A Pain in the Foot: Foot Cramps

How flip flops mess with your feet

Many of us have suffered from foot cramps at some point in our lives. And since our feet have to support our body weight, foot cramps are more common as compared to other muscle spasms. Foot cramps is more common amongst the elderly and sports persons. Other triggers include nutritional deficiency, loss of muscle-tone and muscular weakness.

Foot cramps is an involuntary jerky spasm which can affect a group of muscle or a muscle which can last for a few seconds to a few minutes. The pain you feel is caused by the contraction of the muscle without effectively shortening. This condition can leave your muscles very sore even after the pain is gone.

Which parts of the feet is affected?

The inner-arch of your foot & your toes especially the big one is way more prone to spasm. Other parts which are affected include the calf muscle muscles & the thigh. And in most cases you will notice that this condition causes palpable or visible hardening of all the involved muscles.

Causes of foot cramps 

1. Hyper-flexible joints or flat feet
2. An inactive lifestyle which results in muscle weakness & obesity
3. Lack of exercise (muscle stretching workouts)
4. A rapid increase in workout intensity which raises the pressure on your foot
5. Reduction in calcium blood content caused by an increase in breathing while doing some cardio workouts
6. An injury (caused by some repetitive movements)
7. Worn-out shoes

Disorders causing foot cramps

  1. Nutrient deficiency
    Spasm occurs when your body lacks various essential minerals & vitamins like vitamin D. And this can be corrected by consumption of the right quantity of vitamins. An electrolyte imbalance caused by low potassium & calcium levels and low magnesium levels can trigger cramps. Potassium imbalance can affect calcium and magnesium metabolism which is crucial in muscle contraction.
  2. Disorders
    Foot issues like plantar fasciitis can cause spasm. Diabetics experience cramps because of reduced oxygen supply to their feet. Illnesses like huntington’s & parkinson’s diseases, tetanus, thyroid issues, diseases of your nervous system and multiple sclerosis can also trigger spasm. When impulses from the brain don’t reach their target, they can cause various pinched nerve illnesses like pain, tingling and cramp.
  3. Reduced blood circulation
    Reduced blood circulation in your feet can cause cramping and pain. Inadequate oxygen supply caused by reduced blood supply in the feet results in spasm commonly noted in smokers and alcoholics.
  4. Inadequate hydration
    Many are unaware that dehydration can cause spasms. It is important to drink enough water everyday. And if you drink alcohol or smoke, make sure to reduce your consumption. This also applies to coffee drinkers. As coffee can dehydrate our bodies.

Foot cramps remedies

To help relieve the excessive stretch of the muscle make sure you move the region which is cramped to the opposite direction of the spasm. Tune your toes upwards to relieve the spasm in your toes. If the cramp is in your calf, a simple dorsiflexion (elevating your forefoot while maintaining your heel stable) should help relieve the pain within a few seconds. Applying ice-packs can also help during the acute stage. But if it persists for over 24 hours, a warm-water treatment might help with the soreness. Massaging can also help.

Preventing foot cramps

1. Proper cool downs and warm-ups before working out
2. Do stretching workouts to raise your muscle strength
3. Uses proper workout equipment or sports gear
4. Adequate hydration
5. Eat food with lots of potassium and calcium like bananas, milk, yogurt, cheese, fish, fresh veggies and dark chocolate
6. Wear comfortable, well-fitted shoes

If you are standing throughout the day then you already know the cause of the spasm, it’s fatigue. Make sure to cushion your shoes, if your job involves standing or walking for long  hours. This will help to ease the strain & stress on your feet.

Tips to stop foot cramp fast

  • Pull the toes upward (if toes are cramping).
  • If you have a cramp in just one foot, put all of your body weight on that foot for a few seconds. Keep the opposite foot raised, not touching the ground.
  • If you are wearing closed-toed shoes or socks, remove them and let your feet stretch for a few minutes.
  • Flex your toes, raise the foot that has the cramp, and support it using only your heel. Gently wiggle your toes and repeat this until the pain subsides.
  • Move your toes back and forth, and if it continues to ache, use your fingers to pull them gently.
  • To prevent future cramping and pain, go for a walk as soon as you recover from the cramp.
  • If these spasms continue for several minutes, you can apply heat to the area using a warm, damp cloth.
  • Use acupressure to alleviate the cramp by using your thumb and index finger to press on your upper lip for about 30 seconds.
  • Another acupressure point that can provide relief in seconds is the spot located between your big toe and the toe next to it. Apply pressure for 30 to 40 seconds.


