Dear Dr. Gott: Your recent article on hawthorn berries and restless legs syndrome has changed my life. I use only alternative remedies and vitamin supplements, but I was so tortured that I was about to give in to a conventional option. The hawthorn berries worked immediately and have continued to be successful for more than two weeks now.
I have suffered since my 30s and am now in my late 50s. I can sit and read, sit around a table and converse and sleep soundly. I am ever so grateful for your suggestion.
Dear Reader: As I have indicated in the past, restless legs syndrome (RLS) is an extremely agitating, tormenting, sleep-depriving disorder in which a person has an uncontrollable compulsion to move his or her legs. This commonly occurs when in bed attempting to sleep and results in night-walking until the wee hours of the morning.
The hawthorn berry has been used as an herbal supplement since the Middle Ages. It is considered to be a tonic for the heart and is known to contain antioxidant properties. Today, its use has expanded to assist with high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels.
According to a University of Maryland Medical Center study, people on a hawthorn-berry-leaf-flower extract experienced improved blood flow to the heart, symptoms of failure decreased, and people were able to exercise for longer periods of time without suffering from chest pain than those given a placebo.
An extract was effective in treating patients with high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes who were simultaneously taking medications prescribed by their physicians. This 16-week trial found people on hawthorn had lower blood-pressure readings than those taking a placebo.
I am reluctant to discuss the product’s use for lowering cholesterol levels, because testing has not been performed on humans. Additional research and studies are necessary before definitive results can be compiled.
This inexpensive supplement is available in capsules, liquid extracts, tinctures and solid extracts. It is important to understand that herbs contain components that can trigger side effects and can interact with other drugs, whether prescribed or over the counter. Some people have written to me indicating this antioxidant has helped them with the muscle twitches and tremors associated with restless legs syndrome, Parkinson’s and other disorders. I am pleased you have been able to keep your RLS under control with its use; however, the bottom line is that anyone considering taking hawthorn berry or any other supplement should speak with his or her physician first. Be guided by the opinion received.
To provide related information, I am sending you copies of my Health Reports “Compelling Home Remedies” and “More Compelling Home Remedies.” Other readers who would like copies should send a self-addressed stamped No. 10 envelope and a check or money order for $2 for each report to Newsletter, P.O. Box 167, Wickliffe, OH 44092. Be sure to mention the title(s).
Dear Dr. Gott: I was bothered by a large Baker’s cyst after an injury to my left knee. I needed surgery to repair my knee, and my doctor said the cyst would disappear on its own after my knee got better. Well, my knee improved, but the cyst got worse. My doctor tried to drain it, but nothing came out. I was still advised against surgery unless it was absolutely necessary owing to the area and length of recovery time. Some days, the pain was so bad I could hardly walk. I didn’t want the surgery, so I just dealt with the pain and hoped it would go away as the doctor said.
Well, one day, a year and a half later, I was enjoying playing with my grandchildren in the lake. I twisted my knee a little, felt it pop, experienced enormous pain, and fell into the shallow water. I couldn’t get up for about 30 minutes, but my grandchildren eventually helped me into my car.
I thought I was in big trouble and was going to have the surgery for sure. I felt the pain all that night, but to my surprise, it was gone the next morning. Eight months later, I remain pain-free, and the knot on the back of my knee is gone as well.
I believe when I twisted my knee, it ruptured the cyst and staying in the cool water helped.
Dear Reader: A Baker’s cyst, also known as a popliteal cyst, is often the result of a problem with the knee joint, such as a tear or arthritis. When this occurs, too much synovial fluid is produced, resulting in a cyst. By way of explanation, synovial fluid is a lubricant that circulates throughout the knees, passing through various tissue pouches known as bursae. A mechanism within the joint and back of the knee regulates the amount of the fluid passing in and out. A bulge forms when the bursae fill and expand. That bulge is called a Baker’s cyst.
In some cases, no treatment is necessary. In others, however, help from a primary-care physician, physical therapist, medication, drainage or surgery to repair the torn cartilage might be appropriate. A physician should be consulted when pain and swelling are observed behind the knee. Noninvasive testing such as MRI or ultrasound can be performed for proper diagnosis.
While rare, there are instances in which fluid can leak into the calf. This appears to be what happened to you. Usually, medical attention is necessary to help evaluate the symptoms of a ruptured cyst, because they can be similar to those of a blood clot in your leg. However, your cyst did rupture, and you were unable to see a physician before the condition resolved on its own.
Lifestyle changes will go a long way toward relieving pain for many sufferers. They include a reduction in physical activity; over-the-counter aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen or acetaminophen; rest, compression and elevation of the knee area; and icing of the joint. A substitute for an ice pack in the middle of the night just might be a bag of peas from the freezer wrapped around the joint.
