Texas vs. Alabama: Pickle Juice?

Since it’s Friday, and since my friends Al and Leah made a special request, I did some research as to why Mark Ingram was given pickle juice to ease the muscle cramps in his legs during last night’s National Championship game. I was just as curious as they were!

At school we are taught to think of symptoms and solutions mechanistically, so let’s start with what causes muscle cramps, and then we’ll see how pickle juice fits into the picture…

People who tend to get muscle cramps are those with a deficiency in calcium, magnesium, and/or potassium. A lack of acetylcholine (neurotransmitter that stimulates your muscles to work) and dehydration can both lead to the muscle cramping, particularly in hot weather. Have you ever exercised strenuously outside in the heat and felt dry salt crystals on your forehead? Those are the electrolytes that you have lost, and they are a clear sign that you are dehydrated and in need of electrolyte replacement. This loss of electrolytes causes muscle cramping because electrolytes are used by cells to create the electric impulses that cause muscle contraction.

Pickle juice typically contains water, salt, calcium chloride and vinegar. Due to its high water and salt content, pickle juice could be effective in relieving muscle cramps in athletes. While there is much anecdotal evidence supporting the use of pickle juice for muscle cramp relief (apparently the Philadelphia Eagles’ head trainer calls it his “secret weapon”), I could not find any medical professionals who actually recommend it. However, there is clear scientific evidence that salt and electrolyte replacement is necessary for those exercising in the heat, and pickle juice is probably just one of many ways to do this.

There is even an official pickle juice drink, Pickle Juice Sport. And apparently this drink is distributed to several dozen teams and over 100 pro athletes!

I did read something that suggested 2 ounces of pickle juice is sufficient for electrolyte replacement. I’m guessing Mark Ingram downed way more than that.

People on Twitter had an opinion on subject too:

debster619 Congrats Alabama!! & who knew pickle juice would help bring Mark Ingram back in :)))

mlwellness Quick fix for cramps = pickle juice. Sound gross? Need 2 have good hydration + #nutrition pre-games. Hear that, John Wall + Mark Ingram?

lestat74 Ewwww pickle juice...really mark ingram really?

cranekickers Gatorade? Pickle Juice? no no no...what Mark Ingram needs is bananas

DaLastDon they're using pickle juice to hydrate mark ingram? huh?

And this last Tweeter even tried to capitalize on the whole thing:

SandJPicklePop Pickle juice is 30x better for hydration than powerade and 15x than gatorade order a small pack of pickle pops here www.sandjpicklepop.com

So, to wrap it up I guess pickle juice can be an effective way to relieve muscle cramps. It does seem a bit hip right now though. Maybe what Mark Ingram really needs is a nutritionist to help him increase his vitamin and mineral intake so the muscle cramping can be avoided altogether. If anyone wants to give him my name, feel free…


The NDD Book, Part 2

A continuation from yesterday’s review of Dr. Sears’ book about nutrition for children, The NDD Book

In his book, Dr. Sears really emphasizes certain foods that he calls “grow foods”. He talks a lot about teaching your children about these grow foods, showing them how to pick them out in the grocery store, and involving them in the entire meal process. This way, the kids will get excited about trying the healthy foods that they have helped buy and prepare.

The foods Dr. Sears recommends staying away from as much as possible:

• Anything with artificial colorings (blue #1, green #2, etc.) or artificial flavor enhancers (MSG, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, etc.) on the labels

• Artificial preservatives (sulfites, nitrites, nitrates, benzoic acid, etc.)

• Artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, sucralose, saccharin (these are ESPECIALLY bad for kids, and adults too!)

• “Bakery Bads” (cupcakes, Hostess products, packaged muffins, etc.)

• Candy, except 70% dark chocolate treats

• Cereals with fewer than 3 grams protein, 3 grams fiber, and
more than 6 grams sugar per serving

• Cottonseed oil, which is found in shortening, margarine (use real butter!!), potato chips, corn chips, and frozen desserts

• Any type of gelatin or gelatin dessert

• High fructose corn syrup

• Hydrogenated oils

• Marshmallows

• “Shortcut Foods” (anything with “lite”, “fit”, “quick”, etc.)

• Sweetened beverages

• White bread

The foods Dr. Sears encourages parents to feed their children include:

• Avocados

• Beef and turkey (lean, organic)

• Any type of fruits or vegetables

• Eggs

• Nuts and nut butter (learn how to make your own here)

• Oils (fish, flaxseed, olive)

• Wild salmon and other fish

• Spices

• Whole grains

• Organic yogurt

While this second list may seem limiting at first, it really is pretty easy to create snacks and meals that kids will enjoy from the “grow foods” list. Dr. Sears provides some great recipes at the end of his book that he has not only tested out on his grandchildren, but on the kids he sees as patients. I was extremely impressed last week when I saw how well my cousin’s 1 ½ year old son ate when we were all on vacation together. His mom makes all his baby food at home, and he eats the same things adults eat, just in smaller portions. Throughout the week I saw him eat all types of fish, fresh fruit, vegetables, hamburger, cheese, milk, yogurt, and pancakes. He never once fussed or was picky about his selection. He was a dream baby! But I really do attribute it to his parents feeding him all types of “grow foods” and developing his palette at a young age.

