Please Pass the Mustard

I’m going to go way out on a limb and guess that the last time you had a leg cramp your immediate reaction was to either stretch it, rub it, ice it or a combination of any of these responses. What if I told you that you should eat some yellow mustard for an almost immediate relief to the cramping? As crazy and perhaps to some, disgusting as this may sound, there have been countless stories of people having almost instantaneous relief when consuming just a teaspoon of yellow mustard. Professional athletes have been told for years by their coaches to swallow a few teaspoons of mustard to fight off leg cramps.

For many people, leg cramps occur at night while they sleep and not while engaged in sports. Such cramps may be caused by dehydration (which can be associated with diarrhea, insufficient fluid intake, excessive sweating), a deficiency of calcium, potassium, and/or magnesium, or for reasons unknown. So, does this mean you should have a packet of yellow mustard on your night stand at bedtime? Perhaps. Anecdotal evidence suggests you should. A quick internet search reveals claims that a few squirts of mustard sends those cramps off to la-la land and you right along with them.

mustard for crampsSo why does this work? One of the reasons it is suggested that this odd remedy is helpful is because the condiment contains acetic acid (in vinegar), which prompts the body to produce more acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter that prompts muscles to work. Mustard is also a good source of magnesium. When our muscles tighten, calcium is released into the muscles. Magnesium counteracts the effects of calcium, reducing muscle cramps. Magnesium has also been shown to reduce the severity of asthma, lower high blood pressure, restore normal sleep patterns in women having difficulty with the symptoms of menopause, reduce the frequency of migraine attacks, and to prevent heart attack in patients suffering from atherosclerosis or diabetic heart disease.

According to a report in the American Family Physician, nighttime cramps occur in up to 60% of adults. If taking a squirt of mustard doesn’t work, is there really any harm done? If the cramping doesn’t cease, the added benefits of mustard being high in selenium, a potent anti-oxidant that has recently been linked to the decrease in oxidative stress as well as the prevention of cancer, you are still providing your body with a powerful weapon for overall wellness.

However, I will caution you to not be tempted to smear mustard all over your legs. It doesn’t work that way…. unless of course you are suffering from a mild to moderate burn in which case yellow mustard may be good for that as well. (Mind blown?)