Tag Archives: Painless Living

Painless Living | Restless Leg Syndrome: What You Can Do at Home

By Dr. Michael Cassaro

Restless leg syndrome is a condition that can rob you of a good night’s sleep…every night.  In mild cases, it may just be an aggravation.  In severe cases, it is extremely painful and can have you awake all night pacing the floor.  Even if you are able to sleep through it, your constant “kicking” can keep your spouse awake.  A man told me once, that whenever his wife laid down to sleep, it was like a helicopter started up.

Restless Leg Syndrome gets a lot of attention these days.  It’s even advertized on television.  But don’t be fooled, this is not new.  It’s always been around.  Until the early 2000’s most people controlled their restless legs with quinine.  Unfortunately, the very safe, $3 per month, quinine was removed from the market to make way for the much less effective and much more expensive drugs, with horrible sounding side effects, that are advertised on television.

So what are you supposed to do now to control your restless legs?  Well, lets start by looking at what causes restless leg syndrome.  First of all, there is nothing wrong with your legs.  Second of all, there is really not much mystery about this condition.  And finally, most people (spouses too) can get a good night’s sleep with inexpensive, home remedies.

Restless Leg Syndrome requires two specific problems.  If you don’t have both problems, you don’t get the cramps, pain, or helicopter legs.  Those two things are nerve irritation and mineral deficiency.  What causes nerve irritation?  There’s a pretty short list.  The things at the top of the list are bone spurs (arthritis), pinched nerves, and chemicals.  Most of the irritating chemicals are in your foods and drinks.  Some medicines can cause nerve irritation.  Household chemicals are another group.  These chemicals can include anything from cleaning chemicals, to air fresheners, lawn treatments, bug sprays, and virtually anything else that has a warning on the package similar to “harmful if swallowed”.

As far as food and drink goes, artificial sweeteners are very common culprits.  Flavors and colors in processed foods are also contributors.  The exact chemicals are frequently hard to pin down because they are never listed individually on a product label.  They are listed collectively as natural or artificial flavors, or colors.  They do a good job of lighting up your taste buds.  But after you swallow them, they go around your body lighting up other things, like your nervous system.

The second requirement for Restless Leg Syndrome is mineral deficiency.  This can be a shortage of almost any mineral.  But there are a few common mineral deficiencies that account for most of the problems.  The top three are magnesium, potassium, and iron.  Potassium is easy to get in your diet.  It is in everything.  Most people with a potassium shortage get enough potassium in their diet.  Their problem is that they lose potassium by frequent urination, usually because of medications or illness.  Blood pressure medications, or medications for “swelling” are the most common culprits.  Diabetes is the most common illness to cause excessive urination.

Magnesium deficiency is common because of low magnesium in the diet.  The natural sources of magnesium are green vegetables, eaten raw.  ‘Nuff said.

Even mild iron deficiency can contribute to Restless Leg Syndrome.  Even if your blood count is normal, you could still have low iron.  If you have restless legs, ask your doctor to order a blood test for ferritin.  If the result is less than 50, start taking iron.  If regular iron pills give you indigestion, get herbal iron supplements from a health food store.

To increase your magnesium, take a bath in Epsom Salts every night before bedtime.  Put a couple of hands full of Epsom Salt crystals into the bathtub.  Soak in the tub for 20 – 30 minutes, or until the water starts to cool off.  The magnesium from the water will soak right through your skin and get much more magnesium into your body than you could ever tolerate by mouth.

Also, take folic acid 25 mg daily.  This is a much higher dose than what is in most multi-vitamins. While you’re at it, a good multi-vitamin could help, too.

Try this at home for at least two weeks and see if your legs let you, and your spouse, sleep better.


Journey of a Pain Sufferer | Part 3

Cut out sweets? Here’s why certain kinds of sugar aggravate your system. While others simply taste good.

By Steve Kaufman

In my previous update, I mentioned that Dr. Michael Cassaro of Painless Living is a strong advocate of less pain through smarter eating.

