Foot cramps (muscle cramps, leg cramps) - you are not lonely

Presented by Leonid Magidenko, MD.
Tuesday, June 19, 2007

What predisposes individuals to muscle cramps?

Over 75% of the population suffers from some form of muscle cramps. These cramps occur mostly in people’s legs and feet, frequently accompanied by severe pain. To many people, this pain often causes sleep deprivation. These cramps are experienced by people of all ages, but those in their mid and later lives are more prone to suffer these types of muscle cramps. In many cases, foot cramps can be an initial symptom to many illnesses, such as atherosclerosis (intermittent lameness), diabetes, varicose veins, cirrhosis of the liver, thyroid gland malfunction and other such disorders. Thus, medical care is needed when experiencing constant and persistent muscle cramps.

On a lighter note, muscles cramps may also be experienced in healthy individuals due to physical stress and muscular overstrain. Cramps are also seen in those individuals with excess weight, especially those that pursue a sedentary lifestyle. Therefore, the causes for these cramps must be well understood in order to treat them correctly.

When at rest, muscle cells are electrically charged. The charge comes from the fact that each cell has a sodium potassium ion pump. This mechanism pumps out negatively charged sodium ions out of the cell and while admitting positively charged potassium ions into the cell. Muscle cells are triggered by the difference in electric charge inside and out of the cell.

This constant electric charge is rapidly diffused by nerve impulses and the calcium which is introduced into it. Calcium forces the cell to contract. Insertion of the calcium into the cell is accompanied by the entrance of sodium and the exit of potassium. Thus, as long as the cell contains plenty of calcium, it will be in a state of contraction.

The relaxation/recharge phase of the cells occurs due to the following:

* Ejection of calcium from the cell with the aid of the calcium pumps; * Scooping out of sodium and injection of potassium with the aid of the sodium-potassium pumps. Cellular pumps take away up to 40% of the energy manufactured by the cell.

Now, the protagonist in the fight against leg cramps is magnesium. Magnesium acts like a plug that impedes the entrance of calcium into the cell. Furthermore, magnesium is required for the proper function of cellular pumps. Thus, all processes of formation and expense of cellular energy are impossible without magnesium is aggravated by the fact that there are many biological events that precipitate the loss of magnesium.

A magnesium insufficiency is very difficult to determine solely based on its levels in the blood serum. Even in people with marked inefficiencies, it enters into the blood from the bones and the muscles and disguises the shortage. Therefore, specialists recommend looking for the typical symptoms caused by the lack of magnesium.

This scarcity is almost impossible to eliminate by solely relying on the aid of food products. An additional intake of magnesium is necessary, and can be supplemented with vitamins or even by prescription medicines; some even recommend an additional intake of 800 mg of magnesium, daily. Most of the times though, this may not be necessary; healthy kidneys can easily increase the secretion of magnesium by as much as 250-fold. Therefore, to deal with chronic leg cramps, it is best to adhere to saturating dosages of 100-200 mg in the course of a prolonged period (four weeks and more).

Calcium

In addition to magnesium, the proper supplementation of calcium may also help diminish leg cramps. This is because the slightest deficiency in calcium sharply raises the likelihood of muscle cramps. The combined effect of calcium and magnesium deficiency is one of the leading symptom causing muscle cramps. Furthermore, calcium is the physiological partner of magnesium in a 2:1 ratio. In other words, adding a specified quantity of magnesium requires the simultaneous addition of twice the quantity of calcium. Dairy products are not the optimum source of calcium during muscle spasms, since phosphorus is found in large quantities; it can disrupt mineral balance and provoke the appearance of muscle cramps.

Vitamin D assures lasting benefits

Vitamin D is necessary for absorption of calcium and is important for the integration of magnesium. There have been cases where only one vitamin D dose has helped with muscle cramps, from which the patient suffered many years. It only seems logical that one of the best solutions in the search for the remedy against muscle cramps should be a combination containing magnesium, calcium and vitamin D.

The preferred combination is one which contains citrate of calcium, citrate of magnesium and water-soluble vitamin D. Furthermore, a number of vitamins and minerals, which strengthen the action of magnesium and calcium, may help for muscle cramps. Sometimes the cramping relieving effects from calcium, magnesium and Vitamin D are experienced immediately. In the majority of cases, saturating the organism with magnesium to ward off cramps will require about four weeks time.

In rare cases, in the first days of calcium, magnesium and vitamin D supplementation, some individuals may note an intensification of the cramping symptoms. This may indicate the transient processes in the electro-excitability of the cells after the utilization of the magnesium ration.

Calcium, magnesium and Vitamin D will be especially useful in relieving muscle cramps if consumed in conjunction with a fitness regimen. Indeed, in this case, magnesium is "broken down" in the muscles and is lost with sweat. One should remember that with excess weight, there may be an increase in the loss of magnesium.

Taurine

This is an amino acid, which increases the effectiveness of cellular pumps, treats the state of hyper-excitability and protects the cell from calcium overload. Taurine may also be effective in a number of cases which were found to eliminate epilepsy cramps. The taurine cramp reliving action is intensified by vitamin E, amber and lime acids, B vitamin groups and zinc. For the majority of people who are trying to prevent leg cramps, it is sufficient to ingest 1 capsule 3 times a day 1 hour prior to food intake. Muscle cramps relieving effects, as a rule, are begin to show in the course of two weeks. Taurine is safe enough to be used in prolonged dosing. Taurine has a number of remarkable effects. It possesses a powerful anti-fatigue effect in people performing intensive mental and/or physical work. Athletes prefer it due to the fact that it protects muscles from damages and accelerates the period of rehabilitation after load. Taurine is especially powerful when dealing with cramps caused by high blood pressure and diabetes since it contributes to the normalization of arterial pressure and blood sugar level.


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