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Leg Cramps Signaled Iron Deficiency

Leg Cramps Signaled Iron Deficiency

Q. I was bothered with severe leg cramps for several months. I tried home remedies such as soap in my bed, tonic water and bananas, but they didn’t help.

At last I found out I was severely anemic with a hemoglobin of 5. You may want to warn readers that this is a possibility if they are also tired and short of breath as I was. I was given 2 units of blood as soon as I was diagnosed and am now on iron supplements as well as eating more iron-rich foods. I have had no leg cramps at all since starting treatment.

A. Thank you for the note of caution. There is research linking iron deficiency to restless legs syndrome (Presse Medicale, online, March 22, 2010) and to pica (Journal of Medical Case Reports, March 12, 2010). Pica is a condition in which people feel compelled to eat non-food items such as laundry starch or ice.

We could not find any studies showing that taking iron supplements could alleviate nighttime leg cramps. We appreciate you bringing this to our attention.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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