Keep legs calm and carry on without cramping
Q: Once or twice every week leg cramps wake me up from a sound sleep. It’s very annoying! Could nutrition have something to do with it? Am I getting too much of something, or not enough?
Dr. Wright: You’re right on track with your suspicion about a connection between nutritional deficiency and leg cramps. Low levels of three minerals can cause leg cramping. I usually tell my patients to try supplementing with calcium, magnesium, and potassium. And for good measure, add some vitamin E (as mixed tocopherols).
If the cramping continues, the solution might be found in the stomach.
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Hypochlorhydria is a condition that occurs when your stomach isn’t producing enough acid in order to start the breakdown of foods properly, or to keep the absorption of minerals normal. (While it’s true that potassium and vitamin E aren’t known to be dependent on normal stomach acid to be optimally absorbed, calcium and magnesium certainly are.)
When someone visits me or any of the other Tahoma Clinic physicians, if he or she reports nighttime leg cramps, we will always check the patient’s mineral status and do a test for optimal stomach acid production. We have found low, sub-optimal stomach acid production in the majority of individuals with otherwise unexplained nighttime leg cramps. The older the person, the more likely this is.
Sub-optimal stomach acid production can have a number of causes including severe food allergy, viral infection, over-indulgence in alcohol, or auto-immune disease. But much like grey hair, needing glasses, and not being able to run as fast, the condition can also simply be an inevitable result of getting older.
In the 1930s, researchers at the Mayo Clinic did “gastric analysis by intubation” for individuals at every decade of age (except for children and those over 90). They reported that, while teenagers rarely if ever have sub-optimal stomach acid production, by the time we reach 60 we have about a 50/50 chance of developing this problem.
If you have nighttime leg cramps and you’re over 40, it may not seem like a serious problem. But since suboptimal stomach acid can lead to sub-optimal absorption of over 20 essential nutrients (including amino acids, all nutrient minerals except sodium, potassium and rubidium, vitamin B12, and folate), it’s best to check with a physician skilled and knowledgeable in natural and nutritional medicine.
If sub-optimal stomach acid is your problem, you can literally add years of better health to your life by making up for this problem.
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