DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I have had acid reflux for quite some time, and doctors have prescribed different medicines, the last being omeprazole. Medicines were not relieving the burning pain. The best advice came from an online message board that said to “sleep on your left side.” Figuring it wouldn’t hurt to try this method, I began sleeping on my left side. Once my body learned to stay in that position, the pain does not bother me now at all at night. Why don’t doctors share such simple methods for relief rather than prescribing medications? Please pass this information on to others. — N.S.

ANSWER: When it works, a change in sleeping position is a simple way to deal with a big problem. It doesn’t work for everyone. In fact, it works for only a few, but it’s still valuable advice and is something that should be suggested more often. A change in sleeping position also can work for snoring. Sleeping on the side, right or left, can open up the throat and stop snoring. Redundant throat tissue, like a reed in a wind instrument, lies behind snoring. Sewing a pocket in the back of the pajamas and putting either a tennis ball or a marble in it keeps snorers off their backs.
Other self-help tips for GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease, heartburn or acid indigestion – all are the same condition) include staying away from foods that cause it. Onions, garlic, coffee, carbonated beverages, alcohol, chocolate, fried and fatty foods, citrus fruits and juices, tomato sauces, peppermint, spearmint and spicy foods are notorious troublemakers.
Sleeping with the head of the bed elevated is another way to keep stomach acid in the stomach. Prop 6-or 8-inch blocks under the posts at the head of the bed. In this position, gravity keeps stomach acid in the stomach.
Chewing gum stimulates saliva production, and saliva is a natural antacid.
Don’t wear tight garments or tight belts, both of which promote acid reflux. I managed to get through this answer without mentioning a single medicine, not even Tums.
The booklet on GERD — heartburn — provides an insight into this common malady and its treatment. Readers can order 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 Can. with the recipient’s printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Would you kindly advise us on fatty liver? What can be done for it? What does it lead to? — H.C.

ANSWER: The liver should have no fat. Fat infiltrates it for a couple of reasons. One is excessive alcohol. Another is nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, a common occurrence. It doesn’t always cause damage, but it can progress to something called NASH, nonalcoholic steatohepatitis – a condition that can further progress to cirrhosis. This stage is best discovered through a liver biopsy. The first treatment for liver fat, including NASH, is weight loss. For many, it’s the only treatment needed to correct the situation.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I would like information on Marfan’s syndrome. — W.S.

ANSWER: Marfan’s syndrome is an inherited illness that affects bones, joints, heart, arteries and eyes. Patients tend to be tall, with long, thin extremities and long, slender fingers. Their joints are loose and easily dislocated. Heart valves might leak. The aorta – the body’s largest artery – can develop bulges, or aneurysms, that are liable to burst and cause a hemorrhage. The breast bone often displays a central depression or a central protrusion. Scoliosis, a curving of the spine to the right or left, is another common feature. The lens of the eye frequently comes out of place. Not every Marfan’s patient has all these signs. Heart and artery involvement are most important to discover early in order to prevent lethal complications.
Medicines are available to control many of the heart problems, and surgery can correct the others.
An Olympic athlete with undiagnosed Marfan’s syndrome died while participating in her sport. If the condition had been discovered, death likely would have been avoided.

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

Comments are no longer available on this story