DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I have had acid reflux for quite some time, and doctors have prescribed different medicines, the last being omeprazole. Medicines were not relieving the burning pain. The best advice came from an online message board that said to “sleep on your left side.” Figuring it wouldn’t hurt to try this method, I began sleeping on my left side. Once my body learned to stay in that position, the pain does not bother me now at all at night. Why don’t doctors share such simple methods for relief rather than prescribing medications? Please pass this information on to others. — N.S.
ANSWER: When it works, a change in sleeping position is a simple way to deal with a big problem. It doesn’t work for everyone. In fact, it works for only a few, but it’s still valuable advice and is something that should be suggested more often. A change in sleeping position also can work for snoring. Sleeping on the side, right or left, can open up the throat and stop snoring. Redundant throat tissue, like a reed in a wind instrument, lies behind snoring. Sewing a pocket in the back of the pajamas and putting either a tennis ball or a marble in it keeps snorers off their backs.
Other self-help tips for GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease, heartburn or acid indigestion — all are the same condition) include staying away from foods that cause it. Onions, garlic, coffee, carbonated beverages, alcohol, chocolate, fried and fatty foods, citrus fruits and juices, tomato sauces, peppermint, spearmint and spicy foods are notorious troublemakers.
Sleeping with the head of the bed elevated is another way to keep stomach acid in the stomach. Prop 6- or 8-inch blocks under the posts at the head of the bed. In this position, gravity keeps stomach acid in the stomach.
Chewing gum stimulates saliva production, and saliva is a natural antacid.
Don’t wear tight garments or tight belts, both of which promote acid reflux. I managed to get through this answer without mentioning a single medicine, not even Tums.
The booklet on GERD — heartburn — provides an insight into this common malady and its treatment. Readers can order a copy by writing: Dr. Donohue — No. 501W, Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.75 U.S./$6 Canada with the recipient’s printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: There seems to be a vaccine for everything except strep throat. My kids get it at the drop of a hat. Their pediatrician claims that tonsillectomies don’t work. Is there a possibility of a vaccine? — K.T.
ANSWER: There is a possibility of a strep vaccine. Doctors currently are working on it.
Is the doctor sure that these repeated sore throats are strep throats? The only definite proof is a culture of the throat or specific tests for the strep germ. Most sore throats are viral-caused.
If a child has severe and frequent strep throats, removing the tonsils lessens the number of infections. “Frequent” means seven or more infections in one year or five or more in the preceding two years.
Dr. Donohue regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but he will incorporate them in his column whenever possible. Readers may write him or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475.
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