Image source

Related Articles

Functional Foods – Yes or No?

a drink at the beach

People’s motivations are complex. The only reason for purchasing a functional food over any other type of food would be the health benefits offered by the product. Functional foods by definition claim to have some added benefit, whether it may be an added ingredient or a part of another fruit or vegetable, which could have a positive effect on our health. Examples of functional foods would be the polyphenols and probiotics in fruits and yoghurt, or vitamin-enhanced foods (Functional Foods Research in ARS, the United States Department of Agriculture).

Naturally a person wanting to take better care of their body would be attracted to that product and decides to buy it. If I’m feeling bloated or constipated, I might be persuaded to buy an often-advertised yoghurt that claims to reduce these uncomfortable feelings. This is an example of a personal factor or a person’s consumer behavior being influenced by the availability of a product offering added benefits. But is this the only reason for choosing one type of product over another?

Pearson et. al in their paper ‘What we Know (and do not Know) About Consumers’ suggested that people may choose to get a certain product due to impressions of better quality and fashionability from the product. In terms of quality, the buyer does not just believe that the item will do what it advertises, but believes that it will do it better than any other brand.

In addition to this belief, there is also the reasoning that not all products are equal in terms of how much of the special ingredient they add. Those with some nutritional knowledge will know that the amount of ingredients used in different lines of the same product, change according to the brand. Therefore an ordinary apple may have just the right amount of cancer fighting nutrients, but it will be overlooked if the apple with ‘Enhanced!’, ‘Added!’, or ‘Extra!’ nutrients is on the shelf right next to it.

Some of us buy products just because they see other people doing so. These people are less likely to believe in the messages of salvation being preached by the foods they buy, but are nevertheless prejudiced by what is happening around them. Therefore a consumer will buy something just because everyone else is doing it, with the belief that if other people are buying it, then there must be some benefit to it!

So far, these functional foods affect consumer psychology in ways that are no different than any product. They seem to influence through belief and perception, fears about health and longevity and desires for quality and something to trust.

What we Know (and do not Know) About Consumers’, David Pearson, Joanna Henryks, and Hannah Jones – Functional Foods Research in ARS, the United States Department of Agriculture (www.ars.usda.gov)

Related Articles:

Benefits of Buckwheat

Health Benefits of Buckwheat Sprouts

buckwheat groats

Buckwheat Sprouts

Buckwheat has many benefits. Buckwheat is a common food in Japan, Korea and Russia.

A study published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry to study the difference in antioxidant and functional components between tartary and common buckwheat sprouts. Tartary buckwheat is also called bitter buckwheat because of its bitter taste.

Both varieties are found to be rich in polyphenols and flavonoids, especially the major antioxidant component – rutin. Studies have shown that rutin is anti-inflammatory and is effective for preventing capillary apoplexy and retinal hemorrhage. Previous studies have reported that the flavonoid content of tartary buckwheat is higher compared to common buckwheat.

The research shows that both common and tartary buckwheat is high in thiamine, riboflavin, and pyridoxine contents.

Rutin was the major flavonoid in both varieties and is an essential role in the antioxidant activity of buckwheat sprouts. Apart from rutin, the key flavonoids in tartary buckwheat sprouts includes quercetin and quercitrin. Comparing both, tartary buckwheat sprouts was found to have higher antioxidant levels. It was concluded from the research that tartary buckwheat sprouts should be chosen more often because of its better health-promoting properties.

Source: Antioxidant activity of tartary (Fagopyrum tataricum (L.) Gaertn.) and common (Fagopyrum esculentum moench) buckwheat sprouts. – J Agric Food Chem. 2008 Jan 9;56(1):173-8. Epub 2007 Dec 12.

Image source

Related Article: How to Sprout Buckwheat Groats (www.helynshealthykitchen.blogspot.sg)

Free Online Courses On Health & Nutrition

healthy food

You can learn almost anything online these days. For free even! Here are some links to free nutrition online courses on Coursera.org

Some of these classes have not started yet, but you can bookmark the pages first. I think it’s very convenient especially for most of us who are working during the day. Being able to learn new things from a wide range of topics from Medicine to Physics.

I’ve signed up for the course on The Science of Gastronomy, it’s about the science behind cooking, cuisine preparation and the enjoyment of food. Sounds pretty interesting!

Source: www.coursera.org

**This post was written in June 2013 so these courses may have ended. Check out the website to find ongoing or upcoming courses** (21 Dec 2013)

Below is a list of educational websites that might interest you:

The Ultimate List of Educational Websites

You Can Overdose On Food

soy sauce

Just this month in the news, there was a young man who overdosed on soy sauce and went into a coma. This condition is called hypernatremia, where there was too much salt in the blood. Fortunately the doctor’s managed to stabilize his condition and he survived. This case was published in the Journal of Emergency Medicine.

All foods have to be taken in moderation. No exceptions.

