A prolonged, painful and involuntary contraction of a muscle is known as cramp. It happens when we least expect it, and so we are never prepared for the excruciating pain. I experienced it a lot when pregnant, it also often occurs when during or after exercise and then there are those times when you wake up in the middle of the night and for no apparent reason your calf muscle/toes may be causing you agony.
They say the best way to relieve cramp is with massage and stretching….but this is not easy as anyone will tell you having tried this method.
Quinine is the traditional remedy for cramp but this is now only available on prescription….needless to say I do try to drink plenty of ‘Slimline’ Tonic water as there is a small amount of quinine in it. However I have discovered that healthy eating and the correct nutrition is possible the most money saving and effective way to prevent cramps occurring.
Why we get cramp
When cramp occurs during or immediately after exercise, even if you have just decided to go for a walk and make the effort to walk more briskly than normal, it is likely to be the result of a gradual build-up of lactic acid, which is a by-product of muscle activity. If the exercise has been fairly vigorous and the environment/weather very hot or humid, the cramp maybe due to dehydration caused by excessive sweating. Solution: An isotonic drink will help to replace lost fluids and salts as quickly as possible
Remedy for Cramp
To prevent dehydration drink plenty of water before, during and after exercise – about 1 liter per hour of activity.
Vitamin B₂, found in fortified breakfast cereals, yoghurt and lean meat may be useful for cramps in athletes, as well as for cramps associated with pregnancy and diabetes.
Leg cramps may be a signal that there is a lack of calcium which is needed for muscle contraction. Foods rich in calcium are dairy products and surprisingly sesame seeds! Magnesium also may be helpful – seeds and nuts are excellent sources for this.
Calf pains experienced during brisk walking may be a sign of narrowing or the arteries.
Night cramps….my personal worst nightmare…are caused by poor circulation. Eating foods high in Vitamin E, e.g. Avocados and vegetable oils, can help improve this. Night cramps in the elderly may also be helped by eating foods high in Vitamin B₁₂. These foods are fish, eggs, cheese and pork.
The author of this article Jane Waters, has had a lifetime of frugal but healthy living and has professional qualifications in Health Promotion, some of her advice can now be found on her blog : www.frugalferret.co.uk . She believes that the traditional natural remedies for many illnesses are often best solved with a complete healthy living regime which includes exercise and good nutrition all leading to a happier and more stress free lifestyle.