I heard a radio show caller say that an old-timer had told him to pick two small, new, reddish poison ivy leaves each spring, roll them inside a dough ball and swallow them to be immune from poison ivy for a whole season. This is an intriguing and terrifying suggestion. What is your opinion?
We have heard this folk remedy from others, but we, too, are terrified by the idea. One reader related the following:
"My father had me eat some poison ivy leaves when I was a child. I was always getting into it and breaking out in a bad rash. He had heard that eating it would make me immune, but instead blisters broke out inside my mouth. It was so bad I needed special shots from a doctor. NEVER take this rumored remedy for poison ivy!"
In an extreme case, eating poison ivy could make the throat swell shut. This could be life-threatening.
I have been troubled with constipation my whole life. My doctor suggested adding more fiber to my diet, which helps a little. Unfortunately, it gives me gas.
He also insists that I take calcium to prevent osteoporosis. I find that whenever I take it my constipation is worse. Can you solve this dilemma? Is there any kind of calcium I might be able to handle?
Although extra fiber is an excellent way to ward off chronic constipation, it frequently causes gas. Extra magnesium may be helpful in some cases, although too much can cause diarrhea. Flax seed can improve regularity.
Calcium carbonate, the least expensive and most available supplement, causes constipation in some people. Consider getting your additional calcium from fortified orange juice, for example.
I recall something about pills that neutralize the acid in beverages. This would be helpful for those with sensitive or dry mouths who choose to drink coffee, wine or tea.
There are tablets and powder to counteract the acid in foods. Both products contain calcium glycerophosphate and are sold under the brand name Prelief. Call 800- 994-4711 for information.
In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of this newspaper or e-mail them via their Web site: PeoplesPharmacy.com.