Q: My brain will not turn off at night, so I can’t get to sleep until 3 a.m. or later. I wake up almost exactly five hours later. That’s almost enough rest to keep me going, but I’m exhausted, and now I’m sick.
I’ve had trouble sleeping for many years, but it has gotten worse in the past month. I have used a variety of natural supplements for sleeping. Some that used to work are no longer helpful. What do you suggest?
A: If you prefer a natural approach, you might consider the Indian plant Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera). According to Tieraona Low Dog, M.D., an expert on botanical and integrative medicine, Ashwagandha is helpful for people who are “wired but tired.” It has an anti-anxiety effect that may help you stop ruminating.
Cognitive behavioral therapy also is recognized as an effective treatment for the kind of insomnia you are dealing with. To learn more about Ashwagandha and other natural approaches to insomnia, we offer our Guide to Getting a Good Night’s Sleep (online at www.PeoplesPharmacy.com).
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Q: I have stumbled upon a remedy for my acid reflux: sparkling water. I drank some because that’s all my daughter had available, and then noticed I didn’t have acid reflux all day.
I sip one can of sparkling water a day, and it pretty much controls the reflux. My question is: Will this much sparkling water be harmful to me? I’m going to look for it in glass bottles.
By taking your advice, I previously weaned myself off Nexium. It took about four months, but I have not taken it in two years. Sparkling water and an occasional Rolaid seem safer than a PPI.
A: Japanese researchers report that carbonated water alleviates indigestion, at least temporarily (Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology, Vol. 58, No. 5, 2012).
An old-fashioned approach, half a teaspoon of baking soda in 4 ounces of water, generates carbon dioxide, the same gas that is used in sparkling water. A glass every now and then should not pose a problem. Other ways to wash acid back into the stomach include sucking on hard candy, chewing sugarless gum or sipping chamomile tea.
Q: The other day, I had a big split at the tip of my thumb. I was visiting a friend, and we went to the drugstore. I happened to see a box of something called finger cots. They are basically disposable gloves for individual fingers.
She had a healing ointment, so I put that on with a finger cot and happily finished my Christmas shopping. A few hours later, the cracked fingertip was almost healed. I repeated the process the next day, and the split was gone.
A: Thanks for the tip. A nurse once told us that frequent hand-washing in the hospital led to painful cracks on her thumbs and fingertips. She paints the cracks with two or three layers of clear nail polish to seal and protect them while they heal.
Other readers recommend instant glue. One woman was allergic to latex and could not wear finger cots or rubber gloves. She said that the glue “stops the pain, protects the cracks from germs and heals them, usually within three days.”
Using a moisturizer at this time of year also is helpful. We recommend one with 20 percent urea to speed healing.
In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Email them via PeoplesPharmacy.com. Their newest book is “Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them.”