Leg cramps are painful muscle contractions that can occur without warning, especially while you sleep. Changes in habits and diet during the day can help you avoid leg cramps at night.

The excerpt below from Secret Food Cures by Joan Wilen and Lydia Wilen contains advice on ways to stop leg cramps.

Leg Cramps

We’ve learned that leg cramps can be caused by certain nutritional deficiencies. For instance, a lack of magnesium, potassium, vitamin E, calcium or protein. Are you eating lots of greens? (And we don’t mean having two or three olives in your martini.)

Cut down on fatty meats, sugar and white flour. After a week, see if there’s a difference

in the incidence of leg-cramping.

Go Bananas!

• If you take a diuretic, you may be losing too much potassium from your system, which may be causing leg cramps. If that’s the case, eat a banana or two every day. You might also want to ask your doctor to take you off the chemical diuretic and find a natural one, like cucumber, celery or lettuce.

• Drink a glass of tonic water. It may have enough quinine to help you and not enough to harm you.

• If you get leg cramps while you sleep, keep a piece of silverware—a spoon seems the safest—on your night table. When the cramp wakes you up, place the spoon on the painful area and the muscle should uncramp. Incidentally, the spoon doesn’t have to be silver— stainless steel will work as well.

• Cramp bark is an herb that—you guessed it—is good for any sort of cramping. The tincture is available at health food stores. Take one to two teaspoons, three to five times a day.

• Muscular cramps that tend to occur at night may often be relieved within 20 minutes by taking this combination—one tablespoon of calcium lactate, one teaspoon of apple cider vinegar and one teaspoon of honey in half a glass of warm water.

• The late D.C. Jarvis, MD, suggested taking two teaspoons of honey at each meal, or honey combined with two teaspoons of apple cider vinegar in a glass of water before each meal, as a way to prevent muscle cramps.

Walk on the Wall Side

• Before you get out of bed in the morning, turn yourself around so that you can put your feet against the wall, higher than your body. Stay that way for 10 minutes. Do the same thing at night, right before you go to sleep. It will improve blood circulation and may help to prevent muscle cramps. It’s also an excellent stretch that in itself may prevent cramps.

The Lancet, the prestigious British medical journal (TheLancet.com), reports that vitamin E is helpful in relieving cramps in the legs. Take vitamin E before each meal, daily (check with your doctor for amount). Within a week or two, there should be a positive difference.

• Take advantage of the therapeutic value of a rocking chair. Rock whenever you watch television and for at least one hour before bedtime. For those of you who sit most of the time, a rocking chair may prevent varicose veins and blood clots. It may also improve circulation as well as relieve you of leg cramps.

• Drink one cup of red raspberry-leaf tea in the morning and one cup at night. Do this every day and you may no longer have leg cramp attacks.

• According to one doctor, three weeks after prescribing vitamin B6 to his patients suffering from leg cramps, they were no longer bothered by them. The B6 also took care of numb and tingling toes.

Pinch It

• We were told about a simple acupressure technique called “acupinch.” It may help relieve the pain of muscle cramps almost instantly. The second you get a cramp, use your thumb and your index finger and pinch your philtrum—the skin between your upper lip and your nose. Keep pinching for about 20 seconds. The pain and cramp should disappear.

• Try drinking an eight-ounce glass of water before bedtime.

Jogger’s Leg Cramps

• After your run, find a cool stream of moving water in which to soak for 15 to 20 minutes.

For those of you who can only dream of that…every night, right before going to bed, walk in about six inches of cold water in your bathtub for three minutes. The feedback from runners who do this has been very convincing—cold water walks prevent leg cramps. Be sure to have those nonslip stick-ons on the floor of the tub.

For additional advice on common health problems, purchase Secret Food Cures from Bottomlineinc.com.