We have all heard about muscle cramps and every one among us has experienced a cramp at some point of time in life. We know what a muscle cramp is exactly, and also know that it surely is an unexpected and sudden capture that results in pain. A muscle cramp can be defined as contraction of the muscles or a spasm that is uncontrolled and sudden without any intimation. It is a very short involuntary sprain or cramp in a single muscle or multiple muscles. The duration of a muscle cramp is usually a few minutes or sometimes even lesser than that. These are more prone to happen during a workout or during sleep.
Cramps are extremely painful, and they target some common areas like the calves, arms, feet and hands. Well, even if these cramps are painful, they do not cause any harm and go away in a few minutes. Most of the time, these may not even be related to any disease or disorder. Most commonly, cramps occur due to a sudden pull or contraction in any muscle during an activity or workout. There are many other causes, out of which mineral deficiency is one factor.
Muscle cramps can be related to a few disorders and nerve malfunctioning too. This can happen due to a spinal injury or others that cause trauma to the nerves. Cramps can also occur due to metabolic disorders that affect the supply of sufficient energy to the muscles. Some other common reasons for cramping in the muscles are dehydration, insufficient blood supply to the muscle, trauma to the muscle by straining, or other rigorous activities, and of course, also mineral deficiency.
Vitamins and Minerals for Muscle Cramps
When talking about minerals for muscle spasms, the ones that play a vital role are sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium. Vitamin E is considered another important vitamin to prevent muscle cramps. A loss of these essential minerals and vitamins results in an imbalance in the ions of the muscles, thus disrupting the normal contraction and expansion of the muscles, which leads to cramps. Now let us learn about each in some detail.
Sodium is one of the simplest minerals that we consume in our daily diet, so rarely will there be a deficiency in sodium. However, factors like drinking excess of water can wash away the salts in your body, over sweating due to exercising also leads to loss of sodium. An imbalance in the functioning of the kidney can also result in loss of sodium. Most athletes working out heavily will have this deficiency. One must include table salt and you can also increase your salt intake to cover up for this deficiency. Also, when having energy drinks, make sure they are loaded with sodium.
Potassium is one of the vital minerals that can be lost through sweating and excess intake of water. However, the deficiency can also be a result of low intake of potassium rich foods. Dieting, and not eating vegetables and fruits, can deprive your body of potassium. Potassium exchange processes from the active muscles to the inactive muscles. This happens when the muscles are contracting in an active state. One can cover up for this deficiency by including fruits and vegetables that are rich in potassium. These include broccoli, spinach, cauliflower, carrots, tomatoes, cucumber, egg plant, parsley, etc.
Fruits high in potassium are bananas, oranges, strawberries, avocado, etc. If you work out, you may also consider having an energy drink that boosts potassium levels. In case of taking potassium supplements, these need to be taken only after a prescription from a doctor.
Calcium is lost during dehydration and also with a poor diet. With certain disorders like a kidney disease, hormonal imbalances, celiac disease, etc., the rate of calcium absorption is badly affected in the body. Various diets encourage staying away from dairy products, that result in low calcium levels. A calcium deficiency affects the normal process of muscle contraction. Apart from building bone nutrition, it also helps the muscles to contract, and with low calcium, the muscles cannot contract properly, causing cramp and spasm.
One must include calcium rich foods like milk and milk products, vegetables like carrots, tomatoes, garlic, onions, and also green vegetables like, spinach, broccoli, etc. Fruits like bananas, grapes, avocado, pineapples, oranges, cherries, etc., are rich in calcium. Soybeans, eggs and chickpeas are also some foods that are good sources of calcium. You can also include supplements for calcium that can help.
Magnesium is a vital mineral found in the bones and the muscles. It helps in muscle contraction. It helps the muscles recover from the contracted state, and relax. A deficiency of this mineral is rare, however, it may be caused due to poor diet and nutrition. Following an extreme diet, and avoiding fresh fruits and vegetables, can result in low magnesium levels in the body. Including foods like black beans, broccoli, soybeans, okra, tofu, yogurt, and also tuna, whole grain cereal, barley and oat bran, can help in maintaining the magnesium levels in the body. One can include these in a normal diet, or strictly take a doctor's advice on taking supplements.
There are many factors that can help you prevent cramps, like exercising regularly, and stretching your body after a workout. One can also follow a good diet and intake adequate amount of water. Others like wearing proper clothing when sleeping will also help. Muscle cramps can be a result of various factors along with mineral deficiency, so make sure you balance these for cramp free and relaxed muscles.