Graedons' Pharmacy: Vinegar vanquishes horrible heartburn

October 1, 2013 

Q: Who would have dreamed that the very odd suggestion of vinegar in water would actually work for heartburn? I tried several home remedies (including pickled ginger and ginger tea), but they didn't help.

After a bad acid-reflux episode one night, I bit the bullet and swallowed 2 tablespoons of vinegar in 8 ounces of water. It took some time to get down, and it burned a little along the way, but I went back to bed and slept undisturbed for three hours. The next day, I drank some during the day and before bedtime and slept through the night. Last night was my second night of undisturbed sleep. Thank you so much for this suggestion!

Should one take vinegar and water as a preventative or only when heartburn is present? I also am a little concerned about what vinegar can do to one's teeth. Can you address that, please?

A: We have mostly heard from people who use vinegar as a remedy for heartburn symptoms rather than as a preventive measure. The question about its effect on teeth is important. Vinegar, lemon juice and other acids can soften tooth enamel. Make sure not to brush the teeth for about an hour after you

have consumed the vinegar. Otherwise, the toothbrush may abrade the softened enamel. Rinsing with plain water after drinking vinegar water will probably help protect the teeth somewhat.

Q: At 46, I'm approaching the time to decide how to treat my menopause. I know that hormone replacement is the usual recommendation, but I have read about the negative consequences of HRT.

I would like to know more about natural treatments for the loss of hormones. In a nutshell, what is your advice for someone who wants to use a holistic medicinal approach to treating menopause?

A: Certain herbal medicines may well be helpful. A German study found a standardized black cohosh extract helpful against hot flashes in a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial (Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine online, Dec. 23, 2012).

Pycnogenol, a product derived from maritime pine bark, also has been studied and found beneficial for sleep problems as well as hot flashes (Journal of Reproductive Medicine, January-February 2013).

We are sending you our Guide to Menopause, with more information about these and other nondrug approaches to controlling menopausal symptoms. Anyone who would like a copy, can download it for $2 from our website: www.peoplespharmacy.com.

Q: Actually, this is not a question but an answer. On your radio show, a caller with lactose intolerance asked about eating yogurt. I also am lactose-intolerant and have come up with a very good solution that I would like to share with you.

I buy lactase capsules, add a little bit of water and crush them with a mortar and pestle. They dissolve easily. I add this mixture to fresh yogurt and put it in the refrigerator for two hours. I can eat this without problems. I've also used this technique with cottage cheese.

A: Lactose intolerance results from a lack of the digestive enzyme lactase that breaks down milk sugar. Symptoms may include bloating, gas and diarrhea. Thanks for an interesting solution.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of this newspaper.

or e-mail them via their website: www.PeoplesPharmacy.com. Their newest book is "Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them."

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