Q: For years, I’ve suffered severe muscle spasms all over my body. One cramp would begin, and I’d stretch the muscle to try to rid myself of it. No sooner would it start to relax than another would begin. The pain would be excruciating, with tears and exhaustion following.

My doctor did not seem very concerned, although he prescribed muscle relaxers. These never did help, even when he doubled the dose and I took them three times a day. I often wondered how I could continue to live this way.

Finally, someone suggested tonic water, and it changed my life. I can’t believe the relief I’ve gotten. Each night I open a can of tonic water and let it sit because carbonation bothers me. Once it is flat, I drink the full can and haven’t suffered a cramp since.

A: We used to think that the small amount of quinine (20 mg) in a glass of tonic water would be inadequate to prevent or treat muscle cramps. That’s because doctors used to prescribe 200 to 300 mg of quinine for patients with leg cramps.

Nonetheless, many readers have stories similar to yours. We now think we have figured out the explanation.

Quinine stimulates a specialized channel on cell membranes called TRPM7. Such transient receptor potential (TRP) channels are found on nerves throughout the body. Activating them through the TRP channels appears to reverse the nerve hyperactivity that causes muscle cramps. Other things that also trigger TRP channels include vinegar, ginger, garlic and chili peppers.


Q: I took levothyroxine for 20 years after I developed hypothyroidism. My dosage kept increasing and then the doctors started decreasing it.

Despite constant monitoring, I began showing signs of fatigue and an unexpected weight gain. My doctor suggested switching to Armour thyroid. What a difference! I am back to feeling good again, not drained or fatigued, and the weight dropped off immediately. I changed nothing in my usual lifestyle except starting Armour thyroid.

A: Until quite recently, doctors believed that hypothyroid patients needed only levothyroxine (Synthroid, aka T4). Most people convert T4 to the active hormone triiodothyronine (aka T3) through the enzyme thyroid deiodinase. Research now shows that some individuals have genetic variants of deiodinase that are less efficient (Current Opinion in Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Obesity, October 2018).

Such patients often feel much better on a regimen that provides T3 as well as T4. Thyroid extract like Armour Thyroid or Nature-Throid contain both.

You can learn much more about this approach to treating hypothyroidism in our eGuide to Thyroid Hormones. You will find this online resource in the Health eGuides section of www.PeoplesPharmacy.com.

Q: You have written that eggs don’t raise cholesterol. That was reassuring because I love eggs and eat at least two every day. When I stopped eating eggs in the 1980s at my doctor’s suggestion, my cholesterol actually went up. A few years later I started eating eggs again.

I am 88 years old, play golf and do pool exercises three times a week. I also walk and play bridge (online now because of the pandemic). I guess the eggs haven’t hurt me a bit!

A: Recent research analyzed data collected from 177,000 volunteers in 50 countries (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, April 2020). The investigators found that moderate daily egg consumption did not raise cholesterol or increase the risk for heart attacks or premature death.