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Saturday, February 9, 2013

Night Cramping: Food, Nerve, or Blood Vessel?

Dear Dr. Blake,

I have a chronic problem with severe toe and foot cramping in my left foot primarily that occurs nights in bed.

It becomes so severe that I have to get out of bed and put weight on the balls of my feet and my toes to force them to bend in the opposite direction of the cramp.

This has gone on for many years intermittently.

I have read online that this can occur due to low potassium, or calcium, or magnesium.

I do take calcium supplements. For awhile I was trying to take potassium and magnesium supplements, but with no effect.

Many years ago an accupuncturist/herbalist recommended a book to me called "Food and Healing" by Annemarie Colbin that described the alkaloids in the nightshade family of plants (a large group, consisting of potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers) leaching (her term) calcium and potassium from the bones.

Since reading this, I have always tried to think about what I may have eaten on the days that I get these attacks and invariably I find that I have indeed eaten some amount of one of these vegetables.

The amount needed to cause the effect really varies. I can eat tomatoes in a normal salad without problem, although once got a relatively mild attack after eating an entire bowl of tomatoes. On the other hand, I recently had a few grilled bell pepper slices in a couple of fajitas and had very painful, long-lasting cramps that night. On the other hand, other peppers, used as condiments primarily don't seem to cause the same problem. Eggplant also appears to have a strong effect.

Have you ever treated anyone with this issue?

So far, I've simply either avoided the food or lived with the results since the foods are pretty delicious going down.

Dr Blake's comment:

Thanks for the email.

      No, I am not wise on foods, other than what you already know. The 2 most common causes of this type of cramping I look into is a pinched nerve in the back (and you do not need to have back pain) and some form of blood clot (although if there you would not have a complete block). Both of these conditions occur normally when you stop for the day and lay down for a while. So, while you work on the food angle, I would also look into a low back specialist and a vascular specialist to rule out nerve or blood vessel issues. I hope this helps you. Rich

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Thank you very much for leaving a comment. Due to my time restraints, some comments may not be answered.I will answer questions that I feel will help the community as a whole.. I can only answer medical questions in a general form. No specific answers can be given. Please consult a podiatrist, therapist, orthopedist, or sports medicine physician in your area for specific questions.