Why Do Some People Get a Charley Horse? (Muscle Cramp)

young women calf pain on white backgroundBy Dr. Joseph Mercola, a physician trained in both traditional and natural medicine who provides up-to-date natural health information.
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This article is shared by Nutrition Breakthroughs, maker of the effective calcium, magnesium and vitamin D based sleep aid Sleep Minerals II.
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A charley horse, or muscle cramp particularly in your calf muscles, is an incredibly common condition that results in your muscles becoming tight, stiff and extremely painful. If you’re an adult, there’s a good chance you’ve had one at some point (and likely multiple points) during your lifetime.

In case you’re a trivia buff and wondering why these muscle cramps are referred to as “charley horses” (a name that’s primarily used in North America), it’s said to be a tribute to Charley “Old Hoss” Radbourne, an 1880s-era baseball pitcher who often suffered from muscle cramps during games.

Another version states the term came from a lame work horse named Charley who limped around doing various jobs around the baseball park (also in the 1880s).

Whenever a baseball player would get injured or have a cramp in the lower legs, thus limping around like Charley the horse, teammates would call the player “Charley Horse.” Regardless of the name’s origin, the pain of a charley horse is unmistakable and can be excruciating.

What Causes a Charley Horse?

According to the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, about 1 in every 3 adults is affected by muscle cramps in their lower limbs. In many cases, the pain is temporary and goes away on its own, but for some the cramps interfere with sleep, quality of life and daily activities.

In one study of more than 500 people aged 60 years and older, 31 percent reported being woken up by muscle cramps and 15 percent had cramps more than three times a month. Anyone can get a charley horse, but they’re most common in the following populations and scenarios:

  • During exercise
  • At nighttime, especially in the elderly
  • In pregnant women
  • In people with neurological disease
  • During kidney dialysis

It’s not clear what triggers a charley horse to occur, but it is thought the cramp may be related to a rapidly firing nerve (up to 150 electrical dischargers per second), which causes the muscle to tense up, as opposed to an issue with the muscle tissue itself.

Many medications are also associated with muscle cramps, including statin cholesterol-lowering drugs, ACE inhibitors (blood pressure drugs), certain asthma drugs, diuretics and more. In addition, the following factors may also increase your risk of a charley horse:

  • Poor blood circulation in your legs
  • Muscle fatigue
  • Dehydration
  • Mineral deficiencies, including magnesium, potassium or calcium

magnesium and menopauseIs Magnesium Deficiency Causing Your Charley Horses?

By some estimates, up to 80 percent of Americans are not getting enough magnesium and may be deficient. Other research shows only about 25 percent of U.S. adults are getting the recommended daily amount of 310 to 320 milligrams (mg) for women and 400 to 420 for men.

Magnesium is often thought of primarily as a mineral for your heart and bones, but this is misleading. Researchers have now detected 3,751 magnesium-binding sites on human proteins, indicating that its role in human health and disease may have been vastly underestimated.

Further, if you suffer from charley horses, low levels of magnesium could be to blame. Magnesium is necessary for activating muscles and nerves, and a key sign of ongoing magnesium deficiency can be muscle contractions and cramps like charley horses.

Magnesium deficiency may be particularly problematic for your muscles in the presence of an overabundance of calcium. Americans in general tend to have a higher calcium-to-magnesium ratio in their diet, averaging about 3.5-to-1.

If you have too much calcium and not enough magnesium, your muscles will tend to go into spasm. According to Dr. Carolyn Dean, a medical and naturopathic doctor:

“What happens is the muscle and nerve function that magnesium is responsible for is diminished. If you don’t have enough magnesium, your muscles go into spasm.

Calcium causes muscle to contract. If you had a balance, the muscles would do their thing. They’d relax, contract and create their activity.”

This underscores the importance of eating a nutritious diet, which will naturally give you optimal amounts of the minerals and other nutrients your body needs.

