Q. I keep reading that we should be eating more whole grains. But what are they? My neighbor, who is a nutrition nut, says that whole-wheat bread doesn't really count as a whole grain.
A. Many of the wheat breads found in the supermarket contain a fair amount of white flour. Unless they are made only with whole-wheat flour and wheat berries, they are not really whole-grain foods. Here is a list of some whole grains to look for: barley, buckwheat, millet, oats, quinoa, brown rice, rye and wheat berries.
Q. Is there a natural remedy for heartburn? I have recently been diagnosed with reflux.
I have not gotten any relief from the proton-pump inhibitors, and I do not like the idea of suppressing acid. Isn't there a reason for stomach acid in the digestive process? I have done everything recommended regarding diet restrictions, and I am still suffering.
A. Acid is important in the stomach. For one thing, it creates an inhospitable environment. Germs have a hard time surviving in acid.
According to a study in Holland, people taking acid-suppressing drugs are more likely to come down with pneumonia (Journal of the American Medical Association, Oct. 27, 2004). Presumably, this is because bacteria not killed by stomach acid can get into the lungs and cause trouble.
If you are avoiding fatty foods, tomatoes, onions, mint and chocolate but still having heartburn, there are some other approaches to try. One is simply chewing gum. This stimulates the flow of saliva and helps neutralize acid that has splashed into the lower esophagus. Sucking on hard candy might have the same effect. Propping the head of the bed higher than the foot can help reduce nighttime heartburn.
We are sending you our Guide to Digestive Disorders, with a discussion of treatments for heartburn and drugs that can aggravate it. Anyone who would like a copy, please send $2 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped (60 cents), self-addressed envelope to: Graedons' People's Pharmacy, No. G-3, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027.
Q. You have written in the past about dropping keys down the back to stop a nosebleed. I grew up in rural North Carolina. When someone in the family got a nosebleed, my daddy always put a bunch of car keys down their back. The nosebleed stopped pronto. He was uneducated, but the remedies that he used worked for us.
A. We can't explain why this key remedy would work, but many readers report that it is surprisingly effective.
Q. Some time ago you wrote about the benefit of pomegranate juice. I could not find it at any store in my area. Now my supermarket is carrying it, and I forgot the benefit you wrote about. Could you refresh my memory?
A. Pomegranate fruit and juice have several potential health benefits. Animal research has shown preventive action against skin cancer (International Journal of Cancer, Jan. 20, 2005), breast cancer and prostate cancer (Journal of Medicinal Food, fall 2004).
Israeli researchers have found that pomegranate juice can lower blood pressure (Atherosclerosis, September 2001). The juice also helps protect the arteries from plaque formation (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, May 2000).
Several readers report that pomegranate juice may be helpful against diarrhea. Too much, though, might be constipating.
XIn their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 888 Seventh Ave., New York, NY 10019, or e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org or via their Web site: www.peoplespharmacy.org.
& copy; 2005 King Features Syndicate Inc.