Here are some foods that’s possible to overdose on:

  1. Carrots
    Eating too many carrots can bring in too much beta-carotene. This can lead to excess blood carotene which can discolor the skin. This condition is known as carotenemia. However not to be alarmed as carotenemia is a mostly harmless where one can easily recover from.
  2. Tuna Sushi
    Eating too much raw tuna can increase the intake of mercury. Mercury can cause severe neurological problems. FDA advises pregnant women and young children to avoid eating too much tuna.
  3. Coffee
    Too much caffeine can cause insomnia, restlessness, nausea, irregular heartbeat, muscle tremors, anxiety and headaches.
  4. Starfruit
    Common symptoms for star fruit intoxication include hiccups (the most common symptom, especially in mild intoxication), vomiting, weakness, and insomnia. Those with kidney problems should avoid pure, sour star fruit juice and mild, diluted pickled juice in large amounts, especially on an empty stomach.
  5. Water
    Water intoxication occurs when a person drinks so much that the water dilutes the concentration of sodium in the blood, creating an electrolyte imbalance.
  6. Nutmeg
    When overdose, might even cause hallucinations.


Read more about this case – Survival of Acute Hypernatremia Due to Massive Soy Sauce Ingestion

You Might Have Diabetes, But You Don’t Know It

unhealthy foods

Just how much do you know? Often people with diabetes might not know they even have it. The symptoms may not be obvious. It may not happen you but it could happen to your friends or family members. It is good to have some general knowledge of what diabetes is.

There are 3 main types of diabetes; Type 1, Type 2 and Gestational diabetes.

Type 1 Diabetes

Also called insulin-dependent diabetes. It occurs when our body cannot produce insulin. The immune system attacks insulin producing cells in the pancreas. This type of diabetes is usually diagnosed in children and young adults, and was previously known as juvenile diabetes.

There is the risk of other serious complications such as heart disease, nerve damage, blindness, and kidney damage.

Symptoms can include increased thirst, increased urination, weight loss even with increased appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, fatigue, and absence of menstruation.

Type 2 Diabetes

This is the most common type of diabetes diagnosed. It progresses slowly and may cause symptoms such as skin infections, poor healing, kidney problems, and vision problems. It is possible that the diabetes is not diagnosed after years of mild symptoms. Many people do not show not severe symptoms and as a result did not seek medical care.

Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes occurs during a woman’s pregnancy where they have high blood sugar levels.  It affects 4 % of all women during pregnancy.

Symptoms include increased thirst, increased urination, weight loss in spite of increased appetite, fatigue, nausea and vomiting and frequent infections including those of the bladder, vagina, and skin.

It is possible for gestational diabetes to be missed in pregnancy. That’s why it is important to get tested because it could harm the baby and lead to other complications.

If you show any of the symptoms of diabetes or suspect you have it, see your doctor immediately. Don’t put it off. It is better to be safe than sorry.

Search For Nutrition Data On Google

red apple

Great news! Google has announced that it’ll be adding the nutrition data of over 1000 foods including vegetables, meats, and meals in both its desktop and mobile search. This means that we’ll be able to search it directly from the google search bar. For example ‘How many carbs in an apple?’.  This new offering is expected to roll out over the next week or so. They’ll be also be adding in more features, foods, and languages over time.

Read more about here on cnet.com

I’ve also listed some links to some nutrition database websites here.

Food Portions & ‘Healthy’ Labels. How Does it Influence Us?

Portion Size Experiment

Looking at this image, would you eat more of the low fat coleslaw because it says LOW FAT?

This is what a study by researchers at the University of Ulster published earlier this month in the International Journal of Obesity aim to find out.  Would people eat larger portions of the ‘healthier’ food when given a choice even if both choices contain the same amount of calories.

“Foods are marketed as being healthier for a reason, because food producers believe, and they correctly believe, that those labels will influence us to eat their products and perhaps eat more of their products,” said Dr. Cliodhna Foley Nolan the director of Human Health and Nutrition at Safefood, a government agency in Ireland.

In the study, 186 participants were asked to serve themselves coleslaw, with one labelled ‘healthier’ and the other ‘standard’. However in reality both choices had almost the same amount of calories. (224 calories per 100g  for the one labelled ‘healthier’ and 223 calories for the ‘standard’.)

The result of the study was that the participants served themselves more of the ‘healthier’ coleslaw compared with the ‘standard’ as they had underestimated the amount of calories.

The conclusion of the study was that nutrition claims could be promoting inappropriate portion size selection and consumption behavior.

The bottom line is that it is always good to read the nutrition labels. Having tons of health claims pasted on the packaging does not mean we can eat more to feel less guilty since we assume its healthier.

Source:  International Journal of Obesity (7 May 2013) | doi:10.1038/ijo.2013.69 – Perceived ‘healthiness’ of foods can influence consumers’ estimations of energy density and appropriate portion size

Image source