Chocolate coating on almonds can counteract effect on heartburn

I read with interest that eating three almonds before or after a meal could help with heartburn. Do you see any problem with the almonds being chocolate-covered?

We're afraid so. Although they are delicious, chocolate-covered almonds are unlikely to be helpful. That's because chocolate may relax the lower esophageal sphincter, the ring of muscle that separates the stomach from the esophagus. Heartburn happens when this muscle relaxes and allows acid to splash back up into the swallowing tube.

Without the chocolate coating, though, almonds have been winning praise: "I wanted to tell you that almonds really work to prevent heartburn. I had heartburn after dinner no matter what I ate. When I saw your column about almonds, I bought a big container of roasted almonds …. I have been eating a few after dinner, and I have not had heartburn since."

My fingernails began to break and peel, so I ordered a product to strengthen them. I discovered upon reading the ingredients that it contains formaldehyde. Can this possibly be safe to use?

Some people develop contact dermatitis (a type of allergic reaction) in response to formaldehyde. What's more, formaldehyde "hardens" nails by drying them, which often makes them brittle.

Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist, and Teresa Graedon is an expert in medical anthropology and nutrition. http://www.peoplespharmacy.com.

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