Coffee

Coffee (Michael Mahovlich/Radius Images photo)

Q: I've read that something in coffee raises cholesterol. I also read that using a filter to prepare the coffee blocks this compound. I guess if I drink instant coffee, I'm raising my LDL cholesterol. Is that true?

A: It depends somewhat on how much you drink. The cholesterol-raising compounds in coffee, cafestol and kahweol, are found in very low levels in instant coffee and in filtered coffee (Food and Chemical Toxicology, June 1997).

Most of the early research connecting coffee consumption and elevated cholesterol found that traditional "boiled" coffee made in the Scandinavian or Turkish styles could raise serum cholesterol significantly (New England Journal of Medicine, June 16, 1983).

Twenty years later, however, researchers in Sweden found that filtered coffee could raise serum cholesterol more than previously appreciated (European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, September 2003). Other researchers found that five cups of instant coffee daily could result in a small but significant increase in cholesterol (European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, October 1995). Drinking a few cups of instant coffee is not likely to change your cholesterol dramatically.

Q: Do you have a diet for helping me survive omeprazole detox? When I forgot to take the drug two days in a row, I experienced heartburn hell. Earlier, I tried to take myself off the drug, but I could only stand it for a week. Now I can't skip one day without wanting to die.

A: Stopping powerful acid-suppressing drugs like omeprazole (Prilosec), esomeprazole (Nexium) and lansoprazole (Prevacid) can be tough. In one study, even people who never had heartburn before developed it upon stopping this type of medication (Gastroenterology, July 2009).

A low-carb diet can be helpful. So can remedies like almonds, broccoli, "Digestive Tea," "Ginger Pickle" and "Persimmon Punch."

Q: I have read about raisins soaked in gin for arthritis pain but have hesitated because of the gin. Lately, someone sent me another remedy that I tried. I found it works so well that I thought you might like to share it with your readers.

Mix about 1 teaspoon of cinnamon in a cup of hot water, then add 2 tablespoons of honey to it. Once it is cool enough, drink it. Do this daily for 2 weeks.

A: We appreciate the remedy you have shared. We've not encountered this approach to joint pain before.

Q: I had hiccups every 10 seconds by the clock. I tried all the tricks, but the hiccups just would not stop.

I saw the doctor on the second day, and he pulled out his reference book. The cure was benzonatate. Within two days, I had no more hiccups. This drug really did the job. My home drug book says it works on the cough center of the brain.

A: When hiccups last that long, they can be extremely painful and disruptive. It is important for a physician to make sure nothing serious is causing the problem.

Benzonatate (Tessalon) is a nonnarcotic prescription cough medicine. It is thought to work through a local anesthetic action, suppressing the cough reflex. We could find no studies of its use against persistent hiccups, but it is occasionally used off-label for this purpose.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Send questions to them via peoplespharmacy.com.