Q. I’ve heard on your radio program that yellow mustard will stop leg cramps. I get cramps frequently. Usually I manage them by drinking tonic water and walking up and down the street late at night.
Last night at 11:00 p.m., I got leg cramps in both legs; one was on the upper thigh, and the other was on the back of my thigh in the other leg. I could hardly wobble about.
I went out to my car to get one of those mustard packets from fast-food places. I opened it up and squeezed it into my mouth. Honest – it stopped the cramps immediately!
A. Thank you for sharing your success with yellow mustard. Some athletic trainers believe that mustard or pickle juice restores electrolytes like sodium and potassium, but a study showed that could not be the explanation for such rapid relief (Journal of Athletic Training, May-June 2014).
Another explanation was discussed in The Wall Street Journal (July 11, 2016). A neurobiologist has done research showing that pungent flavors like ginger, hot pepper and mustard flood the sensory neurons and overwhelm the misbehaving motor neurons responsible for muscle cramps.
Anyone who would like to learn more about managing muscle cramps and other common complaints may wish to read our book “The People’s Pharmacy Quick and Handy Home Remedies” (available at www.PeoplesPharmacy.com).
Q. When I quit eating gluten, my migraines went away. Now if there is a little bit of gluten in something I eat at a friend’s house or a restaurant, I wake up with a migraine and know I ate the wrong thing. Have you heard of this?
A. Migraine headaches are frequently a symptom of celiac disease. In this autoimmune condition, gluten (a protein in wheat, barley and rye) triggers the immune system to attack the lining of the digestive tract and other tissues in the body.
You did not say if you have been tested for celiac disease, but you might want to discuss it with your doctor. A person with a celiac condition must be even more careful than you are, since exposure to gluten could have many serious health consequences.
Recent research shows that some people who don’t have celiac disease also react to gluten with symptoms like migraine headaches or digestive problems (Gut online, July 25, 2016). Prior to this research, doctors often suspected that people who reported problems with gluten had active imaginations. This research shows, however, that many such individuals have significantly elevated markers of immune-system activation and of damage to the intestinal lining. These objective findings show that wheat sensitivity is not a fad.
Q. You responded recently to a man who was trying to get his vitamin D levels up after being treated for prostate cancer. You should have mentioned something about taking a high-quality supplement.
Not all supplements are equal. When my vitamin D level was tested a year ago, it was very low even though I took vitamin D pills daily. My naturopath put me on a high-quality D (changing nothing else), and within six months my level was where it needed to be. People must be educated about the vital importance of quality in their supplements.
A. Your point is valid. A study in JAMA Internal Medicine (April 8, 2013) found extreme variability in dose among vitamin D supplements. Some pills had as little as 9 percent of the dose on the label, while others had up to 140 percent.
The Food and Drug Administration does not monitor the quality of dietary supplements, so consumers are on their own. ConsumerLab.com tests supplements, but you will have to pay for the reports.
Joe and Teresa Graedon: www.peoplespharmacy.com