My Love/Hate Relationship With Garlic—and How I Was Able to Stop Getting Muscle Cramps in My Legs (Hawaiian South Shore May 2022 Newsletter Part 1 of 4)
My Love/Hate Relationship With Garlic—and How I Was Able to Stop Getting Muscle Cramps in My Legs
Many people know about the health benefits of garlic—and of course there are many of us who simply love the taste of garlic in our food! Every time I drive past the garlic shrimp stands in Kahuku I am blown away by how delicious the garlic smells! But lately I’ve had a bit of a love/hate relationship with garlic, and strangely enough, that’s due to muscle cramps!
I have had a lot of trouble with muscle cramps over the past few years, both in the evenings while I sleep and also during surf sessions. A few months ago, I had a really bad cramp episode while getting out of the water after a surf at Kewalos. I was crawling up the rocks and suddenly my leg cramped up so bad, my calf actually balled up to the size of a fist. The cramped muscle was twitching under my skin like some freaky creature you’d see living inside of someone in a sci-fi movie! I was stuck on the rock wall for five minutes, then finally was able to hobble to my car, where the cramp attacked again. It took me 30 minutes from the time I paddled in from my session until I was actually able to drive away from Kewalos!
Friends of mine have told me that I need to be better hydrated to avoid cramps, but I always drink 1.5 liters of water before every surf session, so I didn’t think lack of water was the problem. I went to my doctor, and she recommended consuming mustard because it contains acetic acid, which the body uses to produce acetylcholine, a compound the body uses for leg muscle contractions. I started doing that and it maybe helped a little bit, but I was still having bad leg cramps.
One night my wife made a delicious dressing with lots of garlic in it for dinner, and that night she ended up having leg cramps. She wondered if maybe the garlic had something to do with it, so I got online and found an interesting article about a clinical study that does appear to link garlic consumption with muscle cramps, particularly in people over 40 years of age. In fact, the study found that more than 50 percent of women and more than 40 percent of men have muscle cramps after consuming certain levels of garlic. We found this super interesting, so both my wife and I took a break from garlic, and the results were pretty amazing! It’s been over a month now and I haven’t had any major cramping issues!
Even more amazing is my mom, who has had nightly leg cramps for the past 10 years. I told her about this study about the connection between consumption of garlic and muscle cramps, and she decided to go off of garlic and see what happened. After literally a decade of having muscle cramps in her legs every single night, she has now off garlic for a month and hasn’t had a single leg cramp in that time!
Of course, completely eliminating garlic from one’s diet isn’t easy to do, especially if you love the flavor as much as I do. Lately, my wife and I have slowly been reintegrating garlic into our food, but only a little bit at a time. We are trying to find the balance between having enough garlic to give us that flavor that we love, but not too much so that we start getting muscle cramps again. As I said, it’s definitely a love/hate relationship!