Eating plenty of organic leafy green vegetables, nuts and seeds every day, and drinking fresh green vegetable juice will help keep your magnesium stores replenished. In addition, Epsom salt is a magnesium sulfate that can absorb into your body through your skin.

Soaking in a bath with Epsom salts is an excellent way to not only help prevent magnesium deficiency but also to soothe and relieve the pain of a charley horse.

potassiumLow Potassium Levels May Also Trigger a Charley Horse

Potassium is a mineral and electrolyte. (An electrolyte is a substance that produces an electrical conducting solution when dissolved in water. Electrolytes carry a charge and are essential for life. In our bodies, electrolytes include sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium).

Potassium is essential for your cells, tissues and organs to function properly. It plays a vital role in heart health, digestive and muscular function, bone health and more. One of the symptoms of low potassium levels is muscle cramps.

While potassium is found in many foods commonly consumed in the U.S. — including fruits, vegetables, dairy products, salmon, sardines and nuts — only 2 percent of U.S. adults get the recommended daily amount of 4,700 mg.

This is especially problematic because potassium is a nutrient that needs to be kept in proper balance with sodium in your blood. If you consume too much sodium, which is common if you eat a lot of processed foods, you’ll have an increased need for potassium.

Others who are at particular risk of low potassium, or hypokalemia, are those with chronic malabsorption syndromes, such as Crohn’s disease, or those taking heart medicine (particularly loop diuretics). However, anyone who eats a poor diet — an excess of processed foods and not enough fresh, whole foods — is potentially at risk of inadequate potassium levels and related muscle cramps.

Green vegetable juicing is an excellent way to ensure you’re getting enough nutrients for optimal health, including about 300 mg to 400 mg of potassium per cup. Some additional rich sources of potassium are:

  • Lima beans (955 mg/cup)
  • Winter squash (896 mg/cup)
  • Cooked spinach (839 mg/cup)
  • Avocado (500 mg per medium)

Foods rich in calciumToo Little Calcium May Trigger Muscle Cramps

While too much calcium in the absence of magnesium can be problematic for muscle cramps, so too can a calcium deficiency. Low blood levels of calcium (as well as magnesium) may increase the excitability of nerve endings and the muscles they stimulate.

This may be a trigger for muscle cramps, especially in the elderly and during pregnancy. If you’re deficient in vitamin D, meanwhile, your body may have inadequate calcium absorption, again predisposing you to muscle cramps.

It’s very important to maintain a proper balance of calcium, magnesium, vitamin D and also vitamin K2, as these four nutrients perform an intricate dance together, with one supporting the other. If you’re calcium deficient, your best bet is to increase consumption of foods high in calcium before opting for a supplement. This is because many high-calcium foods also contain naturally high amounts of vitamin K2; nature cleverly gives us these two nutrients in combination, so they work optimally.

Good sources of calcium include nuts, seeds and raw, organic, grass-fed dairy especially cheeses, and vegetables, although veggies aren’t high in vitamin K2. One exception is fermented vegetables where a starter culture specifically designed to produce ample amounts of vitamin K2 was used.

Homemade bone broth is another excellent source. Simply simmer leftover bones over low heat for an entire day to extract the calcium from the bones. You can use this broth for soups and stews or drink it straight.

What to Do If You Get a Charley Horse

A charley horse often occurs without notice, sometimes waking you up from sound sleep. If you’re lying down when the pain starts, stand up and put some weight on your foot. Walking around will help to increase blood circulation to your muscles and possibly help to soothe and relax the cramp.

charley horse stretch leg crampYou can also try a simple stretch. If the cramp is in your calf in the back of your lower leg, pull your toes and foot upward until you feel a stretch in the back of your leg. You can also do this sitting down with your legs outstretched. Put a towel around your feet and gently pull both ends toward you until you feel a stretch.

As mentioned, soaking in an Epsom salt bath may also help to relieve pain (and possibly help with prevention). Massaging the area and applying a heat pack, which will increase blood flow to the area, promoting healing and soothing pain, may also help.

