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Some new thoughts about constipation



DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I have a problem with chronic constipation. I drink approximately six to eight glasses of iced tea every day. Could the tannin in tea contribute to my constipation? I don’t particularly enjoy plain water, so I drink tea for my fluid intake. – M.C.

ANSWER: Tea isn’t constipating you, and you can use it for your fluid intake.

Constipation is having fewer than three stools a week or having stools that are hard and difficult to pass without straining.

Some new thoughts on constipation and laxatives fly in the face of what we’ve been taught. One is that an increased amount of fluid is necessary for regularity. That advice has never been proved. People should drink enough fluid to keep themselves hydrated, and thirst can be their guide in most cases – perhaps not for the very old. The intestinal tract regulates how much fluid gets into it.

Fiber works as a constipation cure for some, but not all. Twenty-five to 30 grams (30 grams is 1 ounce) is recommended daily. Fiber is indigestible material in foods. Fruits, vegetables and whole grains have the most. Bran, available in health-food stores, is another good fiber source if you can’t get enough in food. And if you don’t fancy bran, then products like psyllium and methylcellulose work. Names include Metamucil and Fiberall. You can also make your own stool softener by adding 2 cups of bran to 2 cups of applesauce and 1 cup of prune juice. Refrigerate the mix and take 1 to 3 tablespoons a day as needed.

Colace and Surfak are stool softeners and can be used freely.

We learned that most laxatives should be used sparingly in order not to develop a “laxative habit.” This is another piece of advice that has been challenged. Many authorities now say it’s a myth, that the colon doesn’t become dependent on laxatives. A brand-new laxative, Amitiza, has relieved constipation for many. It’s a prescription medicine.

The booklet on constipation and laxatives gives more advice for attaining regularity. Readers can obtain a copy by writing: Dr. Donohue – No. 504W, Box 536475, Orlando, FL32853- 6475. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.75 U.S./ $6.75 Canada with the recipient’s printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Do migraine headaches result from a magnesium deficiency? I heard an infomercial on TV that said low levels of magnesium are responsible for migraines. The commercial’s sponsor just happened to be selling a product that contains magnesium. Would it be worth my while to send for it? – R.P.

ANSWER: Some studies have shown that magnesium can block migraine headaches in a few people. It’s not a universal antidote for all migraine headaches, and not many, if any, migraine specialists believe that all such headaches are due to magnesium deficiency.

The daily magnesium requirement for women 31 and older is 320 mg and for men of the same ages, 420 mg. If you want to try a supplement that doesn’t exceed those requirements by very much, it would be safe to experiment.

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, FL32853- 6475.

©2007 North America Synd., Inc.

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