Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Leg Cramps, Electrolytes, and Pickle Juice

Some people suffer from leg cramps, particularly at night. I got some quite nasty ones going after switching to barefooting shoes. I suppose that hitting some previosuly underused muscle fibers was part of my problem. (Fortunately my problems are now gone.)

While the precise causes of muscle cramps are not totally known, a widely suspected factor is depletion of one or more of electrolyte minerals such as sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium.

In athletic- and paleo circles magnesium has the most solid reputation as a muscle relaxing electrolyte and many of us supplement with magnesium through for example fizzy magnesium drinks before bed time.

However supplementing magnesium doesn't always seem to help. I for one had supplemented for months with magnesium and tested high normal on a magnesium RBC test before I had my leg cramp episode. (A clinical study also failed to find magnesium helpful.)

Now some reports have come up pointing out pickle juice as being very effective against leg cramps, and some experts speculate that perhaps the active factor may be the vinegar in the juice because drinking it had such a rapidly relieving effect that any electrolytes in the liquid would not have had time to hit the muscles.

So in the light of the somewhat contradictory reports on how to prevent- or releive leg cramps, I would suggest the following arsenal of potential remedies:

1) Pickle juice. To be taken when cramps occur - keep a glass at the ready on your bed stand. Vinegar might work just as well.

2) Make sure to eat a diet high in electrolyte minerals. Even if this may not be a complete guarantee against muscle cramps, these minerals are beneficial anyway, and most people are deficient because of eroded soils. Sea weeds and bone broth are effective ways to add minerals to your diet.

3) Possibly supplement with a magnesium citrate drink at bed time. This has worked for some people as a preventive measure against cramps and is also a nice sleeping aid. Magnesium also has other beneficial effects on the body, including increasing insulin sensitivity and normalizing blood pressure, and is very safe in people with functional kidneys. (By the way, I rinse my mouth with baking soda after taking magnesium citrate as a way to protect my teeth from the acidity of the preparation.)

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