Bouillon and Leg Cramps

Over the years, especially in recent years, I’ve had a recurring problem with painful leg and foot cramps first thing in the morning, sometimes so severe that when I stood up my big toe would be pointing 80° up in the air. If you search Google for cramp remedies, you’ll find things that work like magic for some people but are no help at all for others. Often the reported solution is either supplementing with an electrolyte, drinking more water, or stretching, massaging, and/or strengthening the affected muscles.

I think I’ve figured out, tentatively, that increasing my sodium intake works for me, or at least it seems to have worked over the last couple of months.

From experiment and observation, I’m pretty sure I’ve identified caffeine as the likely cause, or at least one strongly implicated precursor to my cramps. Whether this is because caffeine interferes with electrolyte absorption, or it has a dehydrating effect, or it’s some combination or some other mechanism entirely, I don’t know. All I know is, based on evidence so far, I seem to get the cramps when I’ve been consuming caffeine, and not when I haven’t.

The problem is, I sometimes have a hard time functioning without the stimulant effect of caffeine. I mean a really hard time. Do I “need” caffeine? That’s debatable. Certainly I have a strong wish not to abstain entirely.

I tried replacing my regular salt with “Morton Lite” salt, which is half sodium and half potassium. That didn’t help. I tried magnesium supplements. That didn’t help either.

Then for grins I tried drinking cups of broth made with bouillon. Broth is sometimes recommended for people who get the “keto flu” when they try a low-carb diet, because one of the first things that happens is that your body loses sodium. I hadn’t gotten the keto flu when I started eating low-carb, and I thought I was eating plenty of salt, so it hadn’t occurred to me that I needed more sodium. But wouldn’t you know, on days when I consume caffeine, a cup or two of bouillon seems to stave off the cramps the next morning.

That said, I don’t want to declare victory prematurely. Let’s see how things look over the next few months.

The brand of bouillon I use is Herb-Ox. I get the packets rather than the cubes, because the granulated form dissolves much more easily. Usually I combine it with water in a mug, and I heat the mug in the microwave. I use the chicken flavor. I’ve tried the beef flavor and don’t care for it.