Sometimes spicy food can quell the heat of heartburn

Pharmaceutical IndustryChemical IndustryThailandHeart Disease

Q: Here in the U.S., I get acid reflux about every other day. Even bland food can set it off. I treat it occasionally with ranitidine (Zantac).

When I'm in Thailand, however, I eat the spiciest food I've ever put to my lips. For some odd reason, I get no heartburn whatsoever. Do you know why this is?

A: Peculiar as it may sound, the spice you consume in Thailand may be protecting you from heartburn. Research has shown that capsaicin, which gives chili peppers their heat, might actually be helpful against heartburn (Journal of Neurogastroenterology and Motility, April 2010).

Some readers take cayenne capsules to ease reflux symptoms. Other unusual heartburn remedies include vinegar, almonds or chewing gum.

Q: What's the story on chocolate? I have a friend who claims a recent study on chocolate and health benefits is biased because it was sponsored by a major chocolate corporation.

What's your take on it? How beneficial is chocolate?

A: We share your concern about objectivity. It is true that the Mars company has financed many rigorous studies on chocolate. But a lot of independently funded research has confirmed the benefits.

The cocoa flavanols that give chocolate its distinctive flavor also lower blood pressure, help blood vessels stay flexible and keep blood platelets from sticking together in clots (Current Hypertension Reports online, June 9, 2012). They also reduce insulin resistance.

Australian investigators recently published a study suggesting that chocolate could significantly lower mortality from heart disease (BMJ online, May 31, 2012). The Australian Research Council andSanofi-Aventis Australia (a pharmaceutical company) funded this research.

Q: I'm a guy, and my siblings have had varicose veins. I don't yet, but my legs used to ache from being on my feet too long at work. In addition, I work in areas with tall weeds and need a way to keep ticks from attaching to my legs.

My lady friend suggested pantyhose. Wearing them solved both problems.

A 100 percent nylon leg (ultra sheer) with a control top actually offers better support than expensive support hose.

They itch if I wear them for hours, so I tried wearing them inside out. That improved comfort to such an extent that I forget I'm wearing them. They're great for eliminating chafing in the thighs when I ride my bike. With a little care, I can get two weeks from one pair.

A: We first heard about men wearing pantyhose for leg support several years ago. Your solution may seem a bit unusual, but you are by no means the only man who finds this helpful.

Here's one reader's comment: "There is no reason to buy really expensive support hose if you can find a good pair of women's pantyhose that give the support you're looking for. I'm a 6-foot-tall male who weighs more than 200 pounds. I have found two styles that fit and feel great: firm and medium leg toning support. I wear size F."

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Send questions to them via peoplespharmacy.com.

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