Muscle cramps are something many people deal with as they get older and unfortunately they’re often very painful. Cramping can happen at any time during the day or night, with muscle spasms lasting anywhere from a few seconds to 20 minutes. Haven’t we all been awakened by these in the middle of the night?!
Most of us are aware that massaging the area and applying heat or icepacks can reduce the pain, but many are unaware their diet plays a role.
Eating foods that contain potassium is key to beating painful muscle cramps. Potassium is a mineral that helps the body build muscle and break down carbohydrates. It plays a vital role in muscle contraction and a decreased level of potassium has the potential to increase the risk of a cramp.
When potassium levels are low in the blood, it impacts the transmission of nerve impulses and can cause muscles to weaken, cramp and experience fatigue. As such, it’s crucial that we eat foods high in potassium.
Bananas are one of the quickest and easiest ways to meet your daily potassium needs, according to website NutritrionKit. Where possible, eat a banana before exercising to ensure your body is pumped with potassium before a cramp hits. I like to add a teeny bit of peanut or almond butter for extra energy.
Similarly, berries, melons and cherries also do wonders for the body, particularly when it comes to muscle health. These fruits tend to remove waste products from the body, so it’s important to include them as part of a daily diet.
Don’t LOVE fruit, there are plenty of vegetables that also prevent muscle cramps. Kale, spinach and other leafy greens are full of calcium, which is a vital part of muscle health, function and the prevention of muscle pains. Celery also allows the body to balance fluid in the body. In the event of a cramp, the body will draw on as much nutrients as it can to stop a muscle from spasming, so it’s important not to avoid sodium completely.
While a lot of people associate dairy products with healthy bones, they’re also full of electrolytes that are extremely important for muscle function. Try to eat yogurt as part of your diet and increase your levels of vitamin D to see a decrease in severity surrounding muscle cramps. I love FAGE Greek Yogurt. Thick and creamy and comes in lots of “fat” levels to stay with your particular diet.
Most important is to consume plenty of water throughout the day. Experts recommend eight glasses a day for people to not only stay hydrated, but to assist in muscle health.
Conversely, there are foods and drinks to stay away from as they increase the risk and severity of muscle cramps. Many foods contain components that constrict blood vessels and decrease blood circulation in the muscles.
Foods high in salt, caffeine, saturated fats and sugar all cause blood vessels to tighten, which is why you may experience cramps. Although it’s fine to have these foods and drinks in moderation, excess consumption of alcohol, pasteurised dairy and refined vegetable oil can cause inflammation.
For the over 60 and Fabulous, leg cramps can be a common part of aging. In addition to the foods we eat, legs and other muscles can cramp when they become overworked. There are also cases where certain medications, including those that lower high blood pressure and cholesterol, cause the body’s mineral balance to become uneven.
Other health conditions including Atherosclerosis, Sciatica and liver problems can also increase the risk of cramps. Always talk with your GP before making big changes to your diet or taking any new supplements.
How do you handle cramps? Any great fixes? How have you changed your diet?