of your lungs and boosts your immune system. Vitamin A has gotten a bad rap for possible toxicity. It's true that pregnant women must be exceptionally careful with supplemental vitamin A. It could be harmful to the blood vessels of a developing fetus.

However, for non-pregnant adults, I've never seen a case of toxicity, even using doses in excess of 100,000 IU a day for many weeks. And if toxicity does occur (marked by dry flaky skin or hair loss), simply stop taking the vitamin A and this will resolve the condition very rapidly. While I try to get all of my patients off the bronchodilators, some still must use them. If your condition requires you to use one, then you must take steps to protect your bones.

The best way to counteract the bone loss is to take vitamin D. This vitamin acts like a steroid hormone and medicinal steroids suppress its levels and activity. It makes good sense for anyone on steroids to take supplemental vitamin D. My favorite is Cataplex D (1,600-2,000 IU per day), a nutritional supplement from Standard Process Labs (available at most health food stores). Talk with your integrative physician to see if this is enough to protect you. If not, he can give you a prescription for a stronger form.

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