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home : columns : ask the doctors January 22, 2020

11/22/2019 7:50:00 AM
Nonallergic rhinitis can be triggered by spicy foods

Hello, dear readers, and welcome back to our monthly letters column. We're happy to report that you've been busy correspondents, so onward to your letters.

-- A reader from Pennsylvania asked for the name of a condition in which eating food causes one's nose to begin running. This is a type of nonallergic rhinitis, which means the inflammation of the nasal passages is not related to allergies. In this case, the specific name for the condition is gustatory rhinitis, and it's often triggered by hot or spicy foods. But as is the case with our reader, it can also occur when eating any kind of food. The good news is that ipratropium bromide, a prescription nasal spray sold as Atrovent, can be effective when used before eating.  

-- In response to a column about hemorrhoids, a reader from Indiana shares that she and her husband have had success preventing hemorrhoids by using a supplement called rutin. A plant pigment and natural antioxidant, rutin is contained in many fruits and vegetables. Rutin is believed to aid in circulation, and studies show it can improve blood cholesterol. While it is safe to eat natural sources of rutin -- such as apples, citrus fruit, asparagus and green tea -- rutin supplements can sometimes be associated with unwelcome side effects, such as headache, stomach upset and heart arrhythmias. Always check with your health care provider before using any supplements. Many are not regulated, and some can have unexpected drug interactions.

-- A reader in Indiana wonders about the safety of public grill grates at campgrounds. Some of these grates "have a great deal of rust on them. There is no way you would be able to remove it all," he wrote. "Most people just dump in the charcoal and starting grilling. What about all that rust that surely gets on the food being cooked?"

Rust, which is iron oxide, is harmless in small quantities. That said, if the grill that you're using is damaged to the point that it's crumbling, it's wise to steer clear. However, if the grill has visible rust but isn't giving off particles, and as long as you're not using it on a regular basis, the small amount of rust that may get transferred to the food is benign.

-- And finally, a reader from North Dakota requests that we write a column about how to reduce blood pressure. It's an important issue, and we will gladly comply -- be on the lookout for upcoming information. Meanwhile, she shares an unexpected technique she uses when her own BP climbs a bit too high:

"We learned the polka in gym class when I was in school," she wrote. "Now, when I want to get my blood pressure down, I put on a polka CD and dance and clap and shake myself for about 15 minutes, and the blood pressure reading goes way down."

We thank you, as always, for reading the column and taking the time to write to us. We look forward to hearing from you, and will see you again in the letters column next month.

Eve Glazier, M.D., MBA, is an internist and associate professor of medicine at UCLA Health. Elizabeth Ko, M.D., is an internist and assistant professor of medicine at UCLA Health. Send your questions to, or write: Ask the Doctors, c/o UCLA Health Sciences Media Relations, 10880 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1450, Los Angeles, CA, 90024. Owing to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.

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