Are Bananas the Solution to Muscle Cramps?

By Joseph Ndungu |
|5 min read

A muscle cramp refers to a painful sensation that is experienced following a sudden and involuntary contraction of one or more of your muscles. It is normally experienced in the lower abdomen or legs. Despite being harmless, cramps can make it difficult to work the afflicted muscles.

Muscle cramps are caused by factors including extended physical exercises, dehydration, certain medications, or medical conditions. Certain risk factors such as old age and pregnancy can make you vulnerable to muscle cramps. Some women are also susceptible to cramps that normally occur before, during, and after ovulation.

What can you do if you experience muscle cramps? Have you ever thought that bananas are one of the choices? If you have no ideas, here are the answers.

Treating Cramps

The answer to the question is " Yes". Bananas do help to alleviate muscle cramps. Besides, there are a number of ways through which you can alleviate the problem and continue enjoying a normal life.

1. Bananas

You have probably been advised to consume more bananas if you frequently experience muscle cramps. Bananas are loaded with several essential nutrients and minerals that are beneficial to your overall wellbeing. Moreover, they are very convenient as a snack food and happen to be a popular fresh fruit in the United States thanks to its high potassium content. They aid digestion, benefit the health of your heart and can help in weight loss.

Medical experts refer to bananas as the ideal food for athletes because they are rich in minerals and also contain easily digested carbohydrates. Dehydration and an electrolyte imbalance of potassium and magnesium caused by the use of diuretics, excessive sweating, and certain medical conditions can trigger muscle cramps. That's why athletes who work out particularly in hot weather conditions are usually given sports drinks to supplement their requirements for minerals like potassium and magnesium. Studies indicate that regular consumption of bananas can lower exercise-related cramps and soreness which normally affect close to 95% of the general population. Although bananas can be useful in protecting muscle cramps, they can't offer instant relief if you experience one.

2. Medications

Use of subscription or over-the-counter medications such as aspirin or pain relievers like naproxen, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen can provide some relief when cramping starts. These muscle relaxant medications can be helpful for the short-term in situations where cramps are triggered by an injury or a temporary event.

Whereas some drugs like quinine have been used in the past for the treatment of cramps, studies indicate that it can cause serious interactions and side effects, according to the American Family Physician (AFP) recommendations.

3. Heat or ice

At the onset of a muscle cramp, you can apply ice to reduce the pain and discomfort. If the tightness of your muscles continues a couple of days after the initial cramp, the application of heating pads or taking a warm bath may help to relax the muscles by increasing the flow of blood to the afflicted areas.

4. Massage and stretching

Gently massage your abdomen or lower back to relieve the pain and discomfort triggered by muscle cramps. Massaging helps to improve the flow of blood to muscle tissues. Another great way to relax cramping is by lightly stretching the affected muscles. Stop any activity that may have triggered the cramp and gently hold in a stretching position. You can even try to massage the muscle while stretching or after you are done.

5. Supplementation

Deficiencies in some vital minerals like potassium and magnesium account for many cases of muscle cramps. Luckily, there are supplements and multivitamin brands that come with these essential ingredients which can be helpful in the prevention and treatment of muscle cramps. It is recommended to seek your doctor's consent before you resort to supplements if you have an underlying medical condition or using other prescription medications.

Banana Intake for Muscle Cramps

An average banana will give you about 420 milligrams of potassium, which is just less than 10% of the 4.7 grams that you should get as an adult per day. In reference to the Linus Pauling Institute, the average American consumes about 49-66% of the recommended amount of potassium. Thus, consuming a banana on a daily basis is a great way to boost your potassium intake.

However, your age, gender, health condition, physical fitness, and exercises can all influence the way bananas help with cramps.

1. Children

Babies like sweet tastes that bananas can deliver. That's why they are accepted by a kid who's moving on from breast milk or formula. They are rich in fiber which is essential to overall daily intake. However, giving your child a lot of bananas can lead to constipation. On the other hand, lack of enough fiber in your child's meals can cause loose stool or diarrhea.

2. Adults

Many nutrition experts from reputable institutions like Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon University and Oregon State University recommend bananas for cramps as a preventive measure associated with low potassium, however this was not recommended as an instant solution.

There isn't a specific amount of bananas that you should consume as an adult. Your calorie and nutrient needs are the main determining factors. You can eat as many bananas as you want as long as you are not displacing other nutrients or over-consuming calories, which can harm your health. If you want to reap the most benefits from bananas, practice moderation.

3. Athletes

If you exercise regularly, there is a need to ensure that you are getting a higher amount of potassium every day. You can even choose to go beyond bananas and look for other excellent sources such as lentils, peas, raisins, dried plums, spinach, and sweet potatoes.

Bananas rank among the most popular fruits across the globe. They are loaded with minerals, nutrients, and vitamins that are essential to your health. Numerous studies have demonstrated the ways bananas help with cramps among other health benefits. For most healthy people, one to three bananas per day is deemed as a moderate intake.

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