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Q: I have had severe heartburn problems for 15 years. I have tried Nexium, Prilosec and many other over-the-counter medicines.

I knew that coffee triggered my heartburn, but I could not give it up. After one bad attack, I started eating yogurt each morning. I’ve been free of heartburn, even after three cups of coffee.

I mentioned this to a friend whose husband also had a severe heartburn problem. He tried eating yogurt each evening, and he also has been heartburn-free.

There must be something in the yogurt that is keeping heartburn at bay. What might it be?

A: Japanese researchers confirm your experience (Pharmaceuticals, June 25, 2014). People with persistent heartburn who had not achieved symptom relief with acid-suppressing drugs took yogurt with active lactobacillus daily for three months. This probiotic treatment improved symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Although coffee is considered a prime culprit in causing GERD, a recent meta-analysis determined that there is no significant association between heartburn symptoms and coffee intake (Diseases of the Esophagus, May-June 2014).

Q: The People’s Pharmacy is batting 3-for-3 in our household. First, it was the fresh-cut onion to ease the pain of a bee string. Next it was soy sauce on a kitchen burn.

Then I cut my thumb chopping an onion. The cut wasn’t serious, but there was a lot of bleeding — until I remembered your black-pepper solution. I had to grind the pepper with one hand, but I was amazed at how fast and well it worked. It also promoted healing. Amazing!

A: Thank you for this lovely testimonial. Having the pepper preground can be helpful for such a situation, even if you only use fresh-ground in cooking. These remedies and hundreds more can be found in our book “Quick and Handy Home Remedies,” available in libraries or online at

Q: I have a question about consuming coconut oil. A psychiatrist I know said that a person could avoid Alzheimer’s disease with mental stimulation, regular exercise, vitamin E and virgin coconut oil in the diet.

I was always under the impression that coconut oil is high in saturated fat, which raises cholesterol levels. Have there been any new studies about coconut oil to indicate that it’s now beneficial for health? How about drinking coconut juice?

A: Coconut has been controversial for decades. Preliminary animal research suggests that coconut juice might be helpful in preventing brain changes associated with Alzheimer’s disease (British Journal of Nutrition, March 14 2011). We will be interested to see whether clinical trials in humans demonstrate similar benefits.

Because coconut oil is high in saturated fat, nutritionists have discouraged its inclusion in the diet. But there is growing recognition that the evidence behind this prohibition is not very strong. The assumption was that saturated fat from any source would raise cholesterol and increase the likelihood of atherosclerosis in the coronary arteries.

A meta-analysis that included 72 studies did not find a link between saturated-fat consumption and the risk of heart disease or stroke (Annals of Internal Medicine, March 18, 2014). A review of dietary fats and health cited studies showing health benefits from coconut-oil consumption (Advances in Nutrition, May 1, 2013).

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them c/o King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., 15th floor, New York, NY 10019, or via their website: