Dietary Treatment of Cramps in Pregnancy

Are you used to having leg cramps throughout the day or while you sleep? Learn about the dietary treatment of cramps in pregnancy in today's article.
Dietary Treatment of Cramps in Pregnancy

Last update: 09 May, 2021

Cramps are involuntary, painful, and short-lasting muscle contractions. They’re usually frequent in athletes and during the third trimester of pregnancy. They affect 30-50% of pregnant women. Since they affect the performance of daily activities and disturb sleep (they usually occur at night), we’re going to tell you about the dietary treatment of cramps in pregnancy.

First of all, you should know the reasons why they occur. They appear for various reasons, although the main ones are electrolyte imbalance (sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium), dehydration, prolonged exercise without rest, or maintaining a specific position for a long time. Also, due to a lack of vitamins involved in maintaining good muscle tone.

Dietary treatment of cramps in pregnancy

Taking into account the above, the diet focuses on covering the requirements of the nutrients whose levels are low. Depending on the case, a doctor may prescribe an oral supplement.

Normally, this decrease occurs because, during pregnancy, nutritional needs are greater and aren’t met. This is due to the presence of continuous nausea or vomiting, sweating, or hypertension (better known as preeclampsia).

Dietary Treatment of Cramps in Pregnancy


Potassium

This is a mineral involved in nerve transmission between cells and muscle contraction. Until now, experts have considered it the protagonist in the appearance of cramps, especially in athletes. However, they’ve also observed that some people have blood levels within the normal range. This was a breakthrough discovery, as we now know that potassium isn’t the only predisposing factor.

Furthermore, it’s not a mineral that you should supplement, as you can cover your needs through diet. Potassium is present in green leafy vegetables (chard, spinach, celery), legumes, fruits (especially bananas, melons, and currants), dried fruits such as dried apricots and figs, avocados, and nuts such as almonds and hazelnuts.

Magnesium, the dietary treatment of pregnancy cramps we often forget

Magnesium also acts on muscle contraction and, in addition, it’s the mineral that’s the greatest subject of research in pregnant women. The only limitation is that the doses, type of supplementation, and duration differ between studies. But these issues haven’t prevented studies from demonstrating that magnesium does help to reduce the frequency and severity of cramps. Some didn’t even measure serum levels at any time.

On the one hand, administration of 300 mg of magnesium citrate for one month produced a 27.2% improvement over the control group. In contrast, other investigations found no significant differences. At the same time, chelated bisglycinate proves to be more effective at the same dose and duration, since we absorb it about 2.2 times better than magnesium lactate and citrate.

The fact that supplementation helps to combat cramps means that nutrition remains key. It’s always necessary to assess the degree of stress and to have a blood test. Foods rich in magnesium are green leafy vegetables, beans, soybeans, and nuts.

Dietary Treatment of Cramps in Pregnancy


Sodium

Sodium is in balance with potassium. Physiologically, sodium predominates on the outside of the cell and potassium on the inside. When an imbalance between either of these minerals occurs, the risk of cramps increases. This is most often caused by sweating and incorrect replenishment by electrolyte-rich beverages.

Calcium and vitamin D

Calcium supplementation has also been studied, alone or together with vitamin D, as it’s another mineral involved in cramping. In addition, vitamin D promotes intestinal calcium absorption.

Research indicates that 300 mg of calcium bicarbonate and 1000 IU of vitamin D for 6 weeks produced no effect. The reason was that the period was short and the dose low, so further studies at increased doses and follow-up are required.

B group vitamins

As for complex B vitamins, they help to prevent fatigue caused by cramps. Keep in mind that food is sufficient to cover the recommended intake because these vitamins are found in various foods such as meat, fish, vegetables, legumes, and nuts.

About the dietary treatment of cramps in pregnancy

To conclude, pregnancy cramps are normal and can be avoided with proper dietary management. Even supplementation with magnesium is sometimes required under the supervision of a qualified health professional.

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