Drinking Pickle Juice for Cramps—Harvard Approved, Salty Solution

By Dr. Victor Marchione, MD – March 28, 2016

Drinking pickle juice for cramps might sound like a dirty trick someone’s playing on you. After all, how could sour pickle juice possibly help cramps? Well it might come as a surprise, but it’s a remedy that top-tier and recreational athletes use regularly to alleviate painful leg cramps quickly and effectively.

If you suffer from leg cramps, or experience any form of cramping for that matter, pickle juice might help you. Its unique formula of cramp-fighting compounds can ease your pain faster than water, sports drinks, and other measures you might have used to battle cramps in the past*.

Does Dehydration Cause Cramps?

Cramps are extremely frustrating to experience, and they’re also a source of confusion regarding where they come from. Traditional wisdom points to dehydration as the origin of most cramps. The theory goes that when your body is low on water, it can’t supply valuable nutrients to your muscles, and in the absence of vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes, muscles can seize up and cramp. Electrolytes such as sodium and potassium are the most important in this theory of dehydration, as they help to conduct nerve impulses throughout your body. When they can’t be carried where they need to be, the reaction ceases and cramping occurs.

The other theory regarding cramping has to do with muscles being overworked and fatiguing prematurely. Neurotransmitter communication becomes skewed and muscles keep firing, causing rapid contractions that create cramps. This is why cramping tends to occur in concentrated areas and not throughout the entire body at once.

Recently, the dehydration theory has lost a little bit of steam, and pickle juice has a lot to do with this. While dehydration can cause cramping, it might not be the reason you experience cramps during certain activities such as running, playing sports, or cycling. In any event, drinking pickle juice for cramps is a good treatment regardless of why they occur.

Other Causes of Muscle Cramps

You can experience cramps in a number of ways; thankfully, pickle juice can help you deal with all of them. These other causes include:

  • Lying in bed with your toes pointed down
  • Exercise
  • Pregnancy
  • PMS
  • Cold temperatures (especially cold water)
  • Medical conditions that cause blood flow problems, including:
    • Peripheral arterial disease
    • Kidney disease
    • Thyroid disease
    • Multiple sclerosis
  • Standing on a hard surface for an extended period
  • Sitting for a long time
  • Having legs in an awkward position during sleep
  • A lack of calcium, potassium, sodium, or other important minerals in your blood
  • Certain medications, such as:
    • Antipsychotics
    • Diuretics
    • Birth control
    • