Why Do Bananas Cause Leg Cramps?
The Connection Between Bananas and Muscle Cramps
Fruits and vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet. Bananas are a great addition because they are inexpensive, convenient, available year round, portable, taste good, and have lots of vitamins and minerals that your body needs.
Some people, however, complain that they get foot and leg cramps when they eat bananas. There is a clear connection between bananas and leg cramps in my body. When I get a Charley Horse at night, it is almost certain that I ate bananas that day. When I don't eat bananas, I don't get leg cramps.
I decided to do some research about why bananas cause leg cramps and report my findings to you.
Eat Bananas to Avoid Leg Cramps
The first few articles I read said that leg cramps can be caused by a deficiency of vitamins and minerals. Nutrition experts actually recommended eating bananas to avoid leg cramps. For example, Wisegeek said:
To combat nocturnal legcramps, there are several criteria to check. Make sure that your intake of calcium, potassium, and magnesium are at sufficient levels. Potassium-rich foods in your diet should include bananas, tomatoes, potatoes, broccoli, cantaloupe, and citrus fruits.
Bananas contain potassium. This mineral helps the body function optimally. Potassium is also an electrolyte, which moves electricity through your body.
Do Bananas Cause Leg Cramps?
This made me wonder if I was the only person who thought bananas actually caused leg cramps. It turns out that I am not. Here's a person on Yahoo Answers who was told that bananas help leg cramps. Another person asked on AOL Answers and received lots of support, but no real answers. It turns out that there are quite a few people who report this connection.
I needed to figure out what was causing leg cramps in people when they ate bananas when we are told that bananas help leg cramps. I thought about what I had learned in biology class about potassium and water.
Bananas in Science Class
A long time ago, I was taking a class in biology and the teacher was talking about how kidneys function. I hope the teacher forgives me if I learned or remembered incorrectly.
She said that the kidneys rely on sodium and potassium to help determine a balance of water. If you have too much sodium, the body will retain water. If you have too much potassium, your body will release water. As a teenager, I remember thinking, "I need to eat more bananas!"
The Connection Between Water and Potassium
I wanted to prove that my memory was correct about the effects of potassium to water levels in the body. Most of my findings talked about potassium being flushed out of the body along with water, stating that dehydration may cause low potassium levels. I didn't see anything that said that potassium makes you lose water, but many articles discussed a connection between sodium, potassium and water.
Here's another Livestrong quote:
Low potassium levels, or hypokalemia, can increase the risk of water retention and swelling, or edema.
About.com Sports Medicine also talks about Recommendations for Water, Sodium and Potassium:
To lower blood pressure, blunt the effects of salt, and reduce the risk of kidney stones and bone loss, adults should consume 4.7 grams of potassium per day.
A low intake of dietary potassium, especially in the presence of high sodium intake, has been implicated in the pathogenesis of elevated BP [blood pressure].
Solution to Leg Cramps Caused by Bananas
Dr. Jonathan Cluett on About.com states that electrolyte imbalances and dehydration can cause leg cramps, among other causes
There is a simple solution to your leg cramps that are caused by eating bananas. No, you don't have to give up eating bananas.
The next time you eat a banana, simply drink some water with it. It may be dehydration that is causing your leg cramps.
© 2012 Shasta Matova
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