Many of my patients over age 50 tell me that they have recurrent lower leg cramps, usually in the evening. Their calf muscles seem to tighten up into a knot. Stretching does not alleviate the pain, though massaging the calves often helps.

The culprit is usually mineral deficiencies. This can happen even if you're taking a multivitamin. The three most common deficiencies, in order, are magnesium, calcium and potassium. All three are involved in nerve and muscle contraction. Blood tests can detect these deficiencies, but the tests often are not accurate.

The first thing to do is to consume foods rich in these minerals. Magnesium is found in whole grains, legumes and green, leafy vegetables. Good sources of calcium include broccoli, collard greens, kelp, yogurt and milk (unless you're dairy sensitive). Potassium-rich foods include apples, bananas, oranges, tomatoes and potatoes.

However, many of my patients get the best results by taking a combination supplement. Take a calcium (500 mg)/magnesium (250 mg) complex after dinner. For most people, this will resolve the problem within a day. If that doesn't help, a potassium deficiency may be the problem. Drink eight ounces of vegetable juice a day, such as low-sodium V8 juice.

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