Staying well-hydrated is also important for muscle cramp prevention. You’ll want to drink enough pure filtered water so that your urine is pale yellow in color. In addition, performing regular stretching exercises on your legs may help reduce your risk of a charley horse.
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Comment from Nutrition Breakthroughs: Interestingly, the same mineral deficiencies that can cause charley horses are the same ones that can cause sleeplessness and insomnia.  Studies show that calcium and magnesium are effective natural sleep aids.  Highly absorbable forms of these minerals are featured in the Sleep Minerals II softgels. For more information visit the Sleep Minerals II page.

8 Ways to Select the Highest Quality Food

Greetings to you,

I’ve included a great chart below that contains the top eight ways to select the highest quality food and the most healthy fruits and vegetables.  Feel free to share it with others.

For example, studies have shown that organically-grown foods provide many benefits such as higher levels of health-giving plant chemicals, higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids in organically raised milk and beef, and a lack of pesticides.  Pesticides are strong chemicals used to kill insects on fruits and vegetables and they’ve been linked to reproductive harm and other illnesses.

Animals that have free-range access to the outdoors (rather than being kept in crowded cages) and that are fed non-gmo feed, can truly give us a healthier way to eat meats. 

Best of health,

Jobee Knight
Nutrition Breakthroughs
Maker of Natural Sleep Aids and Joint and Pain Relief Products

8 ways to select quality foodShared by Nutrition Breakthroughs

Yogurt and Acidophilus: The Top 10 Major Health Benefits

Greetings to you,

There is an informative chart below with the top 10 health benefits of yogurt and acidophilus. These include improving digestion, reducing the risk of diabetes, assisting weight loss, reducing cholesterol and stimulating a stronger immune system.

One study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that consuming yogurt or the beneficial bacteria from it, has promising health benefits for many conditions and increases immunity. Some of these include constipation, diarrhea, inflammatory bowel disease, stomach bacteria infections and allergies.

A study on yogurt was published in the journal called “Archives of Osteoporosis”. It reviewed the ability of yogurt to strengthen bones and found that milk and yogurt are the best dairy choices for increasing bone mineral density in the hip.

Yogurt is a boost to weight loss. A healthy supplement similar to the acidophilus used in yogurt was recently found in a Canadian study to help overweight women lose weight and keep it off.  It was discovered that the supplement made the intestinal wall stronger and more able to prevent inflammatory, obesity-causing substances from passing into the intestine and entering the bloodstream.

Yogurt is great for strengthening and boosting one’s immunity against infection and illness per studies in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.  In particular, yogurt with the Lactobacillus bulgaricus form has been shown to reduce the frequency of colds in older adults after they ate it over a twelve-week period.

This news is shared with you by Nutrition Breakthroughs, a provider of natural health articles and effective natural remedies since 2001. Nutrition Breakthroughs makes the original calcium and magnesium based natural sleep aid Sleep Minerals II, as well as Joints and More, the natural solution for joint relief, aches and pains, stronger hair and nails, and more energy.

Yogurt benefitsNutrition Breakthroughs.com

The Healthiest Fats for Good Skin, Hair, Nutrition and Sleep

Greetings to you,

There’s a helpful chart below that shows the healthiest fats for glowing skin and hair, as well as for good nutrition of the organs and hormones.  All hormones are formed with healthy fats, so eating more of these foods can nourish you in many ways.

Eating healthy fats with our meals can play a vital role in helping us sleep better and achieve overall greater health as these provide the basic building blocks for cholesterol production — a surprisingly healthy substance in our bodies.  The best fats to eat are nutrient rich foods like eggs, natural butter, salmon, sardines, cod liver oil, avocados, nuts, seeds and coconut oil.

For example, a healthy heart and long life are associated with eating walnuts.  They have been shown to decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease and also extend life spans in general. Walnuts contain the amino acid l-arginine, which offers protective benefits for the heart.

