Is natural deodorant really safer?

Q. I’ve relied on natural crystal deodorants for years with the understanding that they were safer than the usual antiperspirants. I was under the impression that they were free of aluminum. When I checked the label, it said “potassium alum.” Does that mean aluminum?

A. Yes; potassium alum is hydrated potassium aluminum sulfate. It is used in the purification of drinking water to get particles to precipitate out. Styptic pencils contain alum to stop bleeding from minor cuts. Alum also is used in most crystal deodorants.

The question of aluminum toxicity has been controversial for decades. A review of the evidence in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease (March 2011) concluded: “The hypothesis that Al (aluminum) significantly contributes to AD (Alzheimer’s disease) is built upon very solid experimental evidence and should not be dismissed. Immediate steps should be taken to lessen human exposure to Al, which may be the single most aggravating and avoidable factor related to AD.”

Q. I have had chronic constipation for years. It has probably contributed to my hemorrhoids.

I tried magnesium, and it helped a lot for a while, but I had to increase the dose to get the same effect. Do you have any suggestions as to what I can do? The doctors have only offered laxatives that are habit-forming. I desperately need help.

A. The usual recommendation for avoiding constipation is to increase fiber. Recent research, however, shows that fluid intake may be much more important (American Journal of Gastroenterology, May 2013).

You also might benefit from chewing sugarless gum. Nonsugar sweeteners such as maltitol, sorbitol and xylitol attract water within the intestines. This helps to soften the stool.

We are sending you our Guides to Constipation and Digestive Disorders with our 10 tips to combat constipation. Anyone who would like copies, please send $5 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped (66 cents), self-addressed envelope to: Graedons’ People’s Pharmacy, No. GG-33, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027. It also can be downloaded for $2 from our website:

You may find the recipe for Power Pudding, with wheat bran, applesauce and prune juice, is especially helpful.

Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist and Teresa Graedon is an expert in medical anthropology and nutrition. They can be reached at