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Health

Reader credits glycerin with alleviating leg cramps

Q: I was troubled with severe leg cramps an hour or two after going to bed on the days when I'd exercised on the rowing machine. Then I read that people get relief by placing a bar of soap under the bedsheet near their legs. It worked, but the effectiveness of the soap seemed to diminish over time.

I wondered what might disappear from an ordinary soap bar. The one ingredient I could think of was glycerin. So I bought a bottle of it at the drugstore and tried rubbing some on the skin over my leg muscles like a moisturizing lotion. I found this eliminated cramping.

I even experimented by leaving one leg untreated; ouch, it cramped! Glycerin has been working for me about a year now. Perhaps others might find it as effective and more convenient than positioning soap bars in bed.

A: We appreciate home experimenters, but we doubt glycerin would evaporate from your soap. Fragrance does dissipate and might explain why soap loses its cramp-relieving effects over time.

We have no idea how or why this would work, but glycerin is often used in skin care products and should not be harmful.

Q: A few years ago I was plagued with insomnia. I was exhausted, anxious and barely functional, but never sleepy. Only sleeping pills knocked me out, but I hated the side effects.

I read about vitamin D in your column. At my next doctor visit I asked to have my level tested, and it was low: 17. My doctor prescribed 50,000 IU weekly, and as the level came up, lo and behold I gradually started sleeping again.

I know my story is not proof, but I don't take any other drugs or supplements and wasn't using sleeping pills, due to disturbing dreams. My theory is that more vitamin D somehow helps anxiety, allowing sleep. I sleep well most nights now; the difference is night and day.

A: Low levels of vitamin D can result in sleeping problems, along with depression, muscle pain, weight gain, lack of energy and digestive difficulties. We are delighted that you found the solution for your insomnia.

More doctors are starting to test their patients for vitamin D, but there is a lot of confusion regarding the test results and how to bring low levels up. At this time of year, most people are unlikely to get adequate vitamin D from sun exposure. It makes sense to find out if insomnia might respond to vitamin D supplements.

Q: I use milk of magnesia as a deodorant, but first I apply a spray of vodka under my arms. Using vodka to fight odor is no recent discovery. Theatrical-wardrobe professionals going back to vaudeville days have used vodka spritz on elaborate costumes that can't be cleaned easily. Applying vodka and letting them air-dry gets rid of sweaty smells. The only problem is explaining to strangers why you have industrial-size jugs of vodka in the house.

A. We have heard from others that vodka can remove odors from theatrical costumes. Thanks for reminding us that it can do double duty as an underarm deodorant.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Send questions to them via peoplespharmacy.com.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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