Q. I recently read that it is important to maintain adequate levels of vitamin D to help prevent severe infection from the coronavirus. This might be a good time for people to check with their doctors to find out if any of their medications might be suppressing vitamin D levels.

I take prednisone to prevent organ transplant rejection. My doctor has recommended high doses of vitamin D to maintain my levels between 40 and 50 ng/mL.

A. Thank you for this recommendation. There is evidence to suggest that when vitamin D levels are sufficient that people are better able to recover from COVID-19 (PLOS ONE, Sept. 25, 2020). In this study, the mortality rate was 9.7% for COVID-19 patients if their blood levels of 25-hydroxy vitamin D were over 30 ng/mL. That amount is considered adequate. When levels were below 30 ng/mL the mortality rate was 20%.

Israeli research suggests that adequate vitamin D levels may even reduce the risk of catching the coronavirus (medRxiv, Sept. 7, 2020). That appears to be because this nutrient is essential for optimal immune function.

Corticosteroids such as prednisone can indeed lead to lower levels of vitamin D in the body (Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, Dec. 2011). You can learn more about vitamin D dosing in our eGuide to Vitamin D and Optimal Health. It is in our Health eGuides section of www.PeoplesPharmacy.com.

Q. We planted a fig tree last year. I have been eating a lot of fresh figs and fig jam.

Yesterday, I was picking figs. On the way to work, my hands and the sides of my mouth felt prickly. I developed a rash where my skin came in contact with the milklike sap from the fruit stems.

I am sensitive to latex. Could there be cross reactivity? I just scheduled an allergist appointment and am avoiding figs until then.

A. Wise move! People who are allergic to latex can also be sensitive to figs, papayas and kiwi fruit. The reaction can lead to numbness, tingling or swelling of the lips, mouth or tongue. A rash is also a red flag! By all means check with an allergist and stay away from the figs.

Q. My husband had plantar warts on his feet that resisted all the dermatologist’s treatments. He finally tried this home remedy, which worked after several weeks.

He daubed the warts with castor oil and then covered them with duct tape. After a few days he would reapply the castor oil and tape. This did the trick.

A. We have heard from many readers that castor oil or duct tape can be helpful against warts. This is the first time someone recommended combining these two approaches in one remedy. Perhaps the dual action is better than either alone. Thanks for sharing this hybrid remedy.

Q. Is it true that a Mediterranean diet with lots of extra-virgin olive oil can be protective against breast cancer? If so, how do you get more olive oil in your diet besides using it in salad dressing? I do grill salmon with it, but that’s not all that often.

A. There is evidence to suggest that a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO) can help reduce the risk of breast cancer (JAMA Internal Medicine, November 2015). In this study, the women who were randomized to consume 4 tablespoons of EVOO daily had less invasive breast cancer. You can use olive oil in marinades, over pasta and substitute it for butter on bread. We saute vegetables with olive oil and of course use it with all our salads.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of King Features, 628 Virginia Drive, Orlando, FL 32803, or email them via their website:

www.PeoplesPharmacy.com. Their newest book is “Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them.”

— King Features

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