DEAR DR. GOTT: Seven years ago, I was diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy due to numbness on the bottoms of both feet. My podiatrist made the diagnosis. Because I was not a diabetic or an alcoholic, he diagnosed idiopathic PN. I was 75 at the time. He wanted to do muscle tests, which I turned down in favor of a second opinion at the local Mayo Clinic. Their tests showed the neuropathy to be present, and they suggested I take 600 milligrams per day of alpha-lipoic acid from my health-food store and exercise.
My neurologist prescribed 10 milligrams of baclofen for the few leg cramps I was getting at night. I declined after hearing the side effects from my pharmacist. Because the weather was hot, I decided to try a high-carb sports drink, which took away the cramps until the weather changed.
I have always been a heavy user of Vicks VapoRub, so I began massaging it onto both feet — bottom and top, heels and toes. My chiropractor also suggested 1/8th teaspoon of cream of tartar mixed with water at night.
Seven years later, I have a little numbness in spots but no pain and only cramps at night when my feet get cold. I also take 100 milligrams of vitamin B6 along with the alpha-lipoic acid per day. My neurologist agrees that the Vicks will keep the nerves alive, and the exercise by massaging keeps the muscles strong. Please tell people. I do. Thank you.
DEAR READER: Let’s start with the simple case of your leg cramps. Many people experience cramping of the feet and calves after exercising or profuse sweating because the body’s electrolyte balance is disturbed. Sports drinks can help bring this back into balance, thus eliminating the cramps. Other home remedies include soap under the sheets, pickles, pickle juice, supplemental potassium and several others.
Now, on to your peripheral neuropathy. This condition is caused by damage to the peripheral nerves in the feet, legs, hands and/or arms. Causes can be untreated or poorly controlled diabetes, chemotherapy or radiation side effects, improper diet or injury. When the cause cannot be found, the condition is labeled idiopathic.
Common treatment includes prescription nerve blockers such as gabapentin. Another treatment that has received a lot of positive review is Anodyne therapy. Home remedies range from topical mentholated chest rubs to dietary vitamin and mineral supplements and topical ointments containing capsaicin. Massage may also be beneficial since its aids circulation.
The cream-of-tartar remedy offered by your chiropractor is new to me, but if it works for you, stick with it. I cannot think of any harm it could do, especially given the minimal amount used.
Alpha-lipoic acid is an antioxidant made by the body and is present in every cell. It is both fat- and water-soluble. It has been shown to lower blood-sugar levels, kill free radicals and improve symptoms of autonomic neuropathy (damage to the nerves of the heart associated with diabetes). It is currently being studied as a part of a treatment program for glaucoma, stroke, brain disorders and liver disease. It is too early yet to tell whether it is beneficial.
Because of your success, I am printing your letter in the hopes that it may help others. I also ask for feedback from my readers about their experiences.
To provide related information, I am sending you copies of my Health Reports “Dr. Gott’s 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 $2 check or money order per report to Newsletter, P.O. Box 167, Wickliffe, OH 44092-0167. Be sure to mention the title(s) or print an order form off my website at www.AskDrGottMD.com.