Joe and Teresa Graedon answer readers’ questions. This week: lowering high blood pressure and taking selenium with a hypothyroidism medicine.

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Q: We discovered a simple and nearly instant treatment for leg cramps: Stand on an ice pack.

This has worked for my husband and me time and time again. A plastic zipper bag with cubes works fine. Just put it under your bare foot and stand still until the cramp goes away. You won’t believe how quickly it will be effective.

A: Wow! We thought we had heard of just about every leg-cramp remedy known to man (and woman), but this is a new one for us.

There may even be an explanation for your discovery. Specialized ion (TRP or transient receptor potential) channels are found on cell membranes throughout the body. They transmit sensations of heat and cold. These TRP channels also respond to strong flavors like vinegar, chili peppers and ginger.

Many people report that swallowing a spoonful of yellow mustard or an ounce of pickle juice (containing vinegar) can quickly reverse muscle cramps. We think this is accomplished by stimulating TRP channels. This appears to quickly calm the misfiring nerves that cause cramps. We suspect that standing on ice may have much the same effect from the other end of the body. TRP channels are found in the mouth as well as the skin.

Be careful, though. We don’t want anyone to fall off an ice pack in the middle of the night and break a bone.

Q: I previously had untreatable high blood pressure. I tried many different meds (about 10). None helped, and several had severe side effects.

Ten years ago, I changed to a whole-food plant-based (vegan) diet and lowered my salt intake. My blood pressure now averages 120/75. My formerly high cholesterol is now also under control. My last reading was total cholesterol 155 with HDL of 80.

A: Diet (and exercise) can have a profound impact on both blood pressure and blood lipids for some people. For example, the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet has been shown to lower blood pressure, reduce cardiovascular disease and improve inflammatory markers (Clinical Nutrition, March 2, 2017). We are learning that inflammation plays an important role in heart disease.

People who would like to learn more about the particulars of the DASH and Mediterranean diets along with other ways to eat for good health will find recipes and guidelines in our book “Quick & Handy Home Remedies” (online at You have discovered what Hippocrates, the father of medicine, taught: “Let food be your medicine.”

Q: I have hypothyroidism, and I take medication for it. I was alarmed to read recently that unless you take selenium with it, the medicine won’t work well. Is this correct?

A: While people with low thyroid function do need adequate selenium, it is not necessary to take selenium with your levothyroxine. You usually can get enough of this mineral by eating foods such as halibut, sardines, shrimp, eggs, chicken, mushrooms, cottage cheese and brown rice. Brazil nuts are very rich in selenium; you’d only need one or two a day to get the selenium you need.

Selenium is essential for the proper functioning of the immune system as well as the thyroid gland (Endokrynologia Polska, 2017). It is not clear, however, how often selenium supplements are useful in treating hypothyroidism (Current Opinion in Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Obesity, October 2017).