A year ago your column mentioned the benefits of low-sodium V8 juice for muscle cramps. For years I had suffered from severe leg cramps almost nightly. I would awaken in agony, even though I was eating bananas and taking potassium supplements daily. After seeing your column, I began drinking eight ounces of low-sodium V8 juice every day. Now, more than a year later, I have not had one episode of muscle cramping. V8 juice has fewer calories than bananas, and it’s the solution to a painful problem.
Several readers mentioned the high potassium content of low-sodium V8 juice (840 milligrams in 8 ounces). This offers more potassium for fewer calories than either bananas or orange juice. We’re glad it has prevented your leg cramps.
I awoke one night with the muscles and nerves in my legs feeling like fireworks (little explosions…big explosions…the grand finale!). They were so active that they started twisting into cramps. This literally kept me awake all night. The cramps were in all parts of my legs and feet—nowhere else in my body. Blood tests didn’t reveal any problems, so the doctor shrugged and gave me muscle relaxants so I could sleep at night. I took them for months. If I stopped the drug, the problem returned. One day I read in your column about a man who was taking a diuretic and began having cramps in his legs at night. He found that low-sodium V8 stopped the problem. Since I was taking a diuretic at the time, I thought I would give it a try. It stopped the cramping and severely curtailed most of the weird muscle and nerve activity. I faithfully drink two glasses of the V8 every evening, and I haven’t taken a muscle relaxer since the first glass.
Low-sodium V8 juice provides plenty of potassium. When this mineral is in short supply, many people develop cramps. Diuretics frequently deplete the body of potassium, and that may be why low-sodium V8 helps some people. Anyone who is taking angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor blood pressure medicines like enalapril, lisinopril, or ramipril, though, must be very cautious about extra potassium.
I sometimes get painful leg cramps that wake me up in the middle of the night. The best treatment I have found is to drink vinegar. I put one tablespoon in six to eight ounces of water with one-half teaspoon of sugar to help it go down. The leg cramps are gone in about five minutes. I carry a small bottle of vinegar with me now just in case.
This sounds like a very easy solution. Thanks so much for telling us about it.
Mustard works for leg cramps. But I really don’t like it straight up, especially at night before going to bed. Turmeric is the active ingredient in mustard. When I get leg cramps, I mix one-quarter teaspoon turmeric in four ounces of water and drink it down. Leg cramps subside in a minute or less, faster than mustard and a whole lot more palatable.
Thanks for the tip. Some may find the taste of pure turmeric even more challenging than mustard, though. Turmeric is more soluble, and may be more palatable, in milk.
Joe Graedon & Terry Graedon, The People’s Pharmacy: Quick & Handy Home Remedies, published by National Geographic