“There are a lot of treatment interventions in medicine,” he said. “Surgery, prescriptions, devices. I use nutrition as a treatment intervention. In fact, I believe it’s one of the most powerful.”

We all say we want to eat better. Maybe to lose weight. Maybe to live longer. Maybe to improve our immune systems. Maybe to improve the planet. But how, exactly, will changing my diet affect my pain?

Hang on, some of this might sound like your high school biology class.

It starts, perhaps not surprisingly, with sugar – which, unfortunately, shows up all over our supermarket shelves. “Market research shows that people like the taste of sweet,” said Cassaro. “So manufacturers find ways to sweeten up their foods.”

But using plain cane sugar is fairly expensive. Beet sugar is less expensive. High-fructose corn syrup is the least expensive – and the most effective. At least, it’s the sweetest.

Look at your packaged food labels: Catsup. Spaghetti sauce. Cereal. Soups. Crackers. Peanut butter. Coffee creamers. Salad dressing. Baking ingredients. Almost anything that’s pre-made.

“Catsup used to be made primarily from tomatoes,” Cassaro pointed out. “Now, tomatoes may or may not be the first ingredient. High-fructose corn syrup will certainly be up there.”

I just looked at the catsup in my pantry. “Tomato concentrate” is first, “high-fructose corn syrup” is second.

Fructose is the bad guy! It’s one-half of a sucrose molecule. The other is glucose. But fructose is not friendly to our systems.

“When we ingest sucrose, our body divides it up into glucose and fructose,” Cassaro explained. “The glucose probably doesn’t cause much harm. The fructose, on the other hand, causes a lot of harm. Glucose is a fuel, burned for energy. Fructose has to be broken down first. And, since sedentary lifestyles don’t need as much fuel and break down fructose more slowly, it gets stored as fat. It raises blood pressure and uric acid and changes the way our airways react, which leads to allergies and asthma. It can also lead to heart disease and other degenerative diseases.”

What about its effect on pain?

“Fructose causes inflammation, both by increasing uric acid and by lowering the body’s pH level, which is a scale of acidity.

“Also,” said the physician, “the fat, which comes from fructose and other dietary factors, is not just a storage depot. It’s metabolically active. It releases a lot of metabolic products into your body, including hormones and inflammatory mediators. Fructose is 200 times more likely to promote pain in our joints and nerves than an equal amount of glucose.”

Interestingly, dietary sweet things like honey and pure maple syrup are the perfect antidote to those fructose-laden products the food industry thrusts at us. Primarily, they have lower concentrations of the insidious fructose. “Honey has dozens of different types of sugar,” said Cassaro, “but it’s a natural product with relatively low amounts of fructose. On the other hand, it’s high in glucose. And it tastes good, so it’s an easy switch for people looking to reduce their dietary sweeteners.”

Maple syrup has no fructose. None! Zero! And because the process of concentrating the syrup from the original sap extrudes the water out of it, you’re left with a sugar that’s almost all glucose.

Also, said Cassaro, there will almost always be a difference between products that are naturally occurring and synthetic products produced in a lab. “Even if they seem identical, the fact that something came from a factory rather from than a plant means there will be impurities, and aspects where reactions might not be quite the same between some of the molecules. A synthetic is never as high-quality as a natural product.”

It’s the old dictum: Try not to fool Mother Nature.

Were you one of those people who dozed off in biology class? Or chemistry? I’m afraid I was. And there’s much more to say about my doctor’s approach to the food we ingest and the pain that results.

Like bread. Pasta. Rice. Artificial sweeteners. Diet Coke, and its relationship to Michael J. Fox’s Parkinson’s Disease.

You may not think you’ll get excited about a discussion of hydrogenated oils. But I promise you, if you’re looking to reduce those flashes of pain that come at you every day, seemingly out of nowhere, you’ll want to read the next few installments of this column.

