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Originally published Sunday, January 6, 2013 at 5:32 AM

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Solving nighttime urinary problems

People’s Pharmacy on remedies for urinary problems for men, grapefruit interactions with medicines and a treatment for tinnitus.

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Q: I hate having to get up three or four times a night to urinate. Around 3 or 4 in the morning, I have trouble getting back to sleep.

I have discovered that when I take ibuprofen for post-exercise soreness, I am much less likely to be awakened by my bladder. I don’t want to take this on a regular basis, though, because I worry about intestinal irritation.

I’ve heard that there is a new sleeping pill designed to help with going back to sleep. What can you tell me about it?

A: There are data suggesting that NSAIDs like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), celecoxib (Celebrex) and diclofenac (Voltaren) can ease nighttime urination problems (European Urology, April 2006; Urology, October 2008). Nevertheless, we worry that regular use of such drugs might affect kidney function and cause stomach ulcers.

The new sleeping pill is called Intermezzo. It is designed to dissolve under the tongue for fast action in the middle of the night. It is actually a low dose of the drug zolpidem, the active ingredient in the sleeping pill Ambien.

Should you wish a different approach, here is an intriguing story from a reader: “I never liked beets, but my wife (who is Polish) does. I have come to enjoy barszcz, which is a sweet/sour soup made from beets with either a meat or vegetable stock.

“I am 63 years old and have the normal urinary symptoms of an aging prostate. When we have barszcz ... it is so satisfying to be able to empty my bladder completely and get back to sleep.

“I am not mistaken about the correlation, as I have repeated the experiment many times. I now grow beets in my garden!”

Q: Where can I find out more about grapefruit interactions with medicines? I would like to know which prescription drugs are negatively affected. My pharmacist couldn’t tell me whether red yeast rice that I take to lower my cholesterol would be affected by grapefruit.

A: Grapefruit can raise blood levels of lovastatin, the ingredient in red yeast rice. This might increase the risk for side effects. Atorvastatin and simvastatin also are affected, as are some blood pressure drugs and sleeping pills.

Q: I was experiencing a loud static-type sound in my right ear that came on and off every 15 seconds. A doctor prescribed Tegretol for this problem. I took the drug for about a month, and the condition went away.

The tinnitus came back years later, and again I used Tegretol to get rid of the annoying noise.

A: We are delighted you got such relief from carbamazepine (Tegretol) for the static in your ear (tinnitus). Although this anticonvulsant has been used to treat tinnitus, the scientific evidence that anticonvulsants (carbamazepine, gabapentin and lamotrigine) are effective for tinnitus is not convincing (Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, July 6, 2011).

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them c/o King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., 15th floor, New York, NY 10019, or via their website:www.peoplespharmacy.org

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