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The People’s Pharmacy: Coconut controls diarrhea for dogs and people

Q. My dog gets colitis when she is under stress. The veterinarian prescribed medicines that help, but she can’t stay on them all of the time.

Knowing my mother’s success with coconut macaroons to ease diarrhea after cancer treatments, I thought of giving some to our dog. I didn’t want to give her cookies with sugar, so I just sprinkle unsweetened coconut (about ½ teaspoon) on her two meals a day, and all is well! She accepts it, and the diarrhea problem is kept under control.

A. Coconut has a reputation for combatting chronic diarrhea. We first heard about this remedy (two Archway brand coconut macaroon cookies daily) from Donald Agar in 1998. He suffered from diarrhea due to long-standing Crohn’s disease.

His discovery was serendipity, but there is some actual research to support his experience. A study in the Journal of Medicinal Food (December 2013) found that virgin coconut oil and its component fatty acids discourage Clostridium difficile (C. diff) overgrowth.

Another reader inquired: “I assume it’s the coconut in the macaroons that does the trick. If so, rather than buying cookies, I would like to make them myself, gluten- and dairy-free. Am I missing the point of the cookies, or will my homemade ones work just as well?”

The coconut macaroon recipe we offer in our book “Recipes and Remedies” (online at PeoplesPharmacy.com) contains no gluten or dairy.

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Q. After 10 years of suffering with restless legs syndrome (RLS), requiring ever-increasing amounts of ropinirole (Requip) to sleep, I thought I was losing my mind due to lack of sleep. I spent hours pacing during the night, and usually slept in our second bedroom so that I would not disturb my wife. Even with medication, I needed to get up around 1 or 2 a.m. and work through a second episode of RLS before finally falling asleep again. Then the RLS suddenly stopped.

I told my wife that I wasn’t having the issue any longer and was puzzled by the change. Then she informed me that a co-worker suggested putting soap under the sheet. She had put a bar under our bottom sheet to see if it actually worked.

I still take my meds (because I am paranoid about not sleeping), but I need only a minimum dose. So far I’m thrilled with this bizarre solution.

A. We have heard from many people who use the soap remedy to prevent nighttime leg cramps. People with RLS also may find this remedy beneficial. We are pleased you’ve gotten such a good response.

Another reader tried a different approach, which you might want to keep in mind if you need it in the future:

“I suffered from restless leg syndrome. After hunting for remedies, I realized all the products had magnesium in them. I bought a bottle of magnesium and take one every night. I have not had any more attacks.”

Q. I have painful idiopathic neuropathy in my feet and lower legs. I vaguely recall you suggesting benfotiamine for the pain. What dose is appropriate? I would like to give it a try and see if I get any relief.

I have been using alpha-lipoic acid for years. It really hasn’t helped, so I would like to try benfotiamine instead.

A. Benfotiamine is a B vitamin that has been shown to prevent the accumulation of dangerous compounds – advanced glycation end products – that lead to diabetic neuropathy (Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism, December 2015).

One physician who uses this approach suggests starting with a dose of 300 mg twice a day. If his patients respond, he recommends a maintenance dose of 150 mg twice a day. Benfotiamine is available without a prescription.

The People’s Pharmacy radio broadcast airs at 2 p.m. Saturdays on WBFO-FM 88.7.