Bar of soap under bedsheets relieves skeptic's leg cramps



I am a physician schooled in the scientific method. I trained at the most prestigious medical settings and have adhered strictly to conservative scientific inquiry.

Now comes the huge divergence between fact and fantasy. I have suffered from leg cramps occurring three or four times a night. The pain was intermittent but severe. I could relieve it only by walking around the bedroom - a disruption to a night's sleep.

Now, though, I am pain-free at last! Since putting a soap bar under the sheet, my cramps have disappeared. I have no rational scientific explanation for this relief, but it does work. Someday this phenomenon will be explained. Until then, however, I am content to be leg-cramp free with a bar of soap under my bedsheet.

We are delighted to learn that a skeptic such as yourself has found the soap trick helpful. We cannot explain how this might work, but dozens of readers swear that it has relieved cramps in legs, hands and back. To be fair, though, some people report the soap approach is worthless.

I was excited about a recent column describing health benefits from chocolate. Would high-quality chocolate include Snickers bars? What would be considered a moderate amount to get the health benefits?

High-quality chocolate is dark chocolate (at least 70 percent cocoa solids, and not alkali processed). A good "dose" is 5 to 15 grams daily, which should be just under 100 calories. This is not a large piece of chocolate, but it can be delicious and heart-healthy.

A traditional Snickers bar contains milk chocolate, weighs 58.7 grams and has 280 calories. Milk chocolate does not have the same benefits as dark chocolate.

I grew up with a parent who was dependent on alcohol. I find myself struggling with cravings for alcohol also. While alcohol doesn't interfere with my daily life, I don't like the cycle of abstaining, falling off the wagon, then abstaining. Are there any natural remedies you know of that can help someone reduce the cravings for alcohol?

You might want to consider kudzu root extract. It contains compounds that appear similar to an old drug called disulfiram that is prescribed to help alcoholics avoid drinking. A fascinating rat study suggests that kudzu root extract (Pueraria lobata) may discourage alcohol consumption even in addicted animals (Journal of Medicinal Food, September 2007).

Several years ago, we heard from a reader who wanted to break her daily habit of drinking wine from afternoon till bedtime. She reported that kudzu root "worked perfectly right from the start, although it caused constipation."

Prescription drugs such as Antabuse (disulfiram), Campral (acamprosate) and ReVia (naltrexone) have been used to discourage alcohol consumption. You should talk to your physician or an alcohol-abuse specialist to find out the best approach.

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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