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A Painful Night Visitor

It is not unusual to get a sudden spasm or cramp in a muscle, causing excruciating pain and a temporary inability to move. The condition, however, has an unusual colloquial name in the US and the UK — charley horse. This may be because the pain resembles the kick of a horse. The ailment is not confined to Western nations or horse riders. It affects 70 per cent of people over the age of 50 and 50 per cent of women during pregnancy.

These leg cramps usually last less than a minute — though it may seem much longer as the pain is severe — but the contraction may take several minutes to subside. It may leave a residual dull ache. It can occur once — as a never-to-be-forgotten single incidence — or several times a month, or disturb the person’s sleep night after night.

Although any muscle can go into such cramps, it commonly occurs in bigger muscles that cross two joints, like the hamstrings and quadriceps which cross the knee and hip or calf muscles which cross the ankle and the knee. It can occur in the fingers and toes as well.

The exact reason for cramps is not known. Older people, especially post menopausal obese women, and smokers are more prone to them. Improper footwear while exercising aggravates the problem. Medications — such as statins (for high cholesterol), some drugs for high blood pressure, diuretics and steroids — may cause cramps. People of all ages can develop cramps, especially if they change their mode of exercise and suddenly increase its intensity, type and duration.

Cramps are a result of electrolyte imbalance in the body. This causes defective functioning of the muscle-nerve reflex arc. It is rather like traffic lights going out of sync and causing a jam. The electrolytes involved are sodium, potassium, magnesium, iron, zinc and calcium. Cramps occur if the ratio among these minerals changes. Proper functioning of the reflex arcs also requires biochemical reactions in the body, mediated by enzymes. The latter are affected by diseases like diabetes and malfunctioning of the thyroid gland. Deficiencies in the B group of vitamins, alcohol consumption, excessive caffeine intake and smoking also affect the enzymes.

If you have several attacks of leg cramps a month, consult your doctor. You need to tackle treatable conditions and change medication that may be aggravating it. If the cramps are due to pregnancy, they usually disappear once the baby is born.

If all the tests are normal, you may try a few simple measures:

* Try eating three to four helpings of fresh fruit and raw vegetables every day. It will correct any potassium and vitamin B deficiency.

* Eat a handful of nuts. It will take care of your requirements of magnesium and zinc.

* If you are anaemic, take iron and folic acid supplements.

* Most people do not get enough calcium from their diet and this needs to be supplemented. Around 1,200 mg of calcium needs to be taken daily, preferably at bedtime.

* Keep yourself well hydrated. Drink at least three litres of water a day and at least 250 ml before going to bed.

* Finish all your exercise at least an hour before bedtime.

* Soak the legs in warm water for 10 minutes before bedtime, and place a pillow at the end of the bed so that you sleep with your feet propped up.

* Some stretches done morning and evening prevent cramps. Stand on the floor with your feet apart. Stretch your hands up over your head and rise up on to your toes. Holding this position, rock backwards and forwards on your feet for a minute.

* Always warm up and cool down before and after exercise.

* The stretches done as a part of yoga prevent cramps.

If you develop spasms despite all this, immediately try to push the foot upwards. Massage the affected leg and apply moist heat. Sometimes, stretching the unaffected leg helps.

Leg cramps occur specifically at night. That is what distinguishes them from pain that is due to nerve disorders or damage, slipped discs or blocked blood vessels which reduce blood circulation to the legs. These diseases cause pain all the time, day and night.

“Restless legs” are different from leg cramps. This is a peculiar condition where both the legs develop pins and needles and sometimes a creeping pain several times during the night. It wakes up the person, and relief can be obtained only by moving the leg or standing up. Sleep is disturbed and inadequate. This needs to be evaluated by a doctor and treated with medication.

Source: The Telegraph (Kolkata, India)

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Different Types of Milk & Their Health Benefits


CLICK & SEE……Cow’s milk.
Whole cow’s milk packs 150 calories per cup, and about half of those calories come from fat. (See the related chart for a nutritional breakdown of all these different milks.) The 8 grams of fat in a cup of whole milk includes 5 grams of saturated fat, which can raise blood cholesterol. The American Heart Assn. recommends limiting saturated fat intake to 7% or less of daily calories: An adult consuming 1,800 calories per day would get more than one-third of that in an 8-ounce glass of whole milk.

Skim and reduced-fat milks provide the same amount of protein without the high levels of saturated fats or the cholesterol whole milk also contains. They also retain all of the calcium found in whole milk — up to 300 milligrams, about one-third of the recommended daily intake. According to the Institute of Medicine, adults require between 1,000 and 1,300 milligrams of calcium a day for optimum bone strength. And cow’s milk has long been promoted by nutritionists and dietitians as a good source of this important mineral, as well as the vitamin D needed to absorb the mineral.

But “there’s a fair amount of controversy in that whole area,” says Larry Kushi, associate director for epidemiology in the division of research at Kaiser Permanente Northern California in Oakland. The issue is just how important calcium — and milk as a source of calcium — truly is for bone health.

Scientists increasingly began to question the relationship after several studies, including two unusually large ones, failed to find evidence linking increased milk consumption to a decreased risk of fractures, a sign of bone health.

A 12-year study of more than 77,000 women, conducted by Harvard researchers and published in 1997, found that women who drank two glasses of milk a day had roughly the same risk of hip or forearm fractures as women who drank one glass or less per week. A 2003 investigation of the same population found that although vitamin D intake reduced the risk of hip fractures in post-menopausal women, high calcium and milk intake did not.

The science on the relationship between cow’s milk and cancer is also somewhat murky, and researchers are working to clarify this. Population studies have produced good evidence that increased dairy consumption, including that of milk, may decrease the risk of colorectal cancer. But studies also suggest that the risk of prostate cancer may increase with increasing milk consumption.

The evidence for female cancers — including breast, ovarian and endometrial cancers — is more mixed. Studies conducted several decades ago were less likely to demonstrate a link between dairy consumption and female cancers than more recent ones, and some nutrition experts think this difference may be linked to industrial practices that have increased the levels of the hormone estrogen in cow’s milk.

Then there’s the issue of milk allergy, an immune-system reaction to any of the several types of casein, whey or other proteins in milk. About 2.5% of children develop cow’s milk allergies in their first year, according to the National Institutes of Health, and 80% outgrow it in adulthood.

Other individuals suffer from lactose intolerance, the inability to digest the dominant sugar found in milk. The intolerance (which causes gas, bloating and diarrhea) stems from a lack of lactase, the enzyme required to break down the milk sugar lactose. It is far more common than milk allergy. “Most of the world’s population can’t digest milk,” says Dr. Scott Sicherer, professor of pediatrics at the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, and co-author of the 2009 book “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Dairy-Free Eating.” “Our bodies are not made to drink this stuff.”

CLICK TO SEE.Buffalow milk

Buffalo milk contains higher total solids than cow milk, which makes it thicker. Buffalo milk has 100% more fat content than cow’s milk, which makes it creamier and thicker. Due to high peroxidase activity (family of enzymes that are a catalyst for reactions), buffalo milk can be preserved naturally for a longer period. Buffalo milk contains more calcium, a better calcium to phosphorous ratio and less sodium and potassium which makes it a better nutritional supplement for infants. Cow’s milk is extremely rich in iodine. It has good amount of minerals like Calcium and Phosphorus.


CLICK & SEE……..Goat’s milk
The popularity in the U.S. of cow’s milk makes us a bit of an anomaly: Globally, goat’s milk is a far more popular drink.