DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I have had acid reflux for at least 15 years. My problem is that I have been on everything for it, but have severe reactions to all reflux medicines. Can anything be done for me? I am going crazy. – P.S.

ANSWER: Acid reflux, GERD (gastroesophageal reflux) and heartburn are all the same.

Since medicines are off-limits for you, let’s take a stab at this without mentioning any.

Change the way you eat. Eat very slowly. Fast eating distends the stomach and encourages stomach acid to spurt into the esophagus to cause heartburn. Lose weight if you need to. Fat compresses the stomach and leads to reflux of stomach juices. Don’t wear any constricting clothes or belts, for the same reason. Don’t ever lie down immediately after eating. Eat smaller but more frequent meals. Stay away from peppermint, chocolate, fatty and fried foods, citrus drinks and other acidic food and drink, tomatoes, spicy foods, alcohol and caffeine. Don’t smoke. Put 6-inch blocks under the posts at the head of your bed so gravity can keep stomach acid in the stomach during the night. Don’t eat within three hours of going to sleep.

If these steps fail, consider procedures that tighten the muscle sphincter (SFINK-tur) that shuts off the bottom of the esophagus. Some of these procedures can be done with a scope passed through the mouth. One employs radiofrequency energy to produce painless burns in the area of the sphincter. The scars that form after the burn tighten the lower esophageal region and keep it closed to stomach acid. Another scope procedure involves placing sutures in the lower esophagus via the scope. The sutures provide a barrier to stomach acid.

Of course, there is surgery for reinforcing the esophagus’s juncture with the stomach. It can be done either through a regular incision or with a laparoscope, which requires only a small cut in the skin.

The booklet on hiatal hernia and heartburn provides details on this common problem. Readers can obtain a copy by writing: Dr. Donohue – No. 501, Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.75 U.S./$6.75 Can. with the recipient’s printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: For the past year, I have been eating two prunes daily right out of the box. I am no longer troubled by constipation. I am 87 years old.

I think you should pass this on to your readers. I have no financial interest in the prune/dried plum market. – T.B.

ANSWER: I too think I should pass the information on. I always listen to my seniors.

Prunes, now renamed as dried plums, are nature’s laxative. They contain sorbitol, which keeps stool moist and soft. Their fiber content also contributes to their laxative effect. And they probably have some as-yet-undiscovered substance that keeps us regular. You get by with only two prunes a day; some have to eat six to eight to achieve the desired effect. That’s not too many.

Thank you for the financial disclaimer.

Dr. Donohue regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but he will incorporate them in his column whenever possible. Readers may write him or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Readers may also order health newsletters from

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