Frequent cramps are often a symptom of a nutritional deficiency, especially of magnesium, which is essential for a number of bodily functions:

– the production and transfer energy

– muscular contractions

– synthesis of proteins

– triggering nerve cell activity

The metabolism of magnesium is directly linked to that of calcium, phosphorous and potassium. A number of common substances in your daily diet can inhibit the retention of magnesium, or increase your body’s need for the mineral, including:

– calcium

– proteins

– sugar

– phosphates

Alcohol and stress also burn up reserves of magnesium. Deficiencies are common, especially among persons on weight loss programs – foods rich in magnesium are also usually high in calories. Alcoholics, who are often malnourished, tend to lack magnesium, as do persons suffering from certain diseases (intestinal problems, pancreatitis, diabetes, hypo-parathyroidism, hyperthyroidism).

The daily magnesium requirement for adults is about 5 milligrams per kilogram (2.2pounds) of body weight, or about 350 milligrams for a person of average weight (70 kilograms or 150 pounds).

Women who are pregnant or breast feeding (and who often get cramps) need more magnesium – about 400 milligrams a day.

Athletes and very active persons also need more – about 500 to 600 milligrams a day.

Good nutritional sources of magnesium include:

– cocoa and chocolate

– whole grains, whole grain rice, whole grain bread

– oleaginous fruit

– mollusks

– dried legumes

Add wheat germ (available in health food stores) to salads, soups and cooked vegetables. Prepare salads using raw spinach, dandelion or beet leaves, and add some snails, smoked oysters or almonds.

Lentils, beans (red or white), chick peas, all types of cabbage and broccoli can be served cold, seasoned with a little olive oil and some shallots or diced onions.

Leg cramps can also be caused by a lack of sugar, another hazard of strict weight loss programs. Eating more complex (slow assimilation) sugars and balancing your diet should solve the problem.

Persons who suffer from nocturnal cramps should abstain from drinking white wine, sparkling wine, aperitifs, and tea or coffee with their evening meal.

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