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Thursday, Jul 31, 2014
Nutrition

Could low-sodium diet trigger leg cramps?

King Features Syndicate
Published:

I happened across a study showing that low-sodium diets don’t offer benefits to people who aren’t otherwise at risk for heart disease. I realized that I’ve been religiously following a low-sodium diet for years, since it was advised for the general population. I’ve completely lost my taste for salt and avoid it whenever possible, but I am not at risk for heart disease.

I wondered what would happen if I changed. So just for the heck of it, I began adding some sea salt to my food. (Sea salt tastes really good.)

After a while, I noticed something odd. Whereas I had suffered screamingly painful leg cramps at night for years (as long as I had been avoiding salt), they disappeared. Coincidence? I think not.

Sodium has long been vilified by public health officials. An eight-year study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (May 4, 2011) showed, however, that people consuming the least sodium in their diets had the highest mortality.

Another study found that low intake of sodium was linked to an increase in stress hormones (adrenaline, renin and aldosterone), which might have a negative impact on cardiovascular health (American Journal of Hypertension, January 2012).

Those who are salt-sensitive or have heart disease may indeed benefit from a low-salt diet. Someone like you, though, may discover that too little sodium can sometimes have negative consequences. Many readers report that pickle juice or yellow mustard, both high in sodium, can help relieve muscle cramps.

I was misdiagnosed for five years, and it nearly cost me my life. I was eventually told I had Parkinson’s disease and was referred to a neurologist.

During the neurological exam, I was asked if I had ever had a thyroid test. A simple blood test that I had never been given would have shown that I suffered with a hyperactive thyroid. It was out of control, and all my internal organs were seriously affected.

The endocrinologist called in consultants, and all agreed it was a miracle I was still alive. They had never seen a case as severe as mine. My heart was racing at 180 beats a minute, and no one had detected it.

My all-over shaking was visible. I could not sign my name, and they had a hard time doing scans because I had difficulty keeping still. I was terrified at the diagnosis, but I learned to take control of my health by asking lots of questions and looking things up.

An overactive thyroid gland is a serious health threat. It is shocking that it took five years to diagnose your condition, which responds to medication, radioactive iodine or surgery.

We are sending you our Guide to Thyroid Hormones with detailed information about symptoms, testing and treatment. Anyone who would like a copy, please send $3 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped (66 cents), self-addressed envelope to: Graedons’ People’s Pharmacy, No. T-4, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027. It also can be downloaded for $2 from our website: www.peoplespharmacy.com.

Untreated hyperthyroidism can lead to weakened bones and heart disease.

From about 1985 till about 2005, my blood pressure ran about 150/90, and I needed antihypertensive medications. In 2003, I planted several citrus trees, including two pink grapefruits.

When they started to bear fruit, I ate lots of grapefruit and made gallons of juice (which I froze). I enjoyed the juice as the harvest faded.

The past several years, my blood pressure has been about 130/75. Two doctors told me to keep up the grapefruit routine and cut back on the meds! I feel wonderful.

Animal and human research suggest that grapefruit may indeed have an impact on blood-vessel flexibility and lower blood pressure (Phytotherapy Research, July 2009; Metabolism, July 2012). Other foods that can help lower blood pressure include beets, leafy green vegetables and dark chocolate.

To learn more about natural ways to control hypertension, readers may wish to consult our Guide to Blood Pressure Treatment. People who take blood pressure or cholesterol medications must be cautious about grapefruit, though. It can interact with many drugs to make them more dangerous. There is detailed information in our Guide to Grapefruit Interactions. Anyone who would like both copies may send $5 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped (66 cents), self-addressed envelope to: Graedons’ People’s Pharmacy, No. BJ-79, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027. They can be downloaded for $2 each from our website: www.peoplespharmacy.com.

Israeli researchers have found that red grapefruit not only lowers blood pressure but also cholesterol and triglycerides (American Journal of Hypertension, October 2005; Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, March 8, 2006).

I tried taking cinnamon capsules so as not to waste them after my husband gave up on them. Overnight, I felt like something was biting me when I went to sleep.

It got worse and worse. Even during the day, I felt like I had bugs crawling all over me. I bombed the house and spent a fortune at the doctor’s getting blood work done.

I asked my doctors and my pharmacist if cinnamon would cause this, since it is the only thing that I could think of. They mostly laughed at me.

I finally stopped taking the capsules, and the next night I was 80 percent better. Within a week, the sensation was completely gone. I found someone else on the Internet who had the same reaction. So I discovered on my own how a seemingly innocuous spice could cause such havoc.

There are numerous reports of rash occurring where cinnamon comes in contact with the skin (contact dermatitis). Reactions such as yours seem to be uncommon, except when people take high doses.

My 18-year-old son became depressed. I did some research before taking him to the doctor, so I encouraged her to check his vitamin D level.

Lo and behold, it was below the normal level at 20 ng/ml. After two months of supplementation (5,000 IU/day), his levels are now high normal (59 ng/ml), and he is no longer depressed. This is much better than meds since it was inexpensive and without side effects.

Correcting vitamin D deficiency can help alleviate depression in some patients (Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology, June 2013). Your son’s vitamin D levels should be carefully monitored. At 5,000 international units per day, some people could end up with too much vitamin D in their bodies. He may need to cut back now that he is in the normal range.


In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them via their website: www.PeoplesPharmacy.com.

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