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Originally published Sunday, January 5, 2014 at 5:31 AM

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Food-allergy testing leads to source of adult acne

People’s Pharmacy on diet and acne, cures for insomnia and cornmeal foot soaks for nail fungus.

Syndicated columnists

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Q: I am 54 and suffered with adult acne from age 25. I tried every cream and antibiotic my doctors prescribed. I even took Accutane twice! A hormone test was fine, and I was stuck with this embarrassing problem.

Two years ago, I took a seven-day cruise and returned with clearer skin. In a burst of insight, I figured the source of my acne might be environmental. I was tested for food allergies.

This cost $400, but it was worth every penny. I am allergic to bananas, pineapple, asparagus, celery and broccoli. I went off them immediately, and after a few months, my face cleared up. Please suggest food-allergy testing for people with adult acne. My face is clear now, but if I eat celery from a veggie plate, I break out within 12 hours.

A: Dermatologists used to think that diet did not have any impact on acne. That belief is changing. A review in the International Journal of Dermatology (April 2009) found that acne may be linked to consumption of foods that raise blood sugar quickly, as well as to dairy products.

Dermatologist Patricia Farris cites scientific evidence for a low-sugar diet in the book “The Sugar Detox.” Although there is not yet much data linking food allergies to acne, your experience is intriguing.

Q: I am 30 years old and have a terrible time getting to sleep. I’ve been taking Ambien for more than a year, and if I don’t take it, I toss and turn all night.

I want to get off it because my husband and I want to start a family. I don’t want to take the medication while trying to conceive. How can I break my Ambien habit and still get some sleep?

A: The official prescribing information warns that abrupt discontinuation of Ambien could lead to withdrawal symptoms. Nonetheless, one placebo-controlled study found no rebound insomnia when people stopped this sleeping pill suddenly, even after they had been on it for a year (Journal of Psychopharmacology, August 2012).

If you work with your doctor to reduce your dose gradually, you should be able to employ nondrug sleep strategies. Cognitive behavioral therapy is one successful approach to insomnia. There are others in our Guide to Getting a Good Night’s Sleep, such as morning light exposure, acupressure, melatonin or magnesium. It can be downloaded for $2 from our website:

Q: My husband had ridiculously horrible toenail fungus for years. I told him to soak his feet in cornmeal water (1 cup of cornmeal and a couple of quarts of water in a container big enough to fit his foot; let it sit for an hour, then soak for ½ hour). I read about it in your column. It totally cleared up the fungus in two months of weekly soaks.

A: Some gardeners have recommended sprinkling cornmeal around the base of rosebushes to discourage mildew and fungus. This has generated tremendous controversy within the botanical community, with some experts challenging the antifungal properties of cornmeal while others extol its benefits.

There is no research on cornmeal foot soaks for nail fungus. Nevertheless, we have heard from many readers that they have had success with this inexpensive method if they were persistent.

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

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