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Sugarless Gum Replaces Heartburn Pills

Q. I suffer from heartburn on a daily basis, sometimes even with medication. So I was very interested to read that chewing gum might help.
I take over-the-counter acid suppressors and decided to substitute sugarless gum after breakfast and then after lunch. It has been very successful for me.
I have tried to eliminate the after-dinner heartburn tablets. I can actually stave off heartburn all evening, but run a high risk of it coming in the middle of the night. My husband does not want to raise the head of the bed, so I take a tablet before dinner or bed to counter a nighttime episode.
An additional benefit to chewing gum is that it can fight off a sweet tooth attack.
A. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine almost two decades ago documented the power of saliva to ease heartburn. Sucking on a hard lozenge or chewing gum were shown to ease symptoms.
New research demonstrates that chewing sugarless gum for 30 minutes after a meal dramatically eases acid reflux. Such “gum therapy” offers an inexpensive and pleasant solution to a common problem.
Q. With grapefruit in season, I am worried that my son’s anticonvulsant medicine may interact since he loves it. Paradoxically, too much Tegretol caused him to have seizures last summer. Once the dose was lowered from 800 mg to 600 mg, he did much better. Would grapefruit affect his medication and cause a problem?
A. Grapefruit can boost blood levels of Tegretol (carbamazepine) significantly. This would be comparable to a higher dose and might put him at risk of seizures once again.
It is not always necessary for patients to give up on grapefruit completely. We received the following inquiry:
“My wife and I are both on Lipitor. We live in central Florida and have a good-sized grapefruit tree in the back yard. It yields bushels of very delicious pink grapefruit each year that are so sweet they don’t require sugar.
“Last week I asked my doctor if there was another medication that I could take for cholesterol that would not react with grapefruit. She said, ‘I don’t know, ask your pharmacist.’ I did and his answer was, ‘I don’t know.’ Do you know?”
Unlike Lipitor, Pravachol is a cholesterol-lowering drug that does not interact with grapefruit. There are also some anti-seizure medicines that are safe with grapefruit. Discuss alternatives with your doctor.
We would like to send you our Guide to Grapefruit Interactions. Anyone who wishes a copy, please send $2 in check or money order with a long (no. 10) stamped, self-addressed envelope: Graedons’ People’s Pharmacy, No. J-91, P. O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027.
Q. I take Singulair and it has been a great help with my asthma. One side effect I read on the print-out was bad dreams. And believe me, I am having them, big time.
What can I do to get rid of the bad dreams and still get the good effects of this medicine? I asked my doctor if medicine could really cause bad dreams and he said it was entirely possible.
A. A surprising number of medications can cause nightmares or “dream abnormalities.” Although these are not common with Singulair, they have been reported.
We do not know of an antidote to counteract this side effect. If it is too disturbing, your physician may wish to consider a different asthma medication.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.”.
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