Walnuts can be a good sleep inducing food.  Eating a handful of walnuts before bedtime may be a good way to soothe sleeplessness and insomnia. Russel Reiter, Ph.D., a professor of cellular biology at the University of Texas says, “Relatively few foods have been examined for their melatonin content. Our studies demonstrate that walnuts contain melatonin and that it is absorbed when it is eaten.”

Avocados are a healthy, creamy, tasty food, whether they sit on top of a sandwich, an omelet or a salad — or become transformed into guacamole. The healthy fats in avocados balance hormones and this food features over twenty vitamins and minerals.

In summary, eating good healthy fats can enhance one’s health in many ways. This information is brought to you by Nutrition Breakthroughs, maker of the effective natural insomnia remedy Sleep Minerals II.

Nutrition Breakthroughs

University Researchers Find Link Between Insomnia and Hot Flashes

A team of researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine in California recently embarked upon a study to help determine the causes of insomnia among premenopausal and postmenopausal women.

The team conducted phone interviews with 982 women and gathered information about their sleep history, frequency of hot flashes, and overall health. They found that 51% of postmenopausal women suffer with hot flashes and that 79% of premenopausal women have them. Among the women with the most intense hot flashes (based on their severity and frequency), 81% of them experienced sleeplessness and insomnia.

The lead researcher said: “In this paper, we have observed without any doubt and in a significant way that hot flashes are associated with insomnia. This is the first observational study showing the link between insomnia and hot flashes while controlling for other factors that could account for insomnia in women.”

Night sweats and hot flashes can become a form of insomnia in which a woman can wake up sweating and be unable to sleep. Regarding mineral deficiency at the time of menopause, the pioneering nutritionist Adelle Davis says in her book ‘Let’s Get Well’ that: “The amount of calcium in a woman’s blood parallels the activity of the ovaries. During the menopause, the lack of ovarian hormones (estrogen and progesterone) can cause severe calcium deficiency symptoms to occur, including irritability, hot flashes, night sweats, leg cramps, and insomnia. These problems can be easily overcome if the intakes of calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D are all generously increased and are well absorbed.”

Calcium is directly related to our cycles of sleep. In one study published in the European Neurology Journal, researchers found that calcium levels in the body are higher during some of the deepest levels of sleep, such as the rapid eye movement (REM) phase. The study concluded that disturbances in sleep, especially the absence of REM deep sleep or disturbed REM sleep, are related to a calcium deficiency. Restoration to the normal course of sleep was achieved following the normalization of the blood calcium level.

Regarding the use of vitamin D as an insomnia remedy, Researchers at the East Texas Medical Center recently discovered that vitamin D helps to regulate the sleep-wake cycle.  They found a definite link between vitamin D deficiency and the current epidemic of sleep disorders.  During the research, the authors discovered the presence of high concentrations of vitamin D “receiving sites” or “receptors” in those areas of the brain that are related to the onset and maintenance of sleep.

One natural insomnia remedy gaining in popularity with women is Sleep Minerals II from Nutrition Breakthroughs. Sleep Minerals II contains highly absorbable forms of calcium and magnesium, the best minerals for sleeplessness and insomnia, heart health, restless legs syndrome and bone strength. The formula also includes vitamin D and zinc and is delivered in a softgel form with healthy carrier oils. The mixture of oils and minerals makes it more quickly assimilated than tablets or capsules and provides a deeper, longer-lasting sleep.

Anita L. of New Caney, Texas says: “I was having hot flashes every 30 minutes to an hour through the night and was so miserable. After about two weeks of taking the Sleep Minerals, I noticed an incredible difference with my sleep. I have much less interruption from hot flashes, I’m sleeping much better, and I’m a lot more comfortable.”

The Stanford research study shows a definite link between hot flashes and insomnia and suggests that if a woman can address and remedy her hot flashes, she will also likely improve her insomnia.

For more information on Sleep Minerals II visit this page.