Grandma was right: Prunes work wonders

People's Pharmacy

September 06, 1998|By Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon | Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Q.I read with interest a note in a recent column of yours from a person with a serious constipation problem (over two weeks). A year ago I had a similar problem and tried everything including Metamucil, Ex-Lax, milk of magnesia and a Fleet enema with no results. A visit to the doctor resulted in a prescription but still no relief.

Then I remembered: Prunes are a laxative. I bought some prune juice with pulp and drank 4 ounces a day with plenty of water. Within a few days I got back to normal. For a few months I drank some every other morning to keep me regular. Now I need it only once a week. Prune juice with pulp is my salvation.

A.Prunes are a time-honored home remedy for constipation. Researchers have confirmed what grandmothers always knew: Prunes stimulate the digestive tract.

But don't go overboard. Back in 1951 scientists discovered an ingredient in prunes that is closely related to the chemical laxative oxypheni- satin. This product was taken off the market when it was linked to liver damage.

Experts for the Harvard Health Letter say, "It is unlikely that moderate consumption would cause any problems, but prune use, like everything else, should be prudent."

Q.Is it really true that aspartame can relieve arthritis pain? A co-worker told me he read this in your column but it sounds ridiculous to me. My doctor never heard of it either.

A.Believe it. Aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet) does seem to relieve arthritis pain. A small but well-designed study published in Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics (May 1998) showed that aspartame is significantly more effective than a placebo and roughly comparable to aspirin. Aspartame does not appear to irritate the digestive tract, but it may prolong bleeding time.

Write to the Graedons in care of The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278, or e-mail to

King Features Syndicate

Pub Date: 9/06/98

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