Q: My mother has neck and back pain and sees a physical therapist for it. When her PT was unavailable for a few weeks, she was in considerable pain.

I suggested she take aspirin for pain relief, but it gives her terrible heartburn. All NSAIDs do. A few weeks ago, I read about a study in which rats with NSAID-induced ulcers were given honey. In two weeks, the honey had healed 83 percent of the ulcers and protected their stomachs from further damage.

I decided to perform an experiment: Mom agreed to try taking honey with her aspirin. The result: no heartburn! I may be more excited than she is because my experiment has worked so well. Maybe this has the potential to help other people who have to take aspirin for a medical condition but experience irritation.

A: Your experiment is fascinating. A review of research suggests that honey can heal ulcers in rats (Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, July 15, 2018). That said, until there is a clinical trial with human subjects, this approach is at best experimental.

Q: I have had dry eyes for years and tried all sorts of artificial tear products. When I went for my most recent eye exam, I mentioned this to the doctor. She did some tests in darkness with a direct light. She said my tears were (in my words) more globby, I believe, and therefore not coating the surface of my eye correctly.

She suggested I take oral krill oil. I purchased a supplement, and guess what? It works! I hardly need to use eyedrops at all.


A: When the tears become too viscous, as yours had, they may not do the job of protecting the cornea as they should. A study in people with type 2 diabetes and dry-eye disorder found that omega-3 fatty acids improve the tear film and help the surface of the eye (Journal of the American College of Nutrition, January 2017).

Krill oil is derived from tiny marine creatures that are a great source of these omega-3 fats. A study in the journal Ophthalmology (January 2017) found that supplementation with krill oil improved symptoms of dry eye disease.

On the other hand, a relatively large clinical trial comparing omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil to placebo found no benefit for dry eye (New England Journal of Medicine, May 3, 2018).

Q: My doctor prescribed an antibiotic (levofloxacin, or Levaquin) and a probiotic (Primadophilus) for an infection. I am to take one pill of each per day, but it seems to me like one cancels out the other.

The doctor says there are no conclusive guidelines on how these are to be taken. Should I take one in the morning and the other in the evening each day, or take the probiotic after the antibiotic series is finished? Do you have any recommendations?

A: People often turn to probiotics to help the digestive tract recover from a course of antibiotic therapy. That is because antibacterial drugs can disrupt the ecology of the gut bacteria.

The science surrounding this concept has been controversial. A study of probiotics following antibiotic treatment demonstrated that these “beneficial bacteria” can actually slow recovery of the normal microbiota (Cell, Sept. 6, 2018). What may work better is to restore the microbial ecology with a transplant of stool taken before the course of antibiotics.