Dear Doc: I love your radio show but I don’t always love your advice. A mom called in about her 15-month-old son’s constipation. You didn’t ask if this baby drank cow’s milk. My older son was a very gassy baby and was constipated as a child. It wasn’t until he was in second grade that I had him tested for allergies and dairy was the problem.
I drank a ton of milk in the year I was breastfeeding him. My grandparents were dairy farmers so milk was the drink of choice in our household. He was a big milk drinker as a child. I was also a big milk drinker as a child. I was constipated. He was constipated.
Now that we’ve switched to soy, life is good. Please tell your readers to think first about changing their diet before prescribing a pill. Keep up the good work. — K.C. from Middleton
Dear K.C.: Good points. In Wisconsin, the last things I tend to question are dairy products. We are the Dairy State, after all, so we think dairy is always good — even when it isn’t.
Many people, especially those who are not of northern European descent, have trouble with dairy products. Some can tolerate yogurt but not milk or ice cream. Some use products containing the enzyme lactase, such as Lactaid, to help them when they consume dairy, but if you don’t know about being lactose intolerant, how can you cope with it?
Switching to a soy product is a good idea and something I should be more aware of in the future. Thank you so much for your kind words and suggestions.
Dear Dr. Paster: What can you tell me about kratom? I have a friend whose 24-year-old son uses it daily to manage his anxiety and depression. I think he drinks an infusion or tea made from it. Interestingly, he refuses all forms of psychiatric medication. Thanks for enlightening me. — Anne F., Madison
Dear Anne: “Enlightening” is such a kind word to use. I hope to educate; enlightenment is left to beings far wiser than I am.
As for kratom, it is a substance made from the leaves of the Mitragyna speciosa tree, an evergreen from the coffee family that is native to Southeast Asia. Advocates say this herb offers relief from chronic pain, depression and anxiety, and may even be a tool to combat addiction to opioid medications. Sounds good, right?
Well, not so fast. In mid-November, the Food and Drug Administration issued a public health advisory warning about “deadly risks associated with kratom.” The strongly worded FDA statement noted there is “clear data on the increasing harms” stemming from kratom use, citing an alarming rise in calls to U.S. poison control centers as well as reports of 36 deaths involving kratom. The FDA warns against kratom’s possible serious side effects, addictive properties and potential for abuse.
For years kratom has been used in Southeast Asia for diarrhea and as a pain killer. But that is in the leaf form. In the U.S., it’s available in a more concentrated form, which changes how the body absorbs it. To make an analogy here, coca leaves have been chewed for thousands of years in Peru to improve energy and concentration. But when you distill that into cocaine, it’s a different story.
The FDA’s advisory notes that kratom already has been banned in several states, including Wisconsin, and the Drug Enforcement Administration wants to ban it from the U.S entirely.
Now, back to your friend’s son. When you say he “refuses all forms of psychiatric medication,” I wonder what sort of problem he has and whether it’s serious. For mild depression and anxiety, I think complementary medication is just fine. For serious depression and schizophrenia, I worry that this might not be the right thing.
Here’s how I would approach it: Ask your friend what the son is suffering from and what care he has received from a physician or counselor, if he has even seen one, and go from there. Many alternative healers and methods work well and we know that standard medical care does not have all the answers to psychiatric problems, that’s for sure. But knowing if there is a serious problem or not allows you to give your advice.
At the very least, in light of this latest FDA warning, that advice probably should be to keep away from kratom. Stay well.