Monday, 24. June 2013

Ouch, a Cramp! What Gives?

Leg cramps often occur without notice during sleep or during sports. They are very painful, but mostly harmless. The causes can be either too little fluid intake, resulting in disturbed electrolyte balance, or a magnesium deficiency. Cramps also occur after completing sports activities if you are not trained properly. They can also be caused after drinking too much alcohol, or simply from age.

Ouch! Before she even is fully awake, Catherine clutches her calf. She desperately tries to find a position that helps to relax the spasm but nothing works. It takes almost a full minute until her leg relaxes again. A hard stiffness remains as a reminder of that unpleasant morning.

Young people need many minerals due to growth and pregnant women are particularly affected by cramps. In the second half of pregnancy, there is an increased need for minerals. Magnesium is in a particular high demand. Catherine isn't pregnant, doesn't drink too much alcohol and is not particularly athletic. So why is she affected?

In the sweaty summer temperatures, liquid and minerals are lost even without much movement. In particular, sodium is excreted heavily. This is why your sweat tastes salty.

What can you do about these spasms?

In acute states it is advised to breathe deeply in and out and then to stretch, following by kneading the muscle with a lotion or even a Calendula cream. Finish by running the muscle under warm water or simply take a relaxing bath.

To prevent cramps, maintain your electrolyte balance. This is the most important rule. Maintaining this balance means keeping a balanced diet of whole grains, fruit, green vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds. Dried fruits are also rich in minerals. Potassium can be found in bananas, vegetables, rice and potatoes. Calcium can be found in milk and dairy products, in particular in hard cheeses. Mineral water and electrolyte drinks are also very important, because they also help keep you hydrated on hot days. 

In case of increased requirements of minerals, mineral supplements can be taken in the form of capsules, effervescent tablets or chewable tablets. For reasons of effectiveness, it is best to rely primarily on organic compounds (for example: aspartate, citrate, orotate). Taking magnesium as a supplement is also useful.