A bar of soap under sheet may relieve restless legs

PEOPLE'S PHARMACY

March 02, 2009|By JOE AND TERESA GRAEDON

I am a nurse, and I have secretly put soap under the sheets of patients who struggle with restless leg syndrome (RLS). They all tell me the only nights that they get sleep and wake up feeling rested is when I am on duty. The other nights they are miserable and their sleeping meds don't work.

I use soap under my sheets at home, too, and I don't wake up with a charley horse or pain anymore like I used to. I don't know why or how soap works against leg cramps or RLS. I'm just glad it does.

We, too, cannot explain why a simple bar of soap could help. One reader wrote: "My husband has suffered with horrible leg cramps for years. They often woke him up three or four times a night. He tried everything imaginable without any relief.

"I was afraid he would think I was crazy to recommend soap, but he said he would try anything if there was a chance it would help. We have been using the soap for about a year, and it is a miracle for us.

"When the doctor wanted to know why my husband wasn't complaining about leg cramps anymore, we mentioned the soap. I know the doctor thought we were nuts, but we don't care. Until the soap, my husband hadn't slept a full night without leg cramps for 10 years."

Not everyone benefits from soap under the bottom sheet, but there are other options. Some people find that pickle juice, yellow mustard, magnesium supplements or stretching can help. For more details on these and other remedies for leg cramps and restless legs, we offer our Guide to Leg Pain. Anyone who would like a copy, please send $2 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped (59 cents), self-addressed envelope to: Graedons' People's Pharmacy, No. RLS-5, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027. A copy also can be downloaded for $2 from our Web site at peoplespharm acy.com.

Ten years ago, my mom moved in with us. She was 87 and not getting around well anymore. Her blood pressure was high, and the meds she was taking weren't helping, and she had a stroke three weeks later.

After much therapy and her strong determination, she was able to use her arm and walk with a rolling walker. My mom, who had gardened all her life and driven until she was 86, was mildly depressed. With her doctor's permission, we started her on St. John's wort.

She attended adult day care every day because we were still working. She was recovering well and seemed in good spirits.

One day she was cranky and complained bitterly about day care, which she usually enjoyed. I asked, "Mom, have you been taking your St. John's wort?" Her reply was, "No, I ran out of it several days ago and didn't think I needed it." She realized then how much better she felt when taking it.

St. John's wort can be helpful to alleviate mild depression, although double-blind studies have shown it is not very helpful for moderate to severe depression. It is crucial to check with the doctor as you did, because St. John's wort can interact with many medications, making some less effective and others more dangerous.

Is there vitamin D in wild salmon? We live in Alaska and eat king salmon about twice a week. We also take vitamin D-3 because there is so little sunlight here during the winter. Would that be too much?

Wild salmon does contain vitamin D, roughly 500 to 1,000 International Units in a serving. In Alaska, you could benefit from an additional daily dose of vitamin D. A total daily intake of 2,000 IU would be reasonable.

I have been taking thyroid hormones (first Synthroid and then Levoxyl) for more than 15 years. My doctor has recently started lowering my dose because he is concerned that the extra thyroid hormones might weaken my bones.

Ever since the dosage was reduced, I have had many troubling symptoms. My cholesterol is going up, and so is my weight, although I am exercising and eating carefully. I am tired, cold and depressed most of the time. My skin is dry, my fingertips have painful cracks and my nails are splitting. My hair is thinning, and my eyebrows are fading away. Along with all that, I have absolutely no interest in sex. What can I do?

Although excess thyroid hormone can weaken bones and contribute to osteoporosis, getting the dose just right is essential for good health. All the symptoms you have described could be linked to insufficient thyroid activity.

We are sending you our Guide to Thyroid Hormones, with information on how to interpret thyroid lab results as well as treatment options so you can discuss this with your doctor. Anyone who would like a copy, please send $3 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped (59 cents), self-addressed envelope to: Graedons' People's Pharmacy, No. T-4, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027. A copy also can be downloaded for $2 from our Web site at peoples pharmacy.com.

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.

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