Why Do Muscle Cramps Occur?
Muscle cramping is often the result of vitamin deficiencies and/or a mineral imbalance. Poor circulation is also often present when leg cramping is a problem.
There are vitamins that can help leg cramps as well as minerals that may be necessary to prevent cramping. Through a healthy, well-balanced diet and the use of supplements if necessary, this painful problem can improve within a week or two.
Other possible contributing factors include unusual physical exertion, tobacco use, remaining in one position for too long, dehydration, varicose veins and hormone imbalances. Leg cramps are also common among pregnant women.
A deficiency of this vitamin can lead to leg cramps that occur while you are standing or walking. Vitamin E improves circulation. It also acts as an antioxidant, preventing the oxidation of lipids, as well as LDL cholesterol, which helps to keep the circulatory system healthy. Vitamin E also inhibits blood clotting. Excellent food sources include dark green leafy vegetables, avocados, cold-pressed olive oil, nuts and seeds.
B vitamins are important for circulation and for good cellular function. Vitamin B1 and B3 are particularly important for increasing blood flow and maintaining good muscle tone. A diet that is rich in a variety of whole grains, green vegetables, dates, carrots, nuts, milk and eggs will supply B vitamins.
Vitamin C enhances circulation. It acts as an antioxidant, protecting cells from free radical damage. It also is necessary for the well-being of blood vessel walls; in fact, vitamin C can be very helpful in cases of varicose veins. Green vegetables, citrus fruits, and berries are all high in vitamin C.
Calcium, Magnesium and Potassium
While not vitamins, these minerals are very important for relieving leg cramps. They are the body’s electrolytes and necessary for proper muscle contractions. These minerals can easily be lost through intense exercise.
A diet that is lacking in one mineral can lead to difficulty absorbing the other minerals. Calcium and magnesium are needed to balance one another and potassium is necessary for the metabolism of calcium and magnesium.
Bananas, broccoli, dried fruits, legumes, and sunflower seeds are potassium-rich foods. Plenty of magnesium can be found in most vegetables, nuts and seafood. Calcium is abundant in dairy products, green leafy vegetables, dates and almonds.
Eating a well-balanced diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds and legumes is an effective way to get plenty of vitamins that help leg cramps as well as the necessary minerals for an electrolyte balance. You can also talk to your doctor about taking supplements to ensure the body is getting enough nutrition but continue to make a healthy diet a priority. Other ways to prevent muscle cramping include gentle massage, regular walks, and Epsom salt baths, which all increase circulation.
Balch, Phyllis A. " Prescription for Nutritional Healing.” Fourth Edition (Penguin Books, 2006).
Page, Linda. “Healthy Healing: A Guide to Self-Healing for Everyone, 11th Edition” (Traditional Wisdom, 2003).
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