Skeptic reverses position on soap in bed

Q. I was one heck of a skeptic when I heard about putting soap in the bed to calm restless legs syndrome. In fact, I laughed at the person who told me about it. However, I have suffered with RLS for several years, so I decided to give it a try.

Well, I had to eat a little humble pie. Not only does soap work, it works in a matter of 30 seconds to a minute. I’m sure it will not work for everyone, every time. But it sure has helped me and a dozen people I’ve told about it. We may not know exactly how it works, and there may be folks who think it is bogus. Well, they are just plain wrong.

I put my bar of soap in a pillowcase and rest my leg or legs on the pillow under the cover. This works to ease the restlessness every time.

A. Thank you for your story. We have heard from many other people who find soap helpful for restless legs syndrome, but, as you recognize, not all benefit. There are prescription drugs used to treat those with serious RLS, but the medications have some daunting side effects, such as falling asleep during the day while driving or eating. Dizziness, fainting, sleepiness, fatigue, gambling and other compulsive behaviors, indigestion, nausea, pain, swollen legs, dry mouth and hallucinations are other potential reactions.

We offer some approaches to managing restless legs with supplements or measures other than drugs. Again, not every treatment will be effective in each case. There are more details in our Guide to Leg Pain.

Q. My great-grandmother brought a folk remedy for upset stomach with her from Norway. When I was little and had a bellyache, I’d be given a tablespoon of cider vinegar plus a tablespoon of honey dissolved in a bit of hot water, mixed in a regular drinking glass that was then filled with cool water. It’s actually quite tasty, and it works every time, almost instantly!

Several years ago, the owner of a restaurant in my neighborhood was complaining that his stomach was extremely upset. Nothing he’d tried had worked, including an entire bottle of the pink stuff. He couldn’t take the night off and go home (and he never complained about anything, so it must have been bad).

I suggested the cider vinegar/honey remedy. He told me I was crazy, but since he had nothing to lose by trying it, and wisdom from family matriarchs was nearly sacred to him, he trotted off to the kitchen. A few minutes later, he was back to his old self and couldn’t stop grinning. Then he spread the word. I was still hearing about it weeks later.

A. Thanks for telling us about the origin of your remedy. We have heard from many readers that this can be surprisingly helpful for heartburn and indigestion.

Some worry that the vinegar will erode tooth enamel, so we were pleased to get this suggestion from a reader: “Use a straw to bypass the teeth so that the vinegar will not harm them.” One also might rinse with water and wait half an hour before brushing the teeth, since vinegar could soften enamel and make it susceptible to abrasion.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of this newspaper or email them via their Web site: Their newest book is “Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them.”

2013 King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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