4 Foods That Trigger Muscle Tension, Pain & Cramps

Category: Muscle Cramps, Muscle Dysfunction, Natural Remedies, Sleep Health

What causes nighttime cramps and sleep loss?


If you’ve experienced muscle tension, pain, and cramping—especially at night—then you know how much it can negatively impact your life.


Tossing and turning, trying to find a position that’s comfortable. 
Waking up stiff, in pain, and exhausted.

And even trying over the counter pain creams that do nothing but make you smell like a pharmacy.

It’s awful. And it seriously detracts from your quality of life.  
But don’t give up just yet.

Recent studies show that the cause of your muscle tension and pain could be related to what you eat on a regular basis.

It turns out that certain foods can trigger painful, inflammatory responses.


What may surprise you is that these foods are considered “healthy”—and often recommended by prominent members of the medical community.

And they sneak their way into just about every food product imaginable—either as a main ingredient or an additive called by a completely different name.

In this article, I’ll show you the four foods that trigger muscle tension, pain, and cramping.

What I’ll be talking about are the four most harmful CATEGORIES of foods that you want to avoid.  
At least two of which are going to completely surprise you.

But there are also a few specific foods that cross over these categories… Igniting an inflammation response and sending your pain receptors into overdrive.

These are like pain and tension bombs—causing  any dull aches you have to become throbbing pain

Causing tense muscles to cramp and spasm…

And if you have stiff, painful joints—and eat these foods—you’ll wake up the next morning and think…

what the heck happened last night? Did I sleep on my neck wrong? Do I need a new pillow?

Maybe…  But the likely cause is your hormonal environment.

It’s all out of whack from eating one or MORE of these pain causing foods.

I’ll also you show you the three best foods for relieving tension and pain. These super foods and spices are natural muscle relaxers.

They have the ability to instantly ease muscle tension, fight inflammation, and even have actual pain relieving effects.

The good news? You probably have at least two of these in your kitchen right now.

But the most important part of this article is what connects all of these different foods and nutrients—there’s a common thread among ALL of them.


It involves a specific type of ‘pain receptor’ called N.M.D.A., and a common nutrient that emerging research shows has the ability to “abolish” neuropathic pain.

NMDA, Magnesium, and Pain

A study published in the Journal of Physiology provides important insight into managing the NMDA pain receptor.


Researchers from a new study published in the Journal of Physiology actually used the word “abolish”—meaning end completely...

I’ll come back to this—because it deserves our full attention. 

But I’d bet you aren’t getting enough of this common, pain-relieving nutrient.
And that overactive pain receptors could be the root cause of your problems.

All right—before we jump in, a little about us.

My name is Brendan Hall. 
I’m the Director of Research & Development for SaltWrap.

SaltWrap Logo - PNG - Gauze


SaltWrap started out as a small group of fitness professionals specializing in therapeutic and corrective exercise—working with physical therapy facilities and one-on-one clients.

The guys at SaltWrap brought me on full-time to oversee all their new research and nutrition protocols.  With a background in Human Biology and Pharmaceutical Science, my job is to make sure the team’s recommendations are “up to code”—providing an extra layer of safety and research support.

Our mission is to provide you with the tools to heal yourself.


Whether you’ve been injured, are suffering from adrenal fatigue, or have some muscle imbalances that need corrected.

While most fitness and nutrition companies around us are focused ONLY on enhancing performance and helping you look good naked..

We focus on sustainable fitness and health. Ways for you to do the activities you love without pain or injury. And get stronger, leaner, more functional.. but never sacrifice your long term health.

That’s what we’re all about.
We want to be your most trusted source for therapeutic fitness advice.
You only get one body in this life. And we want to help you take care of it.

All right—let’s get to it:

Trigger Food #1: Beans & Legumes

beans and muscle cramps

That includes peas, all varieties of beans, lentils, and even peanuts.

