Muscle cramps are painful involuntary contractions or spasms in one or more of the muscles lasting a few seconds to several minutes. They can occur after exercise or during the night and are commonly caused by overuse of a muscle, dehydration or vitamin and mineral deficiencies. If your muscle cramps are caused by a lack of certain vitamins and minerals then dietary supplements may be helpful to you. As always, talk to your health care practitioner before taking any new supplement.
Calcium and Magnesium
A calcium or magnesium deficiency is a common cause of muscle spasms, particularly spasms of the legs and feet. According to Acu-Cell.com, muscle spasms of the left leg are indicative of a calcium depletion, whereas muscle spasms of the right leg are indicative of a magnesium depletion. Your body requires a balance of both of these minerals and they work synergistically so for the best results take a "Cal/Mag" supplement, which is a supplement that provides both. The recommended dose is 1,500 mg of calcium and 750 mg of magnesium daily.
Sodium and Potassium
If you experience exercise-induced muscle cramps, it may be due to an electrolyte imbalance, namely an imbalance of sodium and potassium. According to Michael Bergeron, director of the environmental laboratory at the Medical College of Georgia, excessive sweating during exercise results in a loss of sodium and potassium, and the loss may lead to your nerves becoming hypersensitive. Potassium also aids in the absorption of calcium and magnesium, and combining it with a Cal/Mag supplement may therefore be beneficial for the treatment of leg and feet cramps. You can get sodium by eating salty foods, and the recommended dose of potassium is 99 mg daily.
A B vitamin deficiency may also be the cause of muscle cramps. B vitamins improve circulation, enhance muscle tone and enhance cellular and nerve function. A B complex supplement can help to reduce muscle spasms and leg cramps, according to Vitamin-Supplements.org. A B-50 complex supplement, is a supplement that contains 50 mg of the most important B vitamins, and "Prescription for Nutritional Healing" recommends taking a B-50 complex supplement, three times daily with food.
Sometimes poor circulation is the cause of muscle cramps, in which case, vitamin E may be helpful to you. Vitamin E helps to keep the blood thin and to dilate the blood vessels, thereby encouraging healthy circulation. Phyllis Balch states in her book "Prescription for Nutritional Healing" that vitamin E may be especially beneficial if you experience cramping related to varicose veins. The therapeutic dose is 1,000 IU daily and you should choose a supplement in the d-alpha-tocopherol form for maximum effectiveness.
- "Prescription for Nutritional Healing”; Phyllis Balch; 2003
- Acu-Cell.com: Muscle Spasms / Cramps: Nutritional Causes, Prevention & Therapies
- “New York Times: Fitness and Nutrition”; A Long-Running Mystery, the Common Cramp; Gina Kolata; February 14, 2008
- Vitamin-Supplements.org: Vitamin B Complex