Leg Cramps (Charley Horse) or Muscle Cramps in General, how it happens
You know the kind. They wake you up and are excruciatingly painful.
Defining this cramp is easy. It is nothing more than a short involuntary contraction of a muscle. One of your muscles decides to flex and stays that way, without your permission. It is when the muscles in certain parts of your body like the arms and legs stiffen.
What causes leg cramps and what to do about it?
It is a little more difficult to say what causes this exactly. Low levels of certain minerals known as electrolytes – magnesium, potassium, calcium and sodium – have long been linked to leg cramps. Certain drugs, such as diuretics (water pills) for the heart and your high blood pressure, have been cited as the culprit. If the kidneys aren’t working properly, it can also lead to this problem.
Vitamin E seems to be one of those therapies that help people. Toxins, including renegade molecules known as free radicals which damage healthy molecules by stealing electrons to balance themselves, are left behind to irritate the muscles. Just as Vitamin E soaks up free radicals linked to heart disease, etc., it can also attack those causing leg cramps. (Get more info on Free Radicals and Antioxidants). In many trials, the use of Vitamin E 400 IU daily, handled these cramps.
Electrolytes – magnesium, potassium, calcium and sodium – are some of the most important and most well-known nutrients in the fight against cramping. But, did you know that you are most likely to run out of magnesium before any other electrolyte? Most people do not eat enough foods containing magnesium (such as green leafy vegetables, nuts, figs, and pumpkin seeds).
Also, certain medications flush magnesium out of your system. Medications used to treat heart disease and high blood pressure is an example of this type of medication.
Magnesium is needed by the cells to allow potassium and calcium to move in and out when needed for the muscle to do its job. Without adequate levels of any of these nutrients, the muscle becomes irritable. Both potassium and calcium are needed and the body usually has enough of these two electrolytes, but if the body doesn’t have magnesium, it can’t use the other two.
Magnesium is a powerful relaxant for the muscles and this mineral is the preferred treatment for stopping premature labor contractions and a dangerous condition called preeclampsia which causes extreme swelling and high blood pressure in pregnant women. However, please note that pregnant women, under a medical doctor’s care, should not take any supplement without first discussing it with him/her due to different reactions with drugs.
Also, if you have kidney problems, taking magnesium supplements may make you accumulate the mineral too quickly, which could be toxic. If you have kidney or heart problems, you should check with your doctor first, especially one who is a nutritionist.
Some people who take magnesium supplements can get relief from leg cramps right away, but a long-standing deficiency can take weeks to overcome with supplements.
Calcium itself may not have much benefit for leg cramps, but calcium helps the magnesium absorption. Taking skim milk with magnesium tablets will help.
Dr. Berg’s Magnesium Supplement Find out more about this supplement.
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