EDITOR’S NOTE: In 2016, Steve Kaufman was asked to write an informational piece about Dr. Michael Cassaro of Painless Living in Jeffersonville. Unbeknownst to us, Steve has suffered from chronic pain for years and sought out Dr. Cassaro’s pill-free treatment of pain on his own. He has since agreed to chronicle his journey in Extol and ExtolMag.com.

Why does everything hurt worse in the cold weather?

By Michael Cassaro

Most people with a chronic pain problem have noticed that pain is worse in winter.  It doesn’t matter what type of pain, it’s worse this time of year than it was in the summer.  So, what is the answer?  Why is pain worse in the winter?

There have been some attempts to come up with an answer.  But, the search continues.  We have some partial answers.  I’ll cover some of them here.  We also have some scientists who believe it’s all imagined.  They claim there is no scientific basis for pain to vary with the weather.  Of course, in my office, I see a parade of people who beg to differ.  My own conclusion is that the alleged men of science are fortunate to not be afflicted with arthritis.  When they develop their own pain, they will change their opinion.

Let’s start by considering the effect of temperature.  People in Minnesota and people in Georgia experience worsening pain as the mercury drops.  But, the actual temperatures are far different.  Also, people spend a lot of time indoors.  In the summer, the indoor temperature may be lower than the winter, indoor temperature.  My conclusion is the temperature probably has less to do with pain severity than other things that change with the season, unless you have implanted metal.

If you have rods in your back, artificial joints, or other metal implanted in your body, there is likely to be an increase in associated pain, during the winter.  Your body’s cells each generate heat.  Your metal parts do not.  Your circulating blood brings heat to all of your natural body parts.  Your metal parts do not have the same heat distribution system.  The metal parts rob heat from surrounding tissues.  They are a heat sink.  The more warmly you dress, the more protection you will have.

Let’s consider daylight.  It seems there is an inverse correlation between the hours of natural light and pain.  At least part of this correlation may be due to Vitamin D.  As you know, your skin makes Vitamin D in response to sunlight.  Less natural light means less opportunity to make Vitamin D.  Unless you take a Vitamin D supplement, the amount of Vitamin D in your body is likely to decrease with the daylight hours.  A convenient way to keep adequate Vitamin D is to take a Vitamin D supplement, daily, beginning in the early fall and continuing until mid spring.  For most people, 5000 units of Vitamin D3 can help.  You may also notice fewer colds and flu when you take Vitamin D this way.

Your immune system also plays a role in how much pain you experience.  One of the biggest contributors to pain is inflammation.  The more inflammation you have, the more pain you feel from the inflamed area.  The word arthritis means inflamed joint.  Other types of itis refer to inflammation of other body parts.  If your immune system is over reactive, it will promote more inflammation, and you will feel more pain.  If you spend more time indoors in the winter, you are likely to be bombarded by bacteria and viruses.  The constant bombardment keeps your immune system in a state of high activity, promoting inflammation, and pain.  And if you should get sick, all of your pain will likely get worse.

While you don’t want to prevent your immune system from doing its job, you can make it easier by getting outdoors.  Sure, it’s winter, but fresh air and sunshine are a good antiseptic.  Combine this with some regular physical activity, and you’ll limit your inflammation.  And, as mentioned above regarding Vitamin D, you may notice fewer colds and flu.

Finally, probably the most important thing you can do to keep your chronic pain in check during the winter is to take control of what you eat and drink.  With three major holidays in less than six weeks, there is plenty of opportunity for excess.  Once you start down the path of excess, it’s easy for it to become routine.  At the top of the list of foods that promote pain are sugar, alcohol, and baked goods.  One of the bad things about the foods that promote increased pain is the lag time.  It may take a week or more of overindulgence for the pain to increase, and weeks of abstinence for the pain intensity to subside.  Keep it under control.

It’s not just the cold air that makes pain worse in winter.  Everything that goes along with the season contributes.  Control your diet, exercise, and sleep well, so you can survive winter without increased pain.