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Originally published Sunday, February 3, 2013 at 5:30 AM

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Fecal transplants save lives

People’s Pharmacy Q&A on fecal transplants to cure a C. diff infection, alternatives for joint paint, and Cialis for frequent nighttime urination.

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Q: I suffered with unrelenting diarrhea caused by a C. diff infection that was not fazed by powerful antibiotics. My insurance company spent thousands of dollars on my treatment, but still the diarrhea came back immediately after I stopped the meds.

I finally wound up in the hospital, and a gastroenterologist prescribed vancomycin and Flagyl. When that didn’t work, he said that since I needed a colonoscopy, he would do a fecal transplant at the same time.

My husband was the donor. First his blood and stool were tested to make sure he was not giving me anything bad. After the colonoscopy, I never had diarrhea again.

A: Thousands of people die every year from complications of Clostridium difficile (C. diff) infections. Antibiotics like clindamycin can kill off beneficial bacteria in the colon, allowing C. diff bacteria to take over. The resulting diarrhea and dehydration can be life-threatening.

C. diff is extremely difficult to treat. As you discovered, the infection often comes back once the medicines are stopped. A new study from the Netherlands has confirmed that repopulating the gut with healthy bacteria is far superior to antibiotics in treating this infection (New England Journal of Medicine online, Jan. 16).

“Poop transplants” from healthy donors can be accomplished through colonoscopy, enemas or a tube passed through the nose into the small intestine.

Q: I took Celebrex for more than 10 years for arthritis, but it eventually lost effectiveness. My new insurance company would not cover Celebrex unless I tried three other medications: meloxicam, ibuprofen and naproxen.

My doctor suggested fish oil, and it provided significant relief, about what I had experienced with Celebrex. Then I read your article about gin-soaked raisins and tried them, too. I now have less pain and discomfort than I ever did with Celebrex.

A: Joint pain can be challenging because all the drugs that are prescribed have side effects. Ibuprofen, meloxicam and naproxen can be hard on the digestive tract. All these drugs, including Celebrex, also may raise blood pressure and increase the risk of cardiovascular complications. Another drug, prednisone, can cause insomnia, hypertension, diabetes, swelling, osteoporosis and cataracts.

Fish oil and gin-soaked raisins offer less risk. Some people, like you, find they can be quite helpful.

Q: I have suffered for years from an enlarged prostate that caused frequent urination several times a night. I tried many prostate drugs, with little to no improvement.

For the past two years, I have taken Cialis daily, and now I can empty my bladder with ease. I frequently sleep through the night or get up only once. And my wife and I both enjoy the side effects of Cialis.

A: Doctors can prescribe Cialis (tadalafil) for both erectile dysfunction and symptoms of prostate enlargement. We’re glad to learn it is working so well for you.

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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