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Q. I have suffered silently from constipation for more than 30 years. Actually, that’s not true. Sometimes I cry when the pain is too great.

If I don’t use a laxative, I can go over two weeks without a bowel movement. I know that relying on chemical stimulants is not healthy, so I am counting on you for a more natural approach. Please don’t let me down!

A. Nurses have a secret weapon for chronic constipation that they call “Power Pudding.” One reader initially complained about the taste: “Putting applesauce, prune juice and wheat bran together seemed awfully unappetizing. I was desperate, so I tried it. Day 1 was a success, but I had no luck on Day 2 and lost hope. I tried again on Day 3 and got success. I thought, it looks bad, doesn’t taste the best, but it helps. So I thought I’d just take it daily. After a week, it was working like clockwork. Now Power Pudding is a daily item on my menu, and I’ve started to like it!”

This high-fiber mixture can be effective, but it must be taken with plenty of fluid and should be used daily. It doesn’t work instantly. For more details about the formula and many other natural approaches, we are sending you our Guides to Constipation and Digestive Disorders. Anyone who would like a copy, please send $3 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped (65 cents), self-addressed envelope to: Graedons’ People’s Pharmacy, No. GG-33, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027. It also can be downloaded for $2 from our website: www.peoplespharmacy.com.

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Q. I used to rush out and buy any supplement I read about to get its purported health benefits. At one point, I was taking handfuls of supplements each day. I thought I was healthy.

When I had to have some major surgery at age 49, I was told to discontinue the supplements. The nurses said I could keep on taking glucosamine and cranberry, though.

I always had bruising worse than most people, and my presurgery blood work showed a delayed clotting time that put off my surgery for five weeks.

Both of these supplements can interfere with clotting. If they hadn’t figured this out, I could have died of bleeding during surgery!

The lesson is, don’t believe everything you read. Do your own research on supplements, and get your vitamins from eating real food. After all, the supplement makers are just trying to sell you something.

A. We certainly agree that you should only take supplements after informing yourself carefully about the pros and cons. Not every nutrient that might be helpful will be available in adequate quantities from food, though. Vitamin D, for example, can be readily obtained through sun exposure but not so easily from foods.

When seeking supplement information on the Internet, consider the source. Sites that are selling supplements do not always provide objective information.

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Q. I have been in medicine for almost 35 years, specializing in urology, then in organ transplant. Putting a bar of soap at the end of your bed for leg cramps is the stupidest thing I ever heard of. But I had leg cramps. So I tried it. I haven’t had one since! Just call me stupid.

A. Thanks for sharing your experience. The soap under the bottom sheet doesn’t work for everyone, but many skeptical health professionals also have discovered that it relieves their leg cramps.