You asked, we answered: Can pickle juice help cramps?

Close up of a man grabbing his calf


Is it true that high-sodium foods like pickle juice or mustard can cure leg cramps?

Answered by Rusty McKune, athletic trainer and sports medicine ambulatory supervisor:

There is some research evidence indicating that pickle juice in particular can reduce the duration of cramps. There's been an increase in popularity of using pickle juice for about 20 years, but there isn't a lot of research on how or why it works. 

The research contradicts the idea that it's the electrolytes in pickle juice or mustard that help with cramping. In studies, it took a little over a minute for the cramps to start subsiding after taking pickle juice. We know that it takes much longer than that for the pickle juice to get through the stomach, small intestine and into the body's system.

Certain articles suggest the reduction in cramping may be due to a reflex in the back of the throat. This may be partly due to the acetic acid in pickle juice and yellow mustard. 

I've given athletes regular dill pickle juice in the past. A typical amount is one milliliter per kilogram of body weight or roughly two to three ounces. You can measure it out and drink it quickly, like taking a shot. Watering it down is not recommended. If you want to try mustard, use regular yellow mustard.

If you have high blood pressure, talk with your doctor before trying this method due to the high sodium content.