Mustard for cramps trick scientific explanation

Q. My father found out about the “mustard trick” from a runner who keeps packets in his pockets while on runs in case a cramp hits him. My father used to eat bananas every day for potassium to prevent muscle cramps. Then bloodwork showed his level was too high. He’s given up bananas and is now using mustard. So far it is working for him and stops the cramps within a couple of minutes!

A. Sports physiologists used to think that muscle cramps were due to dehydration or electrolyte imbalance. That’s why they often recommended potassium. But too much potassium can be deadly.

New research suggests that some muscle cramps may actually be triggered by nerve malfunction. Two neurobiologists have found that stimulating sensory neurons in the mouth, throat and stomach with strong flavors can quickly reverse many muscle cramps. That may explain why swallowing a teaspoonful of yellow mustard is so effective for so many.

Q. I started taking krill oil for high cholesterol on my doctor’s advice. After a few months of taking the krill oil, my cholesterol came down from 270 to 165.

After a year of taking it, my high blood pressure is now relatively normal (130/75), and I no longer need lisinopril.

Here’s another unexpected benefit: For years I had an irregular heartbeat. It would skip a beat, and sometimes that would wake me up out of my sleep. It was scary.

After a year on the krill oil, that has cured itself as well. Krill oil is not just heart-healthy, it’s a heart miracle, as far as I am concerned. I am so thrilled, I am now wondering what other miracle supplements I should take.

A. There is research to support the use of krill oil in lowering total cholesterol and triglycerides and increasing beneficial HDL cholesterol (BMJ Open Diabetes Research and Care, August 2015; Lipids in Health and Disease, Dec. 15, 2015). These tiny crustaceans are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fats make blood vessels more flexible, which could help lower blood pressure.

Until there is more research, though, we’d hold off on calling krill oil a miracle. Similar benefits may be achieved through omega-3 fatty acids from fish.

Q. I have Type 2 diabetes and have had fairly severe neuropathy pain in both feet for seven years. A friend told me he is taking curcumin for arthritis, so I decided to try it.

To my amazement and joy, when I put my feet on the floor two weeks after starting the turmeric, I found the neuropathic pain was gone SEnD totally unexpected! Four weeks have passed, and I still have no pain.

A. Curcumin, an important component of the yellow curry spice turmeric, has anti-inflammatory activity (Journal of Medicinal Food, Aug. 1, 2016). It also seems to slow or prevent the progression of prediabetes to Type 2 diabetes (Diabetes Care, November 2012).

Research in rats suggests that curcumin can help protect nerves from the damage of diabetes (Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism, October 2015).

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.”

SCrt 2016 King Features Syndicate Inc.

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