The last point Dr. Sears makes: it’s never too late to switch your family over to a diet of healthy, fresh foods and eliminate the snacks and meals that are harming your kids health and affecting their learning, mood and behavior. It may take a bit more time to make the switch if your kids are older and more resistant, but it can be done. He tells you how in the book.

Overall, I loved The NDD Book and I plan on recommending it to my future clients who have children. I think the points Dr. Sears makes, and the research he has done, are very important. However, part of me wonders if he places too much of an emphasis on involving kids in the food and eating processes at home. I definitely think it’s important to involve them to some degree, but at what point does it become too much a part of their little kid worlds? I think there is some merit to just not making a big fuss about it one way or another, and putting the healthy foods on their plates. To all the moms out there, what do you think? I guess when I have kids I will have to experiment with this and decide what is appropriate!


The NDD Book, Part 1

My older sister Alice sent me this book a few months ago, and I finally found time to read it over my school break. Neither one of us has kids yet, but I am very interested in what kids eat, how they eat, and how a parent’s approach to feeding can affect a child’s eating habits for life.

The NDD Book was written by Dr. William Sears (www.askdrsears.com; follow on Twitter @AskDoctorSears), and talks about the relationship between a child’s diet and their behavior, learning and overall health. “NDD”, or Nutrition Deficit Disorder, is Dr. Sears’ diagnosis for children who are not eating properly and therefore suffering from things like ADD, ADHD, depression, anxiety and other behavioral or health problems. He believes many of these disorders are simply a problem with the child’s diet, and that drugs can be avoided if diet is changed (sometimes, not always). I enjoyed the book because not only does Dr. Sears’ explain how to identify if your child is one of these misdiagnosed kids, but he provides a solution. He gives great advice for what and how to feed kids. And as a father of eight and grandfather of another eight, I am inclined to take his advice!

Some of the signs of a child with NDD include:

• Frequent mood swings or temper tantrums

• Restless sleep

• Poor attention span

• Labeled with a D by their teacher or doctor: ADD, ADHD, BPD, OCD, etc.

• Behavioral problems at home, school or day care

• Learning difficulties

• Hyperactivity

• Dry, flaky or bumpy skin

• Intestinal problems (reflux, constipation, diarrhea, etc.)

• Frequent allergies

• Brittle hair or nails

• Pale skin, especially on the earlobes

Any of these things could indicate your child either is not receiving all the nutrients he or she needs, or has a food allergy that has not been identified yet. Dr. Sears recommends experimenting with diet change before putting a child on drugs. This is always his first prescription in his practice, and he has experienced great success.

Tomorrow I will list the foods to avoid and the foods to try, according to Dr. Sears. If a child is overly sensitive to certain foods or food chemical additives, even a small amount can cause severe imbalances inside their tiny little bodies.

As I stated, I am not a parent so I can only go by the books for now, but everything Dr. Sears is presenting seems to make sense. I have done plenty of babysitting to know the difference between the kids who ate boxed mac & cheese in front of the television for dinner, and those who ate “real” foods, like chicken and brown rice and veggies, at the dinner table with their families. Food and eating environment are undoubtedly key to a child’s behavior, learning and health.



After Christmas, I spent five days on the beach with my Nana and 28 other relatives. Not a bad way to start out the new year! And although we all probably had one too many alcoholic beverages, each one came with a fresh, healthy slice of pineapple.

Pineapple contains bromelain, which contains many enzymes that help with digestion (no wonder those piƱa coladas went down so easily!). Bromelain supplements are even used to treat things like clogged arteries, bursitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis and parasites. The high levels of vitamin C and antioxidants in pineapple make it a great fruit for anyone, particularly those with joint pain, arthritis, heart disease, diabetes or asthma. And if anyone is feeling a cold coming on, grab a pineapple: it has the vitamins you’ll need to boost immunity and fight off sickness!

High levels of manganese in pineapple (over 100% of your daily value) will help boost your energy, and the B vitamins in the fruit are good for metabolism (remember, you need B vitamins to metabolize!). Pineapple is a very alkaline food, meaning it will help balance out all those acidic foods we just can’t seem to avoid: coffee, sugar, meat, milk, bread…

Eat your pineapple fresh. I scoped out the beach bar on my vacation early in the week to make sure they were slicing the pineapple fresh each morning (they were!). Fruit begins to oxidize as soon as it is cut and exposed to air, so try to slice it as close to eating time as possible. Also, I’d stay away from canned pineapple. Canned fruit is usually resting in sugary syrup, which increases sugar and decreases vitamin and mineral content. Fresh is always best; but if that’s not possible, try to eat either frozen or pineapple that is stored in natural pineapple juice rather than syrup.

So next time you find yourself parked on a white sandy beach soaking up your vitamin D, grab a drink with a side of pineapple. And if that’s not a realistic scenario for you, try to incorporate pineapple into your diet in other ways, such as shrimp and pineapple skewers on the grill; adding pineapple to your smoothies or yogurt, or (my personal favorite) pineapple pizza!

Happy 2010!

...and welcome back to PWN!

I am actually going to kick you out again – and send you over to the ladies at Haute Apple Pie blog. They were kind enough to ask me to guest blog today about nutrition for 2010. We are all trying to start out the year with better health, and I have provided some tips on how to do this. As you know, nutrition is directly related to your health and happiness, so head over to HAP and read about some positive changes you can make in the new year!