What that Charley Horse is telling you…

Charley Horse

Everyone’s experienced it…

That moment when you stretch and a muscle decides to seize up on you.   Typically occurring in the lower extremities, a good charley horse may have you wincing in pain.  You may also experience muscle spasms, involuntary contractions that make you feel like someone else is operating your body via remote control.  So what happened?  And, how do we avoid/treat it.

Well there are a variety of situations that can cause these symptoms including poor circulation, overexertion, dehydration, or pinched nerves; however, in the majority of the population the root cause can be tied to mineral deficiency.

Magnesium Periodic TableMagnesium is a macro-mineral, which is needed by the body in large amounts to function properly.  Responsible for many biological functions, magnesium is found in more than 300 different enzymes and is involved with the formation of bones/teeth, heart functions, blood vessel relaxation, gastrointestinal function, and more.  Pregnant and nursing mothers need a larger supply of magnesium (and calcium which we’ll talk about in a bit) to support the growing baby’s needs.

While some individuals maybe receiving an appropriate amount of magnesium via their diet, many (~80% of the population) are actually deficient.  Magnesium exists in high fiber foods such as dark leafy greens, seeds/nuts, and whole grains.  While many may try to incorporate more of these foods into their diets there is still work to be done on the quantity and quality of these food sources.  The fact remains that bioavailability (the degree to which substances are available for absorption and utilization in the body) of nutrients in our food supply is not what it used to be.  This can be attributed to the way our current food system operates as well as a number of other factors which we can dive into at a later date.  But for the purpose of this conversation, let’s be clear that just because you ate spinach at dinner today, it does not mean that you met your quota for dietary magnesium.  If you happened to couple it with a martini and a sugary dessert, you have likely just canceled the effects of whatever magnesium did make it into your body, as sugar and alcohol consumption increases magnesium excretion through the urine.

HIP TIP:  Magnesium concentrations in foods are also dependent on the magnesium composition of the soil for which these foods are grown.  Organic foods will tend to have higher concentrations of magnesium as fertilizer used in conventional farming utilizes nitrogen and other elements in lieu of magnesium. 

Magnesium prevents cardiovascular disease, regulates blood pressure, is being studied on its reversal of osteoporosis, treats diabetes, and is a key factor in managing migraines, insomnia and depression.  Moreover, magnesium does an amazing job relaxing our muscles and nerves.  So when spasms and charley horses are experienced, take this as a sign from our body that more magnesium is needed.

To treat your muscle cramps/spasms, I would start with the following:

  1. Begin incorporating organic, non-processed magnesium rich foods into your diet, such as spinach, chard, beet greens, pumpkin seeds, and quinoa.
  2. Next, find a high quality Calcium Magnesium supplement.  Why calcium?  Muscle spasms are also tied to calcium deficiencies.  While you may be eating enough calcium rich foods, without magnesium support, it is unlikely calcium is getting absorbed appropriately in the body.  These two minerals work together to ensure each of their purposes are biologically fulfilled.

Pumpkin Seeds.jpg

Here is a great calcium magnesium supplement from a trusted brand, Pure Encapsulations.  Pure Encapsulations provides hypo-allergenic, nutritional supplements that do not contain hidden fillers, coatings, or artificial colors.  Additionally their products are free of wheat, gluten, nuts, and hydrogenated oils.  This calcium magnesium supplement is in a vegetable capsule.

Calcium Mag Pure Encap

If you follow this regime and still are exhibiting symptoms, please talk with your health practitioner.  Otherwise, congratulations you are spasm free!

Charley has just left town on the horse he rode in on.

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