Now beans & legumes can be part of a healthy diet. And we’re not saying you have to swear them off forever.
Most beans are high in fiber and protein, and also taste great (who doesn’t love a good bean dip?)

But if you’re in pain, healing from an injury, or have tense muscles—you should back off or eliminate them from your diet temporarily—at least until the worst symptoms subside.

Here’s the deal with bean and legumes: though they look healthy enough on the surface, they contain high amounts of phytic acid, also called phytates.

Phytates are the stored form of the mineral Phosphorus. They are in a controversial category called “anti-nutrients”.

(You may have heard chatter from the Paleo community about “anti-nutrients”.)

Basically, phytates hang out in your gut and bind to certain minerals, causing them to be excreted instead of reabsorbed.

One of the minerals affected by phytates is magnesium.


Magnesium is absolutely crucial for proper muscle and nerve function. If you aren’t getting enough—or your body is excreting too much—you can end up with:

  • Muscle pain and cramps
  • Muscle weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Restlessness and sleep loss
  • Mood fluctuations and anxiety
  • And confusion and memory problems

Involved in over 300 biochemical processes in the human body, magnesium is known as the “Muscle and Nerve Mineral”.

Here’s how your body processes magnesium under NORMAL conditions:

Magnesium Absorption & Deficiency

Magnesium consumed from foods or in supplement form is absorbed through your intestinal walls, and then filtered out by your kidneys.  Again, under normal conditions, your body then RE-absorbs about 95% of the magnesium, excreting the remaining 5%.

Other factors (such as a diet high in sugar, caffeine and phytates) can increase this excretion percentage, causing more than 5% of the magnesium to be excreted by the body. This can lead to magnesium deficiency.


But… when phytates bind to magnesium, the bioavailability is reduced and your body ends of excreting a lot more.

The end result? Same as if you had a magnesium deficiency in your diet.

Leaving you susceptible to all those symptoms I mentioned—pain, cramps, and fatigue.

Your best bet is to avoid beans and legumes when your symptoms are at their worst.

Trigger Food #2: Gluten

bread, gluten and pain

You’re probably tired of hearing about gluten.

It is THE most controversial ingredient of the last decade, and spawned a billion dollar industry of gluten-free foods, nutritional supplements, and personal care products.

We’ll set the regular debate aside for now.. and focus on one specific issue that’s been proven in clinical studies.

A recent study presented at the United European Gastroenterology (UEG) conference showed that gluten consumption causes an increase in inflammatory markers in some people—without any of the normal symptoms of a gluten sensitivity.

However, the patients in the study experienced an increase pain levels from the inflammatory response. 

This is big news for people who do not have Celiac Disease, but are still on the fence about whether they should consume gluten.

The UEG study proves that you could be regularly consuming foods that are causing widespread inflammation and pain!

But before you run out and spend several hundred dollars on a Gluten Sensitivity Test, try this:

  1. Remove all gluten-containing foods from your diet for one full week.
  2. Start adding back gluten-containing foods slowly, taking careful notice of your pain levels—especially joint and muscle pain.
  3. If you start experiencing marked pain increases after eating gluten, you may have a sensitivity that requires further investigation from your doctor.


You’ve probably heard that wheat products—including whole grains—contain gluten.  
It’s simple enough just to avoid products made from wheat, like bread.

But the tough part is knowing WHICH foods have wheat in them.

It sneaks into just about every packaged food out there: pastas, cereals, baked goods, pastries, and even some prepared meals like TV Dinners that appear to contain only meat and vegetables.

That’s why you need to read the list of ingredients on each food item you consume, and avoid it if the list contains one or more of these ingredients:

Flour, bread, bulgur, cracker meal, gluten, malt, or any other ingredient that contains the word “wheat”.

Also—wheat and whole grains have high amounts of phytates, just like legumes.
That’s another reason to stay away from wheat products.

