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If you were in a panic situation that pinches lower leg, or looking for a needle or spike in the vicinity in order to save the severe pain, then you had an experience that is called a short but very painful: Cramps.

The Pain: Cramps are uncontrolled contractions of muscle fibers. They can last a few seconds or a few minutes and are associated with severe pain. Some of the different types of cramps include - Nocturnal cramps: These are cramps which occur at night. They mostly occur in the legs, especially the calf muscles, and the Feet. Electrolyte imbalances are thought to cause night-time Cramps.
Exercise cramps: These occur during or after exercise. They can be caused by a lack of fluid, insufficient warm-up, lactic acid build-up and overuse.
Menstrual cramps: These Cramps are also known as Dysmenorrhoea and cause pain and discomfort in the lower back and abdomen. They occur when the uterus contracts during the menstrual period. They are caused by hormonal imbalances, pelvic inflammatory disease and other reproductive disorders.
 
The Culprit: There are a number of possible causes for Cramps. These include:
- Nutritional deficiencies. An imbalance in magnesium, calcium and potassium levels, or a vitamin E deficiency.
- Poor circulation (causes insufficient oxygen supply).
- Excessive and/or irregular exercise or inactivity.
- Dehydration (fluid loss results in an imbalance of electrolyte minerals).
- Certain medications such as diuretics.
- Anxiety disorders and stress.
- Smoking
- Anaemia.
- Fibromyalgia, arthritis, kidney disease, intermittent claudication, peripheral vascular disease, thrombosis, diabetes, hypothyroidism and hypertension.
- Heat (may cause dehydration).

Note: If a heaviness in the legs with Cramps occurs after minimal exercise, the cause may be more serious. Seek medical advice.

The Fix: Try to avoid acid forming foods such as white vinegar (pickles, mustard, salad dressings), red meat, baked goods, sweet foods and processed foods. Apple cider vinegar is fine to use. Raw vegetable and fruit juices are recommended for alkalising the body. Celery, apple and alfalfa are recommended. Dried seaweeds are recommended for their high mineral content. Foods rich in magnesium and calcium are beneficial in the prevention of muscle cramps. These include green vegetables, sesame seeds, Corn, figs, almonds, apples, walnuts, yoghurt and soy beans. Avoid excessive amounts of coffee and alcohol. These cause fluid and mineral loss from the body.

Crampbark herb is thought to be an effective muscle and nervous system relaxant. It may be particularly useful for menstrual Cramps. Wild Yam herb is thought to relax smooth muscle.

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