Perhaps the most annoying thing about diabetic cramps is that they often happen in the middle of the night, as you’re trying to get much needed rest. They can be painful and agonizing, and unfortunately are quite common for a diabetic. Cramps can be caused by an excess of blood sugar. When diabetes is not well treated, excess amounts of sugar accumulates in the bloodstream. The cells are unable to absorb the glucose, causing an electrolyte imbalance in muscle cells and damage in nerve cells, causing diabetic cramps. Certain prescription medicines which cause dehydration and a depletion of electrolytes can also lead to diabetic cramps. Deficiencies of B vitamins (specifically B1, B5 and B6) can also contribute to the problem. Diabetic cramps occur most often in the feet and legs, and typically at night while in bed.


The Importance of Electrolytes in Preventing Diabetic Leg Cramps


Electrolytes such as potassium, sodium, calcium, chloride, and magnesium are essential in helping your muscles to contract and relax. A cramp occurs when your muscles contract but can’t relax back to normal. If you have diabetes, the cells are unable to use glucose in your body for energy, so instead it looks to fat and muscle tissue. In the case of muscle tissue, this causes electrolyte levels to drop, creating this dangerous situation. Depletion of electrolytes due to medicines makes things worse.


Diabetic Muscle Cramps: Get Relief with Foods and Supplements


You can prevent diabetic cramps by making sure your diet contains ample electrolytes and taking nutritional supplements when necessary. For calcium, eat plenty of dark leafy greens, broccoli, tofu, citrus fruit and acai berries. Foods high in magnesium include spinach, black beans, and lentils. To replenish your potassium levels, consume foods such as potatoes, broccoli, cucumbers, cauliflower, citrus fruit, cantaloupe, and bananas. In general, including fruits and vegetables in your diet will give your body the electrolytes it needs to prevent painful cramping. It is also important to drink plenty of water (about eight glasses a day). Avoid alcohol and cigarettes, as both can dehydrate the body.

Stretching to Prevent and Relieve Diabetic Foot Cramps


As a lack of oxygen in the feet can also be responsible for diabetic cramps, it is important to keep the blood circulating as much as possible. Gentle exercising and stretching throughout the day is highly recommended. One simple exercise is to stand about an arm’s length away from a wall and, keeping your heels on the floor, move your upper body towards the wall. This creates a stretch on your hamstrings. While in this position, you can also stand on your toes and hold for about 30 seconds.

For quick relief after you get a cramp, a slow stretching of the afflicted muscle is best, and gentle walking can help ease the pain. When stretching to relieve a foot cramp, make sure you flex the foot with the toes towards your body. Pointing your toes will make it worse!