Trigger Food #3: Alcohol

Alcohol, beer and muscle cramps

Now before you get too depressed about giving up all your favorite things in life…
Remember: you can still consume your favorite foods and drinks in moderation—as long as you understand what’s going on in your body.

By the end of this article, you’ll have a solid understanding of when to push away from certain foods.. and when it’s OK to pour yourself a nice glass of Merlot or a cold beer.

But make no mistake. There are certain times when alcohol can have dramatic, negative effects on your body—including causing increased inflammation levels and joint pain.

The goods news?

I’m going to give you two Survival Tips to employ when you indulge in your favorite drink.

First, how does alcohol affect muscle and nerve health?

There are two main mechanisms:

Alcohol & Muscle Health

1. It dehydrates you.
When your body is even slightly dehydrated, the balance of electrolytes in your muscles is thrown off—causing muscle cramps, spasms, and tension.

You can easily combat this by drinking 1 glass of water for every alcoholic drink throughout the night, and make sure you get plenty of water in your system the following day.

2. Alcohol can DOUBLE the excretion rate of magnesium.
You already know what that means—more cramps, more tension, more pain.

The best way to combat this is to take a magnesium supplement, or make sure you eat foods high in magnesium (and low in phytates) with your alcoholic drink. We’ll come back to magnesium supplementation in a bit.



Trigger Food #4: Sugar

candy sugar and muscle cramps

There are plenty of reasons to limit your sugar intake—most of them related to fat storage and metabolic disorders.

But you’ll want to hear how sugar also increases inflammation—and what that means for how you should be eating when your symptoms are at their worst.

Sugar consumption causes overproduction of insulin, a hormone designed to help your body store nutrients in muscle, liver, and fat tissue.

In addition to causing fat storage, this hormonal surge increases blood flow to areas of injury or tissue damage. The increased blood flow and localized swelling presses on nerves, causing pain.

So …. to minimize pain, you should aim to minimize insulin levels. This can be accomplished by avoiding sugar-laden foods and keeping your daily carbohydrate intake relatively low.

There are a few other foods that deserve a mention here. Try to reduce or eliminate these when you are experiencing cramping and muscle tension:

  • Caffeine—Excessive intake of caffeine can cause dehydration and increased mineral excretion, including magnesium.
  • Dairy products—Dairy contains lactose, a milk sugar that causes large insulin surges. It also contains a form of protein called “casein” that is tougher to digest, and is more likely to cause inflammation.

Now that we’ve covered the main categories, you can probably imagine which foods are the absolute worst.

Here are the most sinister, pain causing foods:

  • Energy Drinks & Soda—Loaded with caffeine, sugar, and other chemicals that may provoke an inflammatory response.
  • Pizza—Contains wheat (gluten), dairy, processed meats, and high amounts of sugar.
  • Cold cereal—wheat, sugar, and dairy if you use milk with it.
  • Any fried foods—These are high in insulin-raising carbohydrates, and also have large amounts of oxidized plant oils that can cause inflammation.
  • Any desserts—High in sugar and usually contain wheat.
  • Beer—If you have even a slight wheat allergy or histamine intolerance, beer will increase your pain.  How do you know if you a have histamine intolerance? The dead give-away is if you experience nasal congestion when drinking beer.


But it’s not all about excluding things from your diet.

What you INCLUDE can be equally powerful.

There are three foods proven to relieve cramps, muscle pain, and help restore proper nerve function.
And they're easy to find.

In fact, you probably have 2 or 3 of these in your kitchen right now.

The next page shows you how to add these three foods into your diet for natural cramp, pain and tension relief.

Summary & Subtext

1. Avoid these 4 'trigger foods' if you're experiencing muscle cramps, pain, or tension: beans & legumes, gluten, alcohol, sugar.

2. Add the pain-relieving foods outlined on the next page to your daily meal plan.

3. According to new research published in the Journal of Physiology, you might be missing out on one key nutrient that modules muscle and nerve activity.

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