We have to give your physician the benefit of being correct. The cyst did go away by itself without surgery. I’m not sure that he would have expected it to burst while you were immersed in water, but all’s well that ends well. Congratulations.
To provide related information, I am sending you a copy of my Health Report “Managing Chronic Pain.” Other readers who would like a copy should send a self-addressed stamped No. 10 envelope and a check or money order for $2 to Newsletter, P.O. Box 167, Wickliffe, OH 44092. Be sure to mention the title.
Dear Reader: I have had a problem with severe constipation for many years. I have taken different laxatives and have been on milk of magnesia for a long time. I took a large dose of it last night and the night before, to no avail. I use Fleet enemas and suppositories, and strain with all my might to get any kind of action.
I have approached my primary-care physician and others and get no answers at all. I will say I am desperate with the terrible problem and am hoping you can give me help. I’m physically active and seem to be in good health otherwise.
Dear Reader: Constipation is a persistent decrease in the frequency and ease of bowel movements. On a temporary basis, this is nothing to worry about. Long term, it should be investigated.
You do not indicate how often you actually have a bowel movement. Every person has a slightly different pattern. For some, it’s once a day, three times a day or even once every three days. Do you include adequate fiber and sufficient fluids in your diet? Or is your diet high in animal fats and refined sugars? Have you had your thyroid gland checked? A sluggish thyroid can cause chronic constipation.
The habitual use of laxatives can be dangerous. As with addictive drugs, doses of laxatives over time must be increased in order to produce the effect needed. Eventually, the intestines can become unresponsive to the drugs altogether, and cease to become effective.
Constipation can be a symptom of a more serious problem, such as medication interactions, hormonal disturbances, thyroid disorders and more. It can also lead to hemorrhoids from straining and fissures caused by hard stool stretching the sphincter muscle. With that in mind, I recommend you make an appointment with your primary-care physician, who hasn’t listened to you thus far, to demand help, or request a referral to a gastroenterologist. Ask to be checked for the obvious possibilities mentioned. If nothing is found, your concerns should be put to rest at least.
While waiting for the appointment, bypass all the over-the-counter drugs you have. Instead, add fiber and plenty of fruits and vegetables to your diet, and increase the amount of fluids you consume daily. Consider warm prune or apple juice with breakfast or try my colon cocktail (equal portions of bran, applesauce and prune juice, 1 to 2 tablespoons taken daily). Exercise regularly to the capability you feel comfortable with. Perhaps this translates to a walk around the block after work. Allow your body to get back on track without the aid of outside forces. You might be amazed at the results.
To provide related information, I am sending you a copy of my Health Report “Constipation and Diarrhea.” Other readers who would like a copy should send a self-addressed stamped No. 10 envelope and a check or money order for $2 to Newsletter, P.O. Box 167, Wickliffe, OH 44092. Be sure to mention the title.
Dear Dr. Gott: I am a 78-year-old female. Eight months ago, I was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation and congestive heart failure. I was put on Coumadin, but take generic warfarin. Since the regimen began, I have itched all over, especially in body crevices. I have a number of lesions and, even as I write this, I have bandages on three areas of my torso trying to protect spots where the skin is raw from scratching because of the itch.
I went to a dermatologist, who gave me a sample of a white ointment and recommended I buy a small bar of soap for $10. This has helped little, if at all.
Before being put on the warfarin I never had any problems like this. The Coumadin clinic I go to for lab work and my doctors seem unconcerned. In fact, I asked my doctor about another treatment, and all I got was that Coumadin is what I need, period!
For information, I take medication to lower my blood pressure and Prilosec for heartburn from a hiatal hernia. None of my medications have been changed.
Dear Reader: Coumadin and its generic form of warfarin act as an anticoagulant to help reduce the formation of blood clots. The medication was prescribed because of your atrial fibrillation, a rapid and irregular heartbeat. This is important because most people with this condition are at higher risk of blood clots, which may lead to stroke.
Hives, rash and itch are side effects. You are likely experiencing an allergic reaction to the drug or a possible cross reaction from the hypertensive medication you are on. I believe your dermatologist is off base. Lotion will not make your problem go away. If your physician is unwilling to work with you, request a referral to another physician or cardiologist. Also, consider seeing an allergy specialist.
To provide related information, I am sending you copies of my Health Reports “Consumer Tips on Medicines” and “Allergies.” Other readers who would like copies should send a self-addressed stamped No. 10 envelope and a check or money order for $2 for each report to Newsletter, P.O. Box 167, Wickliffe, OH 44092. Be sure to mention the title(s).