An occasional twitch in the eyelid or a spasm in your hand or calf is nothing to worry about and will probably go away on its own. Muscle twitches that last for more than a few days may signal nutrient deficiencies or other dietary issues, or they may be a symptom of a medical condition. Talk to your doctor about the possible causes of your muscle twitches and whether dietary changes would help ease them.
When you have an imbalance of electrolytes in the body -- minerals that control muscle actions, such as magnesium and calcium -- you may experience twitches. In particular, muscle twitching is an early sign of a deficiency in magnesium, although this is rare except in cases of alcoholism or nutrient malabsorption. Women need 310 to 320 milligrams a day, while men require 410 to 420 milligrams. You get magnesium from dark leafy greens, nuts and seeds, legumes and whole grains, among other foods in a balanced diet. Magnesium works with calcium in muscle function -- adults need 1,000 milligrams daily of calcium, which is available in dairy foods, nuts and leafy green vegetables.
An excess of any stimulant can make you experience muscle twitches and other body spasms. If you overindulge in coffee, tea, coffee ice cream, colas, chocolate or a combination of all of these, caffeine may be at the root of your twitching. The Food and Drug Administration classifies caffeine as a drug and estimates that a 5-ounce cup of coffee -- less than a normal serving -- contains 60 to 150 milligrams of caffeine. Six hundred milligrams of caffeine daily is considered “too much,” says the FDA.
Vitamin D Foods
Twitches and spasms in your hands or feet may be a sign that you don’t get enough vitamin D in your diet. Vitamin D deficiency is quite common -- an article in the “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition” in 2008 called it “a pandemic” because many people have inadequate sun exposure, and you need sunlight to synthesize vitamin D. You need 200 international units of vitamin D daily up to age 50 and then 400 to 600 as you get older. A few good sources of dietary vitamin D exist, including fatty fish like salmon and mackerel, cod liver oil and fortified juices and dairy products. But if you have a deficiency, your doctor may recommend a vitamin D supplement.
Muscle twitches may also result from dehydration, or inadequate fluid intake. Make sure you drink enough noncaffeinated fluids every day, like water, herbal teas and unsweetened juices. The Institute of Medicine recommends that women get 91 ounces of water daily, and men 125 ounces, from a combination of fluids and high-water-content foods like fruits and vegetables. If you’re physically active, your needs will be greater to replace electrolytes lost through sweating.
- National Institutes of Health: Muscle Twitching
- National Institutes of Health: Hand or Foot Spasms
- Permanente Medical Group: Electrolyte Disturbances
- National Institutes of Health: Magnesium in Diet
- National Institutes of Health: Calcium in Diet
- Food and Drug Administration: Medicines in My Home: Caffeine in Your Body
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Vitamin D Deficiency: A Worldwide Problem with Health Consequences
- Institute of Medicine: Dietary Reference Intakes: Water, Potassium, Sodium, Chloride, and Sulfate