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Night cramps, what if it was potassium deficiency?

January 1, 2018


An annoyance that can become a torment and hinder sleep. We are talking about night muscle cramps, which many people, mostly women, have experienced in their lives. The discomfort interferes with night-time rest, in which case it is possible to follow some small measures and cope with this disorder. «But to try to solve it, it’s necessary to go to the root of the cause, which could be potassium deficiency», states Professor Daniela Lucini, head of the Humanitas Exercise Medicine Section.


Night cramps affect the legs, specifically the muscles of the calves. These cramps are involuntary muscle contractions, which can even be painful. In some conditions the risk of having to deal with this disorder is greater, for example during pregnancy. But there may be non-modifiable risk factors, such as age: the older you get, the higher the risk.


The remedies to limit the discomfort vary «from massages to hot baths, from physical activity, useful to maintain good muscle function, to stretching exercises, involving flexing of the feet towards the body. But these are only symptomatic interventions. What matters is to identify the cause of these muscle cramps», emphasizes the specialist.

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Fruit and fish for potassium

«Muscle cramps may be due to hypokalemia, for example, or potassium deficiency in the blood. The deficiency of this precious mineral may be caused by gastro-intestinal disorders or may arise as a side effect of drug therapy or a reduced intake of potassium itself, or even other causes. For this reason, you should contact your doctor and take the necessary tests to measure your potassium levels».


Potassium is contained in many foods – in addition to the classic bananas, it is found in potatoes, apricots, kiwis, and fish like salmon, for example. But in case of deficiency, the potassium you need cannot be taken only through the diet: «Nutrition can help to fill the deficit but you will need to take supplements, with a dosage defined by the doctor», concludes Professor Lucini.


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