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. Jill b
    WV USA

    Great to read these posts. I have had severe calf and feet cramps and was trying to figure out what was causing them. I prayed about it, and Brazil nuts came to my thoughts. Thought that couldn’t be right but when I stopped eating them I hardly get the cramps anymore. It hasn’t been long since I did this so will test it in a few weeks by eating some. Thanks to everyone posting here because I thought I must be ‘odd woman out’.

  2. hollance

    I am so glad to see the posts about brazil nuts. I thought I was going crazy. I hadn’t eaten brazil nuts in a long, long time, and then I ate a handful one night, late, and woke up 2 hours later with the worse leg and foot cramps of my life. Extreme, extreme pain for 20 minutes. Since this was so not normal for me, and the only difference in what I ate before sleeping was the nuts, the next day, no nuts & no cramps. Day after that I ate just 2 brazil nuts, and had medium cramps in my neck and legs. Hesitant now. Trying next to only eat a few in the morning, and see if at least hours before sleeping help. I am also not sure yet these if Brazil nuts are raw or roasted. I think they are raw. I love brazil nuts, so this really sucks. Next going to try roasted brazil nuts, with the hope that maybe that makes a difference.

  3. Dennis

    Ate 10-12 Brazil nuts, next morning had bad headache and muscle soreness and overall fatigue, similar to onset flu symptoms. Are these common Brazil nut toxicity symptoms?

  4. Lisa
    escondido, ca

    I have also had muscle cramps associated with eating raw brazil nuts. I have not noticed this with other types of nuts. I was recently on a low carb diet and started eating raw brazil nuts as a snack. I started having muscle cramps all the time, especilly if I ate a lot of them. After I realized the connection and stopped, the cramps went away.

  5. Sandy
    Midwest U.S.

    Thank you all for your posts. For at least 10 years, I have experienced sudden, painful, hand or feet, ankle and leg cramps where my hands or feet lock into position. My doctor told me to flood myself with water. If I drink 3 or 4 glasses immediately, pain subsides quickly (leaving muscles slightly sore). This happens in the daytime or at night. Blood work is normal. A month ago, I read these posts and wondered if raw nuts and/or seeds trigger the cramping. Experimented with three handfuls of raw pumpkin seeds. Oh, that was bad. Water wouldn’t stay down. So, I quit seeds and nuts with great results. Now, the last few days, I’ve been having almond milk with oatmeal. Muscles all over my body feel sore (about five hours after breakfast). Will continue to investigate and read postings.

    • Barb

      Same here…for the same reason. I only have to eat one nut for it to have me up half the night with repeated and sever leg cramps!

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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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