Q: I have suffered from pruritus ani (itchy anus) for years. I saw different specialists who were good at diagnosing the problem but incapable of telling me what caused it or how to cure it.

Many of the treatments they prescribed (pills or creams) worked temporarily, but they didn’t really eliminate the embarrassing itch. Can you offer any remedies that might work?

A: Itchy bottom can be caused by several factors. Some people report that diet has an impact. We have heard from people who react badly to wheat, citrus fruit or chocolate. Others eventually track their problem to the use of certain medications, such as the heartburn drugs esomeprazole and lansoprazole.

Moist toilet wipes that contain preservatives can cause an itchy contact dermatitis. Plain water or witch hazel may be better choices for hygiene.

We have heard from readers who find using a bidet can be helpful: “I have found long-term relief from itching by installing a bidet toilet seat. I never need to use toilet paper and there is no residue that can cause itch. The air dryer that comes with the seat is quite nice.”

Q: My doctor recommended naproxen for my plantar fasciitis pain. It gave me chest pain and irregular heart rhythms, so I stopped taking it. I do have high blood pressure. What else can I take to relieve the pain? I don’t want to schedule an appointment with my podiatrist until the pandemic is over.


A: Plantar fasciitis is inflammation of the tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot from the heel to the toe. Orthotics that fit in your shoes can often alleviate plantar fasciitis. Although the podiatrist can customize a pair, generic orthotics can also be helpful.

Natural anti-inflammatory approaches include fish oil and tart cherry juice. We have included details about these and other options in our book “Quick & Handy Home Remedies.” You can find it in your local library or online at www.PeoplesPharmacy.com.

Q: I have always gotten foot and leg cramps. I carry soap chips in my backpack when taking long hikes, so if my legs cramp, I can slip chips in my socks. Driving long distances after such hikes can also give me leg cramps. Soap in my socks works great in both situations.

Except during the hot nights of summer, I wear socks to bed to keep my feet warm. I like to put soap pieces in my socks to prevent foot cramps at night. A regular magnesium supplement also helps.

A: You are not the only person to find that soap chips in your socks help to prevent leg cramps. Many other readers like this remedy.

We first heard about this idea as a way of managing restless legs. Years ago, a woman who was making frequent trans-Atlantic trips for business found that her restless leg syndrome made the flights challenging. She was able to calm the creepy-crawly feelings and urges to kick by putting bits of soap in her knee socks. We’re always delighted when a remedy developed for one problem proves useful for another, so we’re glad to hear you use it for cramps.

Magnesium is a popular approach for preventing leg cramps. Although many readers find it helpful, studies don’t provide strong evidence to support its use (BMJ Clinical Evidence, May 13, 2015).

Keep in mind that too high a dose of magnesium (generally over 300 mg) could cause diarrhea. Moreover, people with kidney problems must avoid magnesium supplements, as they may put too much strain on the kidneys.