Nighttime leg cramps can be quite a challenge. They may well wake you with pain in the middle of the night, and easing the pain can take time. We have written about a number of home remedies that may help end leg cramps quickly, such as swallowing a spoonful of yellow mustard or a few sips of pickle juice. Some people keep a bar of soap under the bottom sheet to prevent leg cramps. However, when people have low levels of magnesium in their systems, taking a magnesium supplement may be a great preventive measure.
Low Magnesium and Leg Cramps at Night:
Q. I have used several of your recommendations for leg cramps and they only worked about halfway through the night.
I mentioned it to my doctor and he checked my blood work. My magnesium was low.
I started taking a magnesium supplement and have not had leg cramps since. I would suggest letting people know to have their magnesium checked.
A Magnesium Supplement to Counteract Leg Cramps:
A. Others should follow your good example and ask their doctors to monitor their magnesium levels. As many as half of Americans don’t get the RDA for magnesium in their diets. Moreover, many medications can deplete the body of this essential mineral.
People who are low in magnesium may have high blood pressure and a higher risk of heart disease. In addition, they may also be more susceptible to migraine headaches and to menstrual cramps as well as muscle cramps. There are numerous benefits to taking a magnesium supplement if your level is low. However, people with impaired kidney function should not take magnesium supplements. They could put too much strain on the kidneys. One reader wrote to us about such a problem.
Trouble with a Magnesium Supplement:
Q. People’s Pharmacy has gotten me into trouble with my dear wife. As a regular reader of your column, I always share stuff with her if I think it may help. Your comment about taking magnesium supplements to help alleviate persistent constipation is a case in point.
She started taking a magnesium supplement and it helped her bowel function immediately. I was happy to have her benefit from your column. So what’s the problem?
Her 90-year-old father, a long-time heavy user of milk of magnesia, is now having significant kidney malfunction issues. His medical advisors have identified the laxative as the cause.
My wife has abruptly stopped using her magnesium supplement because of what is occurring with her dad. Could you kindly comment on any kidney risks associated with magnesium?
How Do Magnesium Supplements Affect the Kidneys?
A. Magnesium is essential for muscles, nerves and bones. This mineral helps regulate blood sugar, blood pressure and heart rhythm.
The daily RDA is 420 mg for men and 320 mg for women. American diets are frequently low in magnesium, and commonly prescribed blood pressure medicines containing diuretics may deplete this mineral.
People with kidney problems are unable to tolerate excess magnesium. They should avoid supplements, laxatives or antacids that contain this mineral. Overdosing on magnesium may overwhelm the system and result in magnesium toxicity. This may be what happened to your father-in-law because of his milk of magnesia habit.
On the other hand, if your wife’s kidney function is normal and her physician monitors her magnesium levels, she should be able to tolerate up to 350 mg daily.
“I added a magnesium supplement after reading your comments in above article & it did for me what no amount of flax, oat bran, Psyllium or other fiber has been able to do- help with regularity without bloating or gas.”
Brent B. cautions:
“Whenever magnesium is taken, it should be balanced out with calcium. I’ve also heard that only a small percentage of the magnesium in magnesium oxide tablets is actually metabolized by the body. So you might want to use a form like magnesium glycinate or magnesium taurate to get a greater benefit. I also use the epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) in my bath water, and it seems to make quite a difference in my health. And you can also use flax seed oil softgels for a great fiber / regularity solution. Moderation and balance are the right approaches — and be sure to listen to your body and discontinue anything that causes you trouble!”