Something stuck in your throat? Ordinary cola could help clear the way. Plus: the anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric, and what’s really in CBD?

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Q: You recently wrote that drinking Coca-Cola could help free a piece of meat stuck in the swallowing tube. This stuff unclogs sink traps, so I guess it is plausible that it might dislodge meat.

A zillion years ago, I worked at a veterinary office. On Saturdays, after we finished with dog baths, we were told to pour a liter bottle of Coke down the bathtub drain and let it sit until Monday morning. That bathtub always drained beautifully!

I would like to point out that we have teeth for the purpose of chewing food before swallowing it. There are no teeth inside the digestive tract past the mouth. So slow down and chew your food well before swallowing, and it shouldn’t get stuck.

A: A reader told us that a large piece of meat got stuck while he was swallowing it. A swig of cold Coca-Cola freed it. To our surprise we found reference to this approach in the medical literature (Gastroenterology Research and Practice, online, Nov. 18, 2013).

This remedy is not appropriate if the person has trouble breathing. The Heimlich maneuver and a call to 911 are critical in such cases.

Food should always be chewed thoroughly. If the Coke remedy doesn’t work, emergency medical treatment is necessary.

Q: My brother has had worsening Dupuytren’s contracture for the past 10 years. But in the past month he has seen amazing improvement. He can now open his hands nearly all the way.

He attributes this change to the turmeric capsules he started taking for knee pain. He said he felt a change happening in his hands within three days of the first pill. Have you ever heard of this?

A: We had never heard of turmeric helping Dupuytren’s contracture. This condition results from a thickening and tightening of connective tissue in the palm of the hand. Frequently the fourth or fifth fingers may curl in toward the palm, making it hard to put on gloves.

Turmeric has anti-inflammatory activity. That may explain why it can be helpful for knee pain (Journal of Medicinal Food, May 2018) as well as why your brother has found it helpful for Dupuytren’s contracture.

You can learn more about turmeric and other natural agents with anti-inflammatory activity in our book “Spice Up Your Health.” It may be purchased at

Q: The discs and vertebrae in my spine are degenerating and causing me severe pain. I started taking CBD oil a few months ago.

Once it had time to build up in my system, the pain relief was miraculous. Sadly, I recently did a home drug test and it was positive for THC. I need to talk to my doctor because I have no idea how to address this. It’s legal to buy CBD oil over-the-counter in my state, but there’s no way to prove that it is the source of any THC in my test.

A: Cannabidiol (CBD) oil is legal in many states because it does not make people euphoric. It is not supposed to have any tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in it. This is the compound that produces a marijuana high.

The Food and Drug Administration has approved one purified form of CBD as a prescription anticonvulsant medication, Epidiolex. Research on CBD oil suggests some benefit against pain and inflammation (Molecules, October 2018).

Unfortunately, not all CBD manufacturers are able to remove all traces of THC. One study found that some people tested positive for THC after taking CBD oil (Journal of Pain Research, online, Feb. 12, 2016).