Q. My wife had vascular surgery for blocked arteries in both legs three months ago. She also had an aneurysm in her abdomen repaired. The doctor told her she probably would not have bowel movements for a while until her plumbing sorted itself back into proper position.
She had problems and tried laxatives that gave her an upset stomach or didn’t work. She finally tried prune juice, and it works, but a little too well. Getting the “dose” right has been a problem. Can she become addicted to prune juice?
A. Prune juice has been used for decades to combat constipation. Research suggests that prunes also may have heart benefits, since this fruit prevents oxidation of bad LDL cholesterol (Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, July 2001).
Although it is possible to become dependent on stimulant laxatives, there is no evidence that this is a problem with moderate prune consumption. To help your wife deal with the “dosing” issue and discover other natural remedies, we are sending you our Guides to Constipation and Digestive Disorders. Anyone who would like copies, please send $4 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped (61 cents), self-addressed envelope to: Graedons’ People’s Pharmacy, No. GG-33, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027. Each can be downloaded for $2 from our website: www.peoples pharmacy.com.
“Power Pudding” is a combination of prune juice, coarse bran and applesauce. For years, nurses have recommended taking 1 tablespoon of the mixture with a glass of water to alleviate constipation.
Q. I currently follow a strict vegetarian diet and consume no animal products at all. Since vitamin B-12 is missing from the vegan diet, I wonder how many micrograms of it I should take. I’ve seen B-12 pills of up to 1,500 micrograms each in my food co-op, but the daily requirement is just 3 micrograms.
A. Vitamin B-12 deficiency is far more common than most people realize. Vegans (who eat no eggs, dairy or other animal products) are frequently lacking in this essential nutrient. Older people and those who take powerful acid-suppressing drugs also may be low.
Symptoms of a deficiency include numbness or tingling in legs and arms, trouble walking, sore tongue, loss of appetite, constipation, memory loss and disorientation. You will need to ask your physician for a blood test (MMA as well as vitamin B-12). She should be able to recommend the best B-12 dose based on your blood levels.
Because vitamin B-12 is not well-absorbed from pills, you may need a higher dose than the RDA. One study of older people with B-12 deficiency found that daily doses of roughly 600 to 1,000 micrograms (0.6 to 1 mg) of vitamin B-12 were needed to reverse deficiency (Archives of Internal Medicine, May 23, 2005).
Q. I use the soap trick for restless leg, and after a couple of weeks the effect seems to wear off. I’ve discovered that shaving the top layer off with a potato peeler has the same effect as a new bar of soap. This might save folks some money, especially those on a fixed income.
A. Thanks for the tip. We continue to be amazed by reports from readers that soap under the bottom sheet can help ease leg cramps. We have no clue as to how (or if) it works. People do tell us that the benefits “wear off” after several weeks, and they have to replace the bar of soap to recapture the effect.
Your soap-shaving trick may somehow restore the mysterious healing power. Of course, soap never goes to waste. Once you’re done with it, just take it into the shower.