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Dear Doc: I used to have lots and lots of nightmares. That was until I discovered that not facing my day-to-day problems didn’t work because I seemed to face them night-to-night instead.

One divorce later, paying up my credit card, and some mindfulness meditation from a great instructor – suddenly, I’m sleeping better. When I do have dreams – and it’s not nearly as often – they’re fun, not scary.

Any idea why? What does this mean? – L.V. from Utah

Dear L.V.: Dreams. Freud thought he had a handle on it way back in 1899 with his famous “Interpretation of Dreams.” This hodge-podge was his personal philosophy stemming from Victorian sensibility. His non-scientific gobbledygook influenced too many to think that what he said was the gospel. It wasn’t. It was hogwash.

New well-grounded research tells us the brain is doing a lot of “hard drive” connections. It takes what we’ve done, what we’ve thought, the emotions we’ve had, the dreams we’ve aspired to, the fantasies we’ve imagined during the day and turns them into connections that help us survive and thrive in the world. Clearly this is important stuff because people who are kept up all night stop thinking, stop processing and start to act nearly schizophrenic in thought and action.

But what we don’t know is what else is going on. Eastern traditions such as Yogic, Tibetan, Indonesian, and Balinese ways tell us that much more is happening. These venerable and historic traditions, which I deeply respect, inform us about things on which science is mute.

Science can only answer so many questions. So perhaps these other interpretations of dreams will add something to my meager assessment.

What I do know is that when people have less stress, they sleep better, feel better and wake up refreshed – exactly what you’re doing. That’s as far as my education takes me.

Dear Doc: I’m a 49-year-old woman who eats a balanced diet. I’ll have a cup of cereal with 2 percent milk for breakfast, meatless leftovers or peanut butter and jelly for lunch with a container of yogurt and some raw veggies. My dinner is typical for a family of four.

Now, on to my question – it’s about poop. I have a bowel movement only every two days. Is this healthy? I’m not bloated. The poop is not hard. But I wonder if I’m doing something wrong. – S.L. from Salt Lake City

Dear S.L.: The general range of bowel movements is from three per day to one every three days. When you go beyond that three-day period, they tend to get dry and pebbly, making it difficult to get out, painful and more likely to cause hemorrhoids.

I tell people that if they go beyond the three-day period in having a BM, they need more fiber. They should have a fiber-filled breakfast in the morning, meaning a change of cereal in some cases. Or try the medical way, which is adding psyllium (seed husks from the Plantago plant), common brand name Metamucil, every day.

If this fails, a person might need MiraLax – a brand name for the pharmaceutical product polyethylene glycol 3350. This works by bringing water into the bowel, and it’s a boon to people with slow bowel transit.

So back to your question, if you’re an every-other-day person and your BM is a soft log, you’re just fine. But if it’s hard, pebbly and difficult to push out, then you might want to consider action. If you’re not sure what kind of poop I’m talking about, Google “Bristol stool chart” and go for a Type 3 or 4.

This column provides general health information and is not specific advice intended for particular individual(s). It is not a professional medical opinion or diagnosis. Always consult your personal health care provider about concerns. No ongoing relationship of any sort is implied or offered by Dr. Paster to people submitting questions.


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