Q. A few years ago I read that selenium was good for everyone and that Brazil nuts were high in selenium. Since I love Brazil nuts, I bought them regularly and ate about three a day. After a few months I began suffering severe leg cramps that woke me from a sound sleep every night. They lasted from ten to fifteen minutes with sharp pain no matter what I tried.

I had no idea what was causing them, so I decided to eliminate foods one by one from my regular diet. When I eliminated Brazil nuts, the cramps didn't occur. I experimented with them several times. Whenever I eliminated them, the leg cramps went away and when I ate even one, the cramps returned.

I'm not allergic to other kinds of nuts. Walnuts, pecans, almonds and cashews don't bother me. Is this reaction commonly known or just peculiar to me?

A. We have not heard of muscle cramps as a reaction to Brazil nuts. At first, we suspected that your regular Brazil nut consumption might have resulted in selenium toxicity. A half-dozen nuts have more than 500 micrograms of this mineral, above the tolerable daily limit of approximately 400 micrograms.

Symptoms of selenium overdose include hair loss, brittle nails, fatigue, rash, digestive upset, irritability and garlic odor on the breath. Since muscle cramps have not been previously reported as symptoms of excess selenium, we imagine this reaction is particular to you.

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  1. TAN
    Ipoh, Perak in Malaysia

    I had pain in my left leg thinking it was due to my prolapsed disc between lumbar 4 and 5. The pain lasted for 6 months until I felt suspicious that the pain was not always there. On certain days the pain was quite intense and other times the pain was very much reduced eventhough I took medication from my orthopaedic surgeon. I began to trace the type of food I had the previous day which could have caused the pain . Gradually I found out that the cause was due to the NUTS which I had been taking. Unknowingly I have been taking nuts and nut products everyday(walnuts, almonds and hazelnut chips, peanut butter which I love eating and peanuts)Finally when I stopped eating nuts my leg pain was gone. Wish I knew this earlier.

  2. Doras
    Cental Missouri

    My offender is pecans. Had been eating a good handful of these in the evening. Shortly after going to sleep, I was awakened by excruciating leg cramps that was not relieved by standing and /or walking. This has always worked to relieve the occasional leg cramp. I felt sure I has destined to another back surgery because my back problems caused pain in the left leg, and this was the leg I was getting nightly cramps in. I stopped the nightly pecans and leg cramps stopped. I just ate a few mixed nuts containing a small amount of pecans. Let’s see if the cramps return. Hope not. Thank you for all the previous posts.

  3. Gary

    I also found a direct correlation of leg cramps and Brazil nuts. Even one can create problems at night.
    Lately almost any nut can also do this.

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