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Ask Dr. Nan.

Q: You have said that you use probiotics to get rid of gingivitis and dental plaque. Do you bite the capsule and apply the probiotics on an empty stomach? I've heard you shouldn't take them with food. Using your method, can the friendly bacteria survive stomach acid and reach the intestines, or do you have to take extra probiotics? --J. L., e-mail

A: First, let me say that applying probiotics to the gums once a day is one of the most effective ways I have found to reduce inflammation and plaque. I've used Dr. Ohhira's Probiotics 12-Plus, which you can find in most health food stores and on the Internet. It's a gel that's easy to apply. About 80% of the friendly bacteria in this product reach the intestines. Although it's a bit pricey, the ease with which you can apply it makes it worth the expense for me.

However, you can use a less expensive product in powder form like Advanced Probiotic Formula through Advanced Bionutritionals (800-791-3395). It's certainly strong enough to do the job. In this case, I'd bite or open the end of the capsule and put the powder on my toothbrush. Then, brush but don't rinse.

I use this method before going to bed and after brushing my teeth with toothpaste. It's still one of the most affordable ways I've found to improve my oral health--which reduces my risk for heart disease.

By the way, my integrative dentist, Dr. Mary Ellen Chalmers (who is also a naturopath), and I thought of this treatment. She has found it to be effective in her patients and it works well for me.

Q: I read that there are toxic effects from Triethanolamine (TEA). A well-known supplement company includes this chemical in their Progesterone cream. I realize this is external use, but wonder if it's possible to get any internal toxicity from years of using this cream. If I order a progesterone cream made by a local pharmacy, the pharmacist won't tell me whether or not it contains TEA for proprietary reasons. What should I do? --M.E., e-mail

A: TEA and DEA (Diethanolamine) are chemicals used in soaps, shampoos, and other products to make them smooth. If a product containing these chemicals sits around on a shelf for months, it can react with other ingredients in the formula to make a carcinogen called nitro-sodiethanolamine (NDEA). While your skin doesn't absorb TEA and DEA, it can absorb NDEA.

Dr. Samuel Epstein, an MD at the University of Illinois whom I've admired for years, found that when study participants used TEA or DEA repeatedly, it resulted in an increase in liver and skin cancer.

You have a right to know whether or not a product you use contains a known carcinogen. Any pharmacist can reveal whether or not any ingredient is used in a product without disclosing any proprietary information. Speak with someone at a natural compounding pharmacy that uses safe products. One pharmacy I've used successfully is Women's International Pharmacy (800-279-5708).

If you use up the progesterone cream within a month or two, it shouldn't contain any toxic substances that your skin can absorb.

Have a question? Send it to: Ask Dr. Nan, P.O. Box 8051, Norcross GA 30093. Or e-mail to While I can't diagnose or treat your illness by mail, I'll answer as many questions as I can in the newsletter.

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Title Annotation:probiotics; side effects of Triethanolamine
Publication:Women's Health Letter
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2010
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