Q: I have suffered from nighttime leg cramps for years. These agonizing muscle cramps have affected my sleeping habits. Recently, I read that quinine contained in tonic water is effective in treating leg cramps.
I’ve been drinking half a small bottle of tonic every night for the past six nights and the cramps have disappeared. Have you had experience with this treatment?
A: Doctors used to prescribe quinine to treat leg cramps. In fact, quinine used to be sold over the counter for this purpose. The dose of quinine that many doctors prescribed was 200 to 300 mg.
The Food and Drug Administration banned the use of quinine for leg cramps more than a decade ago. That’s because some people are extremely sensitive to this bitter drug. It can trigger rare but potentially life-threatening blood and immune-mediated reactions.
The FDA has not banned quinine from tonic water. The amount you would get from half a small bottle would be around 10 mg.
Many doctors would probably call this a homeopathic dose. But we think the bitter taste of quinine could be triggering special receptors in the mouth, throat and stomach. Stimulation of these TRP channels can help nerves overcome muscle cramps. Even a small dose of quinine might be helpful. Many other readers have also shared success stories with tonic water against nighttime leg cramps.
To learn more about the science behind this and many other simple treatments you may find our eGuide to Favorite Home Remedies of interest. This electronic resource can be found under the Health eGuides tab at www.PeoplesPharmacy.com.
Q: I’m one of the people whose cholesterol goes up when I drink unfiltered coffee. Will the Keurig or other coffee machines that use pods do the same?
A: Unfiltered coffee, such as the kind you get when you use a French press, could raise cholesterol. Compounds in coffee such as cafestol and kahweol are thought to be the culprits.
Filters can remove these chemicals from coffee. Pods do contain small filters. It is not clear, however, whether they can eliminate cafestol as well as larger paper or fabric filters.
Q: Help me! I can’t eat bananas, pineapple (unless it’s in a jar with its own juice), grapes, oranges and watermelon, just to name a few. My throat swells and itches extremely badly when I eat any fruit EXCEPT FOR POMEGRANATE. That’s one fruit I can eat and not have one single symptom from it. I have to carry an EpiPen around with me just in case. What is it that I’m allergic to, exactly?
A: Doctors sometimes refer to your condition as “oral allergy syndrome” or OAS for short. Many fruits contain proteins similar to plant pollens that can trigger severe allergic reactions.
OAS can start as an itch in the mouth or a little tingle on the tongue or in the throat. The reaction can progress to life-threatening breathing problems.
Foods that can trigger oral allergy syndrome include berries, banana, watermelon, honeydew, apple, apricot, kiwi, orange, peach, pear, plum, grapes, mango and pineapple. Cooking or processing such foods can break down the proteins that cause the reaction. That may explain why canned pineapple does not trigger your allergy.
You are wise to carry an epinephrine injector with you at all times. You never know when some food you eat could contain a protein that might trigger a severe allergic reaction.