Ask Larry:

Question: I get very devastating leg and foot cramps, mostly at night, that jolt me out of bed sometimes up to 10 times a night, gravely interfering with my sleep. I have tried all different kinds of calcium supplements but find I become amazingly constipated when taking them, so I am now on high doses of magnesium instead to relieve the cramps. It’s not working as well as I’d like. I also take Gabapentin and L-Theanine at bedtime, which helps a bit some nights but I’m still getting these brutal cramps. What can I do for leg cramps that I’m not doing?

Larry’s Response: The type of magnesium is important. Most products contain magnesium oxide – or a similar non-soluble ingredient. Regardless of the amount swallowed, very little is actually absorbed into the circulation. Salts of magnesium are good and so are chelated products. They are likely to result in diarrhea in even small doses. Magnesium sulfate is also know as Epsom Salts. Foot soaks in a basin of warm water with Epsom Salts can relieve and prevent cramping without resulting in stomach distress. We have a product from Orthomolecular called Reacted Magnesium that people find very useful.

We have also compounded some transdermal creams that deliver magnesium directly through the skin. One preparation combines magnesium chloride with DMSO. This is applied once or twice daily and people report that it helps relieve and prevent muscle cramping. A jar of 100Gm (almost 4 ounces) costs around forty dollars.

Cramping can also be caused by low potassium. Do not attempt to use any potassium supplement without checking with your doctor.

Dehydration can also be a cause for cramping. While we may not feel thirsty, our cells may actually be lacking water.  Be sure to stay well hydrated – especially before going to bed.

Alcohol and smoking can both cause dehydration and poor circulation.