Antidote for dramatic diarrhea?

Q. Whenever I would go out to eat, I frequently would suffer from sudden diarrhea. This led to jumping out of the car and climbing through ditches to reach a sheltered area or charging into a nearby store with the hope of finding a restroom.

Then someone in my apartment building mentioned acidophilus and asked if I had tried taking it. I had not, so she gave me a bottle. It has been like a miracle.

I cannot help but wonder how many thousands of people with troublesome diarrhea would benefit from using acidophilus.

A. There are many possible causes of diarrhea. They include intestinal infection or parasites, food poisoning, lactose intolerance, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, overactive thyroid gland, celiac disease and other problems. Consequently, we doubt that your remedy will work for everyone.

Nonetheless, it could be worth a try. Lactobacillus acidophilus is one of the most common probiotics. These beneficial bacteria are used to replenish the gut microbiota after taking antibiotics. There is some evidence that probiotics, including acidophilus, may help people recover more quickly from infectious diarrhea (Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Nov. 10, 2010).

Q. You wrote recently about leg cramps. Back in 1985, a medical doctor told us about pinching the side of the mouth opposite the leg that has a cramp. In other words, if you have a cramp in the left leg, pinch the right side of your mouth (with the pointer finger inside the mouth and the middle finger on the outside). She said it worked like acupuncture.

This technique has always worked for me and my wife, including this week when a cramp woke me up. It stopped almost immediately!

A. Leg cramps or muscle spasms may be triggered by overactivated nerves. Other people have described a similar technique. They recommend pinching the center of the upper lip, right under the nose, for a minute or two.

We speculate that this kind of intense pressure stimulates sensory nerves through TRP (transient receptor potential) channels in the mouth. These specialized structures detect pressure, heat and a variety of flavors. That is why we think vinegar, mustard, hot pepper, ginger and cinnamon also calm leg cramps for some people.

When TRP channels are actuated, they send nerve signals to the affected muscles. Many people report that their cramps let up within two minutes.

Q. I just got back from a trip to Ireland. They have delicious licorice over there in every candy store. I had a bag every day and loved it.

On the plane flight home, my legs swelled terribly. My feet were practically bursting out of my shoes.

I think the licorice, together with the hours of sitting still, made this happen. Now that I’m back home and can’t get licorice every day, my legs are normal again.

A. An ingredient in natural black licorice, glycyrrhizin, has powerful pharmacological activity. Too much can cause low potassium levels, abnormal heart rhythms, edema (swelling) and high blood pressure.

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