Muscle cramps originating from a nutritional source could be due to an electrolyte imbalance, dehydration, low magnesium, low potassium, low calcium or low sodium. Vitamin deficiencies can also cause cramps, but are very rare. Other causes for muscle cramps may be due to medications, fatigue, as part of the recovery process following an injury, or poor circulation. The latter typically occurs during light exercise from the accumulation of lactic acid and other chemicals that the body fails to eliminate.
Adequate nutrition* and hydration, stretching and avoidance of vigorous strain on the legs can help prevent leg cramps if the cause is related to self-care. Check out our ARTICLE on hydration to see if you’re drinking enough. If you take medicine, thoroughly review its side effects. Most importantly, see your primary care physician to rule out blockage of the blood vessels (claudication).
* Good sources of needed electrolytes:
Magnesium – whole grains, nuts/seeds, beans, greens, meats, milk, banana
Potassium – fresh fruits and vegetables (notably bananas, potatoes, tomatoes, greens), milk products, meats
Calcium – milk products, dark green leafy vegetables, beans, soft-boned fish
Sodium – soup, canned vegetables, crackers/chips, cured meats
Check out this article for more about hydration and cramping:
- Debbie J., MS, RD
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