Alternatively Speaking: Curbing the cramps

Alternative medicine enthusiast Natalie Marx answers your questions: What can help blocked sinuses; Can I prevent hiccups?

pregnant woman 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [illustrative])
pregnant woman 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [illustrative])
Q. Every winter, I suffer from blocked sinuses, and I feel as if my head is under water. I have been prescribed antibiotics, which didn’t help. I am not on any other medication. Please can you suggest some natural alternatives.
A. First of all I would suggest reducing your intake of foods such as dairy products, citrus fruit and bananas, which increase mucus levels. Start including in your diet warming spices, such as cinnamon, black pepper, clove, ginger and cardamom, as these help to break up mucus in your diet. There is a geranium-type plant that grows in South Africa which has been used by the Zulus for centuries to treat respiratory illnesses; Pelargonium sidoides. It's a safe, effective alternative to conventional treatment of many upper respiratory-tract infections. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial on patients suffering from acute sinusitis showed the following: Patients who took the placebo saw no significant change in their symptoms over 21 days, but patients who took pelargonium saw an 80 percent progressive symptom relief over the same period. Pelargonium can be found in most good health stores.
Using steam is a simple way to relieve sinus pressure at home. One quick way to breathe enough steam to relieve your sinus pressure is to pour very hot water into a pot, add a few drops of one of the following essential oils such as eucalyptus, rosemary, and peppermint and holding a towel over your head, and breathe.
A final option is to buy an inexpensive saline spray from your local pharmacy. Saline spray is a common natural remedy for sinus pressure because it helps cleanse the sinuses while helping the nasal cavity drain excess mucus. In adults, hold one nostril shut, spray two to three sprays in the open nostril while inhaling. Gently blow the nose after using the saline spray in each nostril. Clean the tip of the saline bottle with warm soapy water to prevent the spread of infection.
Q. Hi Natalie, I hope you can help. My wife is five months pregnant and has been suffering from severe leg cramps. They have been so severe that I have been woken at 3.30 a.m. to massage them and try to alleviate the pain temporarily.
Of course I am willing to help in this way, but I do love my there anything you can suggest that can help relieve the pain.
A. I prescribe red raspberry leaf most frequently to pregnant women who are experiencing leg cramps because they have nutrient deficiencies. This herb is also an excellent source of calcium. According to The Whole Pregnancy Handbook, red raspberry leaf cannot stop in-progress leg cramps, but it can decrease the frequency and intensity of cramps. Drink up to four 8 oz. cups of the tea, hot or chilled, every day. You can find Red Raspberry leaf in any good heath store.
Another favorite is ginkgo biloba because it promotes healthy blood circulation in your limbs. It's best used as a daily supplement to increase blood flow and protect the blood vessels from damage. It works particularly well for those who experience leg cramps habitually, either at night or during exercise. Look for 60 mg tablets and take them according to the instructions on the packaging. Liquid ginkgo extract, which you can add to tea, is also available in health food stores.
Ginger also helps prevent blood clots and encourages healthy circulation to the hands and feet. This herb can ease the pain that comes with muscle spasms, as well as decrease the occurrence of leg cramps. There are several different ways to take ginger, and all are effective on leg cramps. Steep peeled and chopped fresh ginger root in a cup of boiling water to make a spicy ginger tea, which you can consume several times a day. You can also add fresh ginger to soups, stir-frys and baked goods to reap the herb's benefits.
You should also advise your wife to eat more magnesium-rich foods, such as whole grains, beans, dried fruits, nuts and seeds. Fresh parsley and fresh watercress are herbs high in absorbable calcium and magnesium.
Since cramps are believed to arise from a lack of calcium and magnesium, you should avoid the following foods since they are said to interfere with calcium absorption; spinach, chocolate and brewer's yeast. It's also crucial to make sure your wife stays hydrated. Keeping muscles hydrated can help prevent cramps. If her urine is dark yellow, it may mean that she is not getting enough water.
Finally I advise that she does daily gentle stretching exercises, walk or swims and if possible tries a weekly prenatal massage.
Q. Why do we hiccup and what do you recommend is the best way to stop?
A. Hiccups occur when the diaphragm contracts repeatedly causing the opening between the vocal cords to slam shut, generating the hic sound. Hiccups may be due to fast eating with the chance of swallowing air, or eating too much foods causing irritation of the diaphragm.
The most simple and effective remedy is to hold your breath as long as possible, and let it go out. The lungs expand and push down on the diaphragm, stopping hiccups immediately.
This column is brought to you as general information only and unless stated otherwise is not medical advice nor is it based on medical experiments. This column is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. For more information about specific problems, please contact a doctor.

Ask Natalie: If you have a health query and would like an alternative answer then email Natalie with your question at [email protected]
Someone Once Said: "Man is ill because he is never still."
- Paracelsus