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Muscle Cramps


Many people experience cramps when they sleep, which can sometimes be associated with excruciating pain. Athletes sometimes tend to develop muscle cramps when they are exercising.

A wide variety of factors can cause muscles to contract painfully:

A mineral deficiency involving potassium, calcium, magnesium and/or sodium.

Dehydration, which can occur in athletes when they exercise hard in hot conditions and do not drink sufficient liquid.

Excessive intake of fluid (drinking 2-3 litres or more of water in addition to your daily fluid intake) - this can ‘wash’ the above-mentioned minerals out of your body and lead to cramps.

Lack of fitness - well-trained muscles are less likely to cramp. People who are not fit and get too little exercise often develop cramps because their muscles develop poor blood circulation.

Wearing tight constrictive clothing, especially in bed. Try to wear comfortable, loosely fitting clothes at all times, as constriction of the blood supply to muscles can cause them to contract painfully.


Minerals that play a role

There are four minerals that can influence how a muscle contracts, namely calcium, potassium, magnesium and sodium.

a) Calcium
Calcium is essential for the normal contraction of muscle tissues, including those of the heart. Low blood calcium levels can result in a condition called tetani where the muscles fibres contract continuously. Heart failure can ensue. Sub-optimal calcium intakes are relatively common, especially in teenagers and young women who cut out calcium-rich foods like milk and dairy products because they are afraid of gaining weight. Supplementing may be useful (see Calcium)

b) Magnesium
Magnesium deficiencies are relatively rare, but people eating a diet lacking fresh fruit, vegetables, legumes and unprocessed grains and cereals, may well have inadequate intakes. If you suffer from muscle cramps, you can try increasing your intakes of the foods listed above (especially green, leafy vegetables such as spinach, cabbage, lettuce, broccoli) or take a calcium and magnesium supplement (taking these two minerals together improves their mutual absorption).

c) Potassium
Potassium is abundant in common foods and most people should not develop a deficiency. However, eating minimal or monotonous diets to lose weight or cutting out all fruits and vegetables and grains and cereals, can cause a potassium deficiency. Consuming too much salt, or drinking too much water can also deplete your potassium reserves (it 'costs' potassium to eject surplus sodium chloride from the body). Good sources of potassium include fruit and/or vegetables, or you can use salt substitutes containing potassium chloride (KCl).

d) Sodium
Most people on a western diet, which is based on processed foods, won’t develop a sodium deficiency. However, drinking too much water, sweating a lot, and certain imbalances in kidney function can lead to sodium depletion, which in turn can cause cramps. If you do a lot of exercise in hot weather or if you are an athlete training hard, you need to make sure that you are getting some sodium in your diet. Luckily, most sports drinks like Energade and Powerade contain sodium to assist with hydration, so drink some while you exercise and during the recovery phase.

People who develop cramps and do not eat any salt or use salt substitutes (which are rich in potassium) should consider that they might have a sodium deficiency. Try adding a pinch of table salt to your food for a week or two to see if this alleviates the problem.

Other tips on preventing cramps

Get as fit as possible - the fitter you are, the fewer cramps you will develop.

Drink sufficient liquid to prevent dehydration, but don’t overdo your fluid intake.

Follow a low-fat diet to prevent clogged arteries as poor blood circulation to the limbs can cause cramps.

Do stretching exercises every day, especially with the muscles that tend to cramp.

Wear loose, comfortable clothes, especially at night.


Recommended Products

Recommended Book: Growing Young' by Marcus L Gitterle MD

The latest 'anti-aging' research means that you do not have to put up with a steady accumulation of aches and pains as the years mount up. You can use gentle and natural methods with no unwanted side effects to simply cast aside all those irritating little aches and pains, limitations and restrictions that gradually eat into the quality of life.

Marcus Gitterle's book is a compilation of new information which can be used at home by anyone. No expensive equipment is needed, and there are no sweat-drenched work-outs. Whether you are a ‘senior citizen’ or just someone who is naturally prone to aches, pains, soreness or stiffness, this book will help. To find out more, just click on the ‘cover’ image or link below, and you will be taken straight to the information page (it will open in another tab or window).

Growing Young cover

Click Here



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