DEAR DR. DONOHUE: All my life, I have suffered from constipation. Presently I am taking a stool softener. Cheese is horrible for me; it totally stops bowel movements. Would you list the good foods and negative foods to help me overcome this? – M.M.

This might be a slight exaggeration, but it seems to me the entire adult world suffers from constipation.

You can count high-fiber foods as good foods. Fiber increases stool bulk, keeps it moist and speeds its transit through the digestive tract. If food residue stays too long in the digestive tract, especially the colon, it dries out, hardens and becomes difficult to eliminate. You should aim for 25 to 35 grams of fiber a day.

Wheat-bran cereals are a great source of fiber. Half a cup of All-Bran cereal provides 10 grams of fiber. A whole cup gets you almost to the daily requirement. Bran is the stuff removed from grains during the refining process. You can buy bran at health-food stores and sprinkle it on cereals of your choice that have little or none of it. You can add it to any food. Nuts, fresh fruits with their skin and many vegetables are other fiber sources. Be patient. It takes time for fiber to have an effect, and you should increase your fiber intake slowly. Too sudden an increase makes you gassy. Increase your water intake along with the fiber.

Prunes, now called dried plums, have fiber and sorbitol, something that has a laxative effect. They also contain potassium, magnesium, copper, zinc and iron – nutritional bonanzas. Six to eight a day do wonders for constipation.

The negative foods are something you have to judge on your own. Whatever constipates you is a negative food.

The booklet on constipation and laxatives discusses these matters in detail. Readers can order a copy by writing: Dr. Donohue – No. 504, Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.75 U.S./$6 Can. with the recipient’s printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I am an 89-year-old lady who, up until age 80, was able to mow my lawn and was active. Then I had a physical and was told my blood pressure was too high. I was given pills that sent my blood pressure to 115/50, and I passed out. Then I was taken off most of the medication. I am no longer as active as I was before taking the pills. I am tired all the time and no longer enjoy life. It’s like telling all people regardless of height that they should weigh 100 pounds.

Doctors don’t know everything. – B.T.

You’re right. Doctors don’t know everything. No one does. People should have a say in their medicines, and doctors should pay attention to each individual’s unique body metabolism, size and age when prescribing medicines. That’s particularly true with high blood pressure medicines and pain medicines.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Does sexual intercourse burn calories? And if so, how many per hour? – J.C.

ANSWER: Sexual intercourse does burn calories. Are you familiar with the MET – the metabolic equivalent? It’s a unit used to quantify exercise intensity. One MET is the amount of oxygen consumed when a person is resting quietly. Oxygen consumption is a precise way of measuring the demands of a particular exercise. Sexual activity has a MET value of three. That means it requires three times more oxygen than is consumed in the resting state.

If you want the answer in calories, the estimate is 5 calories per minute, 300 per hour.

This puts sexual activity in the moderate exercise category.

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, FL 32853-6475. Readers may also order health newsletters from

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