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Snooth User: skeeboy

Red wine causing leg cramps??

Original post by skeeboy, Mar 16, 2010.

Does anyone else get night-time leg/thigh/foot cramps after drinking red wine????  Here lately it's been brutal.  Any recommendations out there?  I'm not sure if whites would cause it also, I'm strictly a red guy lately.


Reply by gregt, Nov 24, 2013.

Eyeviator - did you read the thread?

Here's something from Hilton Head Medical Center:

If you have cramps after alcohol, it can be because you got dehydrated from the alcohol. Make sure that you drink a lot of water through the day. And as others have said, it's basically a result of an electrolyte imbalance, so make sure you eat well - i.e. not junk food.

Reply by eyeviator, Nov 24, 2013.

I have read the posts back to 2010 and too many other persons have linked the cramps to red wine while not having them with other forms of alcohol. I will experiment on my own to see if the red wine theory holds for me.

I have read from other sources about calcium and magnesium depletion also being a factor. I do drink plenty of water and seldom ever eat junk food.

Reply by Aisha Lockhart, Dec 18, 2013.

This used to happen to me as well. I found that the red wine flushes out the magnesium from the muscles causing the cramps. Trying having some hot chocolate before bed to replenish some magnesium stores. P.S. I drinks lots of water during the day, this did not make a difference.

Reply by Snoother 1485035, Mar 29, 2014.

I drank red wine 2 successive evenings and suffered leg cramps both nights. Went 4 nights on G&T or beer and no night time leg cramps. Drank red wine the next 2 nights and suffered agonising leg cramps. Went the following 4 nights with no alcoholic drinks and no leg cramps.Throughout the 12 days my exercise routines and diet were pretty much the same so the only variable was red wine. 

Reply by dmcker, Mar 29, 2014.

1485035, what else were you doing during those days?  Too many people are jumping to demonize red wine in anecdotal fashion, without analyzing everything else that was going into or otherwise happening to their bodies.

It's muscle stress, electrolytes (sodium, calcium, magnesium, potassium--though recently there's been some talk of carbohydrate deficiencies, too), hydration, or a specific medical condition. Or a combination of these. Pretty much period, full stop. All except the last should be fairly easily manageable, with preventive or remedial measures, almost entirely diet-related.

Reply by Snoother 1485035, Mar 31, 2014.

Well there's none so blind as will not see. I think I'm grown up enough to understand the dietary differences over the days on and off red wine thanks. Mind you I did have 3 fried eggs for breakfast one day instead of 2....and anyway why is it so important to you to try to convince everyone that it can't be red wine that causes night cramps? What's your motive?

Reply by EMark, Mar 31, 2014.

Truly, this is the vampire thread.

Somebody, please, drive a wooden stake through it's heart.

1485035.  Stop drinking red wine.  If that solves your problem, then life for everybody is good.

Reply by Snoother 1486264, Apr 1, 2014.

Wow.  The reason I searched this thread was because having wine (1 glass) before dinner at night is the only thing I have narrowed down that I haven't eliminated. I was getting severe cramping at night for about a year.   I decided about 6 months ago to stop drinking wine completely.  Just because I had cleaned up my diet so much, so I thought why not give that up too. No cramps.  This week I decided 1 glass before dinner couldn't be that detrimental.  Severe upper thigh cramping at night.  I do exercise a lot and drink plenty of water.  The only thing I can point to is the red wine.  I will stop again, and hope they're gone again.  I have tried everything else to no avail.

Reply by JenniferT, Apr 5, 2014.

Everyone has food sensitivities to something these days. I've been doing the progressive elimination game myself, and ironically having problems with leg cramping. I've determined dehydration to be a major factor in the latter.  

Really any evidence that red wine causes cramping is anecdotal, none of this shows causation. Dehydration, yes. Red wine, specifically - no. Then again, expectation and the placebo effect are evidently powerful things. If you believe something to be bad for you, it probably actually is.

Emark, I think you drove the stake in. I hope so. 

Reply by napagirl68, Apr 6, 2014.

Yes, everyone has sensitivities that can be specific to them.  On the red wine note, I found some articles that mentioned tannic acid and tannins as a source of cramping.  Red wines, especially certain varieties, have more tannins than white.  Perhaps that may be the culprit in some cases?

