Do you have to jump out of bed really fast to mitigate a leg cramp?
Does it usually in the back of the calf, or in your foot?
Leg cramps are not only painful, but they are a leading cause of fitful sleeping, insomnia and daytime fatigue. They speak to bigger problems too, such as dehydration, nutritional deficiencies and sometimes depression. This is because the root cause might be due to an imbalance in one of several key minerals like calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc or sodium. This is what you’re sweat is made of by the way. When you sweat, you lose water and the levels of these may rise because your blood is not as dilute; likewise you may become deficient in one or more of these minerals and that may also trigger a cramp. If it’s once in a while, it’s not a big deal but if you wake up every night in shock, you need more insight.
Today my article will help you deal more effectively with nocturnal leg cramps so you can sleep through the night and feel better during the day. Dehydration is a big reason for leg cramps and most of you don’t even realize that you lack sufficient water in your system. It gets depleted if you drink coffee, soda or energy drinks, exercise or sweat a lot, or just fail to drink enough pure water. By the time you feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. Don’t get to that point.
Here are some of the best hacks for leg cramps:
There’s an interesting case study that is now published in the April issue of Frontiers of Medicine. It’s about a 34-year old woman who put herself on a diet that consisted of low sorbitol (and low fructose). She essentially cured herself of long-standing leg cramps within a few weeks. Not only that, she also noted that her depression, widespread chronic pain, unremitting fatigue, insomnia and morning stiffness also improved. She worked toward raising serotonin and minimizing sorbitol, which is found in many foods. It can cause digestive upset for many of you, as well as dehydration.
Reduce aspirin and ibuprofen.
Many NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as sulphasalazine, sulindac, indomethacin, naproxen, salicylic acid and ibuprofen are known to be drug muggers of natural folate. This impairs methylation and increases leg cramps. The deficiency of folate is a known cause for chronic leg cramps. By the way, some of you wonder if acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin/Advil) is better for your particular type of ache/pain or mishap. To find out, CLICK HERE to read my article, Which is Better for You, Advil or Tylenol.”
Take CoQ10 with your Statin Cholesterol Drug.
If you take a statin like lovastatin, atorvastatin or others, you should be taking CoQ10 or Ubiquinol every day. If you are deficient in CoQ10, you will have chronic leg cramps and muscle spasms. There’s more about this in my book, Drug Muggers.
Avoid large doses of Vitamin C.
If you take too much vitamin C, it can upset your stomach and cause diarrhea. Then you’re faced with dehydration and that’s a trigger for leg cramps. What is too much? It’s different for everyone. It might be more than 1,000 mg per day for one of you, and more than 5 or 10,000 mg for another. Just keep in mind that too much C causes leg cramps.
Cut back on caffeine.
Caffeine is a diuretic, so it causes mild dehydration. You may have noticed that on days you drink a lot of coffee, or have several energy drinks, you have more leg cramps. Not only that, but the chlorogenic acid in coffee is a drug mugger for magnesium, iron and zinc. Low magnesium causes leg cramps and migraines. Low iron and zinc might also contribute to muscle pain, weakness and nocturnal cramps. So if you take in a lot of caffeine, the fix might be an E-lyte drink, see below for information on that.
Drink Coconut Water.
This is a natural electrolyte, and I think it’s healthier for you than those strangely colored drinks that are loaded with sugar and artificial colors. Coconut water can help to restore electrolytes naturally, and if you drink half a glass right before bed, it might be all you need! If you’d like to learn about Coconut Water and 9 Other Brilliant Ideas to Reverse Diabetes, then take 10 minutes to read my other aricle. CLICK HERE to read it.
Epsom salt bath.
Before bed, take a bath with Epsom salts, and use more than recommended. For example, if I had a typical (standard-size) bathtub, I’d dump about a third of the 5 pound bag in there! For my larger tub in the Master bath, I dump about half the bag in there! You don’t have to do that much, but certainly, you will need more than a cup in my humble opinion (that doesn’t generally work for most people) but you can test the waters yourself and see what’s right for you.
Heat up a microwavable hot pack.
Heat one of these up and it’s sweet relief on your sore muscles. You can heat it up right after you cramp, and apply it to ease the pain faster.
If you drink plain, filtered water you can try adding about half teaspoon of clean, unrefined sea salt (not table salt), and this adds minerals to the water. It’s kind of like making your own unsweetened electrolyte drink.
E-lyte Balanced Electrolyte Concentrate.
It’s for rapid hydration. You can buy this on Amazon, it’s just a concentrate of electrolytes that has to be mixed with fluid. So you mix about a capful of the E-lyte with a big glass of water and drink it right after you get a cramp. You’re essentially making salt water. It contains magnesium and potassium. I drink this all the time before working out, or if I feel a leg cramp coming on from too much caffeine. Follow label directions.
If you’re not accustomed to the work-out you’re about to do, warm up. People underestimate the warm up process (and the cool down phase) but these gentle stretches help your muscles immensely. Stretching works.
Drink a little pickle juice.
This should not help, but it actually does. It’s probably from the salt in the flavoring or from the vinegar. The salt would help with electrolyte balance, the vinegar might serve as a mild muscle relaxant. Even in 2013, a study suggested that cramps lasted longer if you drank water, instead of pickle juice (which shortened the pain by about 49 seconds).
Try a massager.
The hand-held devices that provide percussion might bring instant relief. There are many at Brookstone, or on Amazon such as the Pure-Wave CM7 Cordless Massager.
While creams and patches help with pain temporarily, they are not a long-term fix. Yoga might be. I do it myself and hardly ever get a leg cramp. The reasoning is that yoga helps increase muscle tone and strength, it also improves flexibility. If you have a sit down job like I do (as a writer), you might love “Legs Up the Wall” or “Child’s” pose. The only caveat to yoga is if you do the “hot yoga” which I do quite often myself, it will dehydrate me, so drinking electrolytes is critical to make this work for you.
Suzy Cohen, has been a licensed pharmacist for over 30 years and believes the best approach to chronic illness is a combination of natural medicine and conventional. She founded her own dietary supplement company specializing in custom-formulas, some of which have patents. With a special focus on functional medicine, thyroid health and drug nutrient depletion, Suzy is the author of several related books including Thyroid Healthy, Drug Muggers, Diabetes Without Drugs, and a nationally syndicated column.