Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Wellness Wednesday / "Delia's Dose"

This week’s blog is inspired by the fact that I keep waking up in the middle of the night with horrible Charley (or Charlie) Horses! Yes, that muscle spasm in your calf, foot, or thigh that  jars you from your sleep and causes you to pace around your pitch black bedroom trying to “walk it out” at 3 am while secretly hoping you are making enough noise to wake up your significant other so they will offer to rub your leg for you!!

What are some of the causes of these muscle cramps?

*poor blood circulation: this is when blood flow becomes restricted in certain parts of the body. This is not a good thing because it usually means that there is plaque in the arteries. What’s plaque? I always think of it as sludge or “gunk” that builds up in the arteries of your heart.  This sludge is caused by bad cholesterol, which comes from diet and lifestyle choices. The American Heart Association recommends we consume less than 300 mg of cholesterol per day and that’s if you are a healthy individual! If you already have some gunk building up in those arteries you should only have 200 mg of cholesterol a day. So if my boss has her Mc Donalds “Mc Double”  for lunch,  she consumes 65 mg of cholesterol. That’s actually not bad compared to the famous Sausage Mc Muffin with Egg that has a whopping 285 mg of cholesterol!! Bring the heart paddles with ya next time you sit in the drive thru for that one!! Yikes!
*overexertion of the muscle during exercise: basically, don’ t over do it! Know your limits, set obtainable goals!

*exercising in the heat: I say- just don’t do it, exercise in the morning or evening when it’s cooler outside. Our bodies way of cooling itself is to sweat, and if you are sweating A LOT our muscles can get dehydrated and that affects their ability to contract and relax.

*not enough stretching before exercise: stretching increases the blood flow to our muscles..that’s a good thing!

*muscle fatigue: this is when your muscles aren’t able to contract and help you move. When we need our muscles to move, our brain sends a signal to the muscle fibers…”hey, I need you to lift your 38 lb child now!” The fibers shorten and contract the muscle which then pulls on your bones to make you move. If there isn’t  enough water, nutrients, or oxygen present, the muscles get tired and can’t do their job.

*dehydration: I have talked about the importance of drinking at least half your body weight in ounces of water a day…this will help avoid leg cramps. Eating foods high in water content is a good idea too…watermelon, leafy greens, tomatoes

*calcium deficiency: well, I could talk about myofilaments and myosin, troponin, tropomysosin, sarcomeeres, and bone density and how all this is very important for our muscles..but instead I will say…we need calcium!! We need about 1,000-1,200 mg a day. Calcium rich foods: milk, yogurt, cheese, kale, salmon, tofu, broccoli, sardines, oranges, oatmeal, dried figs, arugula

*pinched nerve in the neck or back which can cause calf and thigh cramps

*magnesium and or potassium deficiency: maybe you’ve heard someone say to eat a banana to help with muscle cramps…that’s because they contain potassium. Potassium is very important for our cells, tissues, and organs to function properly. Think of our muscles and cells as highways that run through our body. If potassium isn’t moving along those highways due to blockage or deficiency, then the muscles can cramp up! Eating a banana won’t instantly stop your muscle cramp, but maintaining good levels of potassium in your body regularly can help!
Here’s a list of foods high in magnesium and potassium: bananas, prunes, dried apricots, raisins, cantaloupe, spinach, avocados, artichokes, almonds, cashews, peanuts, peanut butter, kidney beans, pinto beans, yogurt, halibut, mushrooms, baked acorn squash.

One  way to  avoid Charley Horses is to make sure you wear shoes with proper support.  Also, if you’ve been having them regularly, they say a hot shower before bed helps. 
Here’s a delicious Summer Time recipe with potassium rich ingredients! Get out your popsicle molds and let the kids help!

2 large ripe bananas
¼ cup peanut butter(or almond butter)
¼ cup water
2 tbsp cacao powder
2 tbsp vanilla extract
Put all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Pour mix into popsicle molds and freeze. YUMMMY!

Have a Healthy Week!

p.s. Wonder why we call it a Charlie Horse? Apparently there are several theories…In the 1880’s a famous baseball pitcher named Charlie Radbourn, nicknamed “Old Hoss,” suffered from leg cramps=Charlie Horse. There’s also the stories of the 17th century policemen in England, called Charleys. They were required to do a lot of walking and suffered from aching legs=Charley Horses?

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