Reply by gregt, Apr 6, 2014.


Of all people! Our in-house scientist and voice of reason!

Imagine how distressed E-mark must be.

Here's some more stuff I found:

Drink six to eight glasses of water daily which should prevent dehydration which is thought to play a major role in cramping.

A very common cause of nocturnal leg cramps is calcium deficiency so if you're postmenopausal, trying to lose weight or don't consume enough calcium then you'll be vulnerable to developing leg cramps.


If you're trying to avoid fat, then try non-fat yogurt and skim milk and take a calcium supplement at bedtime.

In one study of 125 patients with nocturnal leg and foot cramps all but 2 had complete or nearly complete relief from their symptoms when they took vitamin E supplements and in most cases the symptoms returned when the supplements were discontinued.

If neither calcium nor vitamin E bring relief then you might try magnesium, potassium or vitamin A.

Both sugar and caffeine reduce the absorption of vitamins and minerals and of calcium in particular so attempt to eliminate as much sugar and caffeine from your diet as possible.

Lack of potassium is often thought to be an additional cause of leg cramps so consider if you're eating enough potassium rich foods like bananas, tomatoes, potatoes, broccoli, cantaloupe, oranges and grapefruit.

A common side effect of many prescription drugs is to cause cramping and diuretics that are taken for high blood pressure or heart disorders for example can cause an imbalance of your potassium and magnesium levels. A simple blood test will tell you if this is a problem and if it is then supplements of the appropriate mineral should help alleviate the cramps.

The only drug that has been shown to be effective in treating night time leg cramps is quinine. However the Food and Drug Administration has ruled that none of the over the counter drugs used to treat night time leg cramps are recognized as safe or effective and therefore they are subject to regulatory action. Doctors will often prescribe 1 or 2 quinine pills at bedtime but since they can cause birth defects and miscarriages they should never be taken by a pregnant woman. Quinine can also cause ringing in the ears, headaches, nausea, disturbed vision, chest pain and asthma".


FWIW, I used to get these all the time and they were terrible. They'd come while sleeping or in the morning, which was worse because there's nothing like getting an excruciating pain at an intimate moment!

But since I INCREASED my consumption of red wine, they've pretty much become history. So in the same way others extrapolate from their personal experience and confuse correlation with causation, I am now comfortable in asserting that the only way to eliminate leg cramps from red wine is to drink more of it. I imagine this breakthrough discovery will find its way into the medical journals eventually . . .

Reply by napagirl68, Apr 6, 2014.

I couldn't resist posting because I detest when people think every scientific fact is always 100% correct.  If that is the case, I should quit my job, and all medical research should cease immediately since we know all the answers.  How many times has a study come out completely refuting findings that were held to be 100% accurate?  Look at the poor chicken egg... jeesh.

Look, dehydration and issues with electrolytes are known factors for these terrible leg cramps.  Increasing one's water intake works in many cases.  But it is very pompous to dismiss that there may be a subset of people who have a sensitivity to something in red wine that triggers this for them.  It is possible, is all I am saying.  Many stranger things have happened in the medical world.

Sorry to Emark. 

Reply by gregt, Apr 6, 2014.


Bad day?

I hope you know I was joking. Well, only partly. As long as people can claim that their specific experience is meaningful, so can I. That said however, you're of course right - individuals can have specific reactions to things that may not be shared by the populace at large.

Tannins are known to have several effects other than causing some astringency in wine and tea and chocolate. They can form complexes with:

  • Starches
  • Cellulose
  • Proteins
  • Minerals

The ability to combine with proteins is extremely well-known and it's the basis of tanning hides. Probably more interesting for this discussion is the combination with minerals, and in this case we're defining "minerals" as various naturally-occurring elements or metals that we need for nutrition, most specifically iron and calcium. I believe that deficiencies in both are linked to muscle cramps.

There's also some theory that the combining of tannins and starches prevent the starches from being used to produce serotonin, which plays a role in constricting and dilating e and blood vessels. With insufficient serotonin, blood vessels can constrict and you have a problem.

That's all pretty hypothetical however and there are plenty of variables to consider. For example, are the problem tannins, if in fact they exist, the tannins from the grapes or from oak, and if so, which oak? And if in fact they are a problem, could the problem be solved by something as simple as eating cheese with the particular wine?

And then there's also the issue of the wine. Maybe cheap wine is the culprit? Maybe it's the fact that someone dumped some powdered tannins and/or MegaPurple into it? 

No idea. Consequently, I'm sticking with Dr. Greg's prescription - drink good wine and plenty of it!

Anyway NG, I hope we're still friends!

Reply by napagirl68, Apr 6, 2014.

Don't get your panties in a knot, GregT.  Of course we're still friends.  I was somewhat joking and not joking ;-) 

Now, cheap wines... that is a subject we have discussed before.  While I personally don't find that wine causes leg cramps for me, I DO find that I get a very nasty hangover from drinking wine that is either mass-produced or "cheap"- cheap meaning low quality.  Choosing wine based on price is more difficult to discern at times, because it is very possible to find a good quality, less expensive gem.  Many times I take chances on wines and find myself disappointed, but once in awhile, I am rewarded.  But my reaction to "cheap" wine is NOT dose dependent, as others have tried to insist.   I can have merely a glass or two, and feel like crap the next day.  Or I can have more than two glasses of a great wine, and feel like a million bucks! 

Reply by dmcker, Apr 7, 2014.

Reply by JenniferT, Apr 7, 2014.

Nice one, Dmcker! Deep down, I always knew that shifty pirates were the true cause of global warming! 

Reply by Snoother 1493881, Apr 19, 2014.

I have read this thread from start to finish and conclude that there's a heap of evidence -- admittedly anecdotal -- that drinking red wine is strongly associated with some peoples' leg cramps.

I searched out this thread because the brutal leg cramps that have disturbed my sleep for the past five or six years ceased when (on recent long trips to 3rd world places where the wine is bad/really expensive) I was deprived of my nightly half-bottle of red wine.   And started up again when I returned home and resumed my habit.  For the past two weeks, after travel in south India & Sri Lanka) I have substituted half a bottle of chardonnay for the accustomed cabernet sauvignon. I have been cramp-free.  QED.

Statins (the cholesterol-lowering drug of choice) have also been associated with leg cramps.  (And not only in my case -- the US Federal Health Agency (FHA) issued an unambiguous warning in 2011.)  When the warning was issued,  I had been taking statins for two decades.  My cramps began in 2006, when my doctor changed my prescription from Mevacor to the more potent Zocor.  At that time I was living in Vietnam and rarely drinking any kind of wine.  After consulting my doctor In 2011, I discontinued statins and got some relief.  Then I tried resuming statins but no matter how small the dose, the cramps intensified.  I surmise that in my case statins are probably a causal factor, but not the only one.

For the record, over the years I've also sought relief thru megadoses of electrolytes and of B vitamins, tonic water, calcium & magnesium supplements, lots of bananas,  None gave me relief.

My experience suggests therefore that over the years my cramps have been caused both by statins and red wine (or perhaps more specifically high sulfite red wine).   Plainly other folks have different experience and different metabolisms, but to me it seems clear that red wine is for some of us a causal factor.


Reply by Snoother 1507234, May 25, 2014.

FYI: This is what has helped me, and I have a tendency to get night cramps with any type of alcohol consumption. Try coconut water before you go to bed and even once you have to get up during a cramp. The body seems to be able to recognize and assimilate it very says my acupuncturist.  I hope it gives some of you relief. Good luck and sweet dreams.

Reply by SandyBeachy, Aug 18, 2014.

So interesting to find this thread.  I too have suffered screaming horrible leg cramps for years until I eliminated red wine.  I was afraid to stay at anyone's house over night thinking that it would happen.  My "cure" was to crawl to the bathroom and soak in a hot bath tub when the cramps occur.  I can drink any white wine without a problem.  Beer and cosmos too.  So I don't think it is as simple as dehydration.  

One night in the last year I thought I would test the waters again and with two glasses cramps again.  Going to Napa next month and would love to have a taste but I don't want to suffer the consequences.  But would like to know the medical reason and maybe find a red that I could drink without pain.  

Reply by expatdeli, Aug 20, 2014.

It is not good to consume lots of red wine in  a single day as it will cause headache problem.So it is better to consume about 60ml on a daily basis.

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