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Dear Dr. Roach: You recently wrote an article on the risk of heart disease with aspirin and anti-inflammatory drugs. What about acetaminophen (Tylenol)? I have been taking this for many years of pain following spinal surgeries.

C.S.

Dear C.S.: There have been some studies that have shown a mild increase in risk of heart disease among chronic heavy users of acetaminophen. However, most of the data have shown that among people who use it every other day or less (on average), if there is a risk, it probably is small. Heavy users of anti-inflammatory medicines such as naproxen probably are at a higher-than-average risk for heart disease, as well. Acetaminophen is considered to be one of the safest medications for pain relief, but all medicines have the potential for side effects.

Dear Dr. Roach: I’m a 67-year-old man in fairly good health, but I was diagnosed with celiac sprue over 10 years ago by a blood test. I maintain a gluten-free diet the best I can, but I’m sure occasionally I get some gluten. How close are we to a cure or some type of medicine that one can take to break down gluten? Are there different levels of gluten intolerance? I have eaten food containing gluten with no side effects.

R.F.

Dear R.F.: Celiac disease, also called “celiac sprue”’ or “gluten-sensitive enteropathy,” is an immune disorder triggered by gliadin, a component of gluten, which is found in wheat, rye and barley, and in some other grains.

The definitive treatment is meticulous, strict compliance with a completely gluten-free diet, as minuscule amounts (as little as 30 mg) of gliadin can trigger a reaction in the gut. This leads to the inability to absorb nutrients, and possibly predisposes one to development of lymphoma and gastrointestinal cancer.

However, you are right that some people are more tolerant than others and can tolerate amounts of gluten that would cause symptoms in others. Nonetheless, I recommend a strict gluten-free diet for people with celiac disease.

A new medication, larazotide, is being developed not to break down gliadin, but to reduce the body’s response to gliadin. It is in late-stage clinical trials.

Email questions to ToYourGoodHealth@med.cornell.edu.

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