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Foods Rich in Potassium Can Reduce Leg Cramps

Posted Jun 13 2009 12:26am
Sometimes people can develop leg cramps from medications. This is an undesired adverse drug reaction. This is usually from a low potassium level in the blood and muscles. Really the only allergy or asthma medications that cause leg cramps are corticosteroids. These doses are high when inhaled ( Advair 500/50, Symbicort 160/4.5) or by mouth ( prednisone, Medrol ( methylprednisolone )) or by injection ( Kenalog, DepoMedrol, Decadron ). I have never seen a corticosteroid nose spray or corticosteroid skin cream cause leg cramps. The options are: 1) put up with it; 2) reduce or stop the medication causing the reaction; 3) eat foods containing potassium which will raise blood levels of potassium. After discussing these options with my patients, if the original problem that required the corticosteroids is still active, then we often opt for 3).
Which foods are rich in potassium, with less sodium? The U.S. Department of Agriculture has complied a list. Here is a shorter version of the list. There are other lists available on the Internet, but I find them harder to understand. The commonest answer is bananas. This is an urban myth. They are not bad, but they are not the best. I'll compare bananas to one other palatable alternative to me, raisins. The average banana contains 422 mg potassium, whereas 1 cup of raisins contains 1,086 mg of potassium. Which ever potassium-rich food you choose, remember it is essential to chose one with low sodium content. One banana has 1 mg of sodium. One cup of raisins contains 40 mg of sodium. Both have very low fat and cholesterol content. I like the taste of raisins much more, so I recommend raisins. My family and office staff are used to seeing me eat raisins nearly every day with breakfast and lunch.

From the shorter list above, you can see that healthy foods all contain some potassium. It is good for you even if you don't have leg cramps or aren't taking corticosteroids. I eat foods rich in potassium daily, as follows: 1 cup of raisins, 1/3 cup of spinach, and sometimes orange juice. If you have questions about potassium-rich foods, ask your doctor or consult with an American Dietetic Association certified nutritionist.
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