Pass mustard to leg-cramp sufferers

People's Pharmacy

June 06, 2007|By Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon | Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon,PeoplesPharmcy.com

I suffer from leg cramps. Recently while attending a basketball game, I had to leave my seat and try to walk off a severe cramp. A security guard, seeing that I was grimacing in pain, approached me to see if I needed first aid. When I said it was leg cramps, he took me to the concession stand and suggested I try yellow mustard. He said it was an old-time remedy his grandmother used.

I ate the mustard. By the time I walked to the end of the concession stand, and to the surprise of all who were watching me eat plain mustard, my leg cramp was gone. I have since used this remedy repeatedly, especially in the middle of the night when my cramps seem to most often occur. It works.

You are not the first to share the secret of yellow mustard. Some readers keep little packets of this condiment on their nightstand to ease leg cramps.

Others have complained that mustard gives them indigestion.

I recently read that some sunscreens contain hormones that might affect young children. I am an avid user of sunscreen. I'm concerned about any adverse effects on my children, especially my 9-year-old daughter.

What specific ingredient should I be avoiding? When I called the company, they said they never heard of hormones in sunscreen.

As far as we can tell, there are no hormones added to sunscreens. There are, however, chemicals in some sunscreens that may have estrogenic activity, particularly when they are combined (Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology, Nov. 15, 2006).

No one knows if this poses a risk for you or your children. If you wish to avoid such compounds in sunscreen, look for brands that contain physical blockers such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. According to research published in The Lancet (online May 3, 2007), such ingredients are safe for children and highly effective at preventing sun damage from both UVA and UVB radiation.

My husband takes Coreg, Lanoxin, amiodarone, Lasix, metolazone, Lipitor, aspirin, Uroxatral, Renagel, potassium and insulin. He also gets a shot of Procrit weekly for severe anemia.

Does he really need all this medicine?

Only your husband's doctors can determine if there are medications he may not need. He does need someone to review all his drugs, however. We have detected a number of potentially dangerous interactions among the drugs on this long list.

Since quinine sulfate is no longer available for leg cramps, I wonder if there is any danger in drinking "tonic water" just for the flavor. Quinine is an ingredient, I believe.

Although the Food and Drug Administration has banned the use of prescription quinine pills to treat leg cramps, the agency has not proposed eliminating tonic water from the market. If it did, a lot of people who enjoy gin and tonic might revolt.

Readers aware of the quinine in tonic water have put it to use: "I have been drinking tonic water with quinine for about two months now, and my leg and foot cramps have disappeared completely."

The FDA banned quinine as a treatment for leg cramps because sensitive people may develop a potentially deadly blood disorder. Although this complication is rare, it is extremely serious. One reader reported being hospitalized after drinking a 5-ounce glass of tonic water. She developed a terrible skin reaction, and her blood platelets plummeted. She was told that in her case even a drop of tonic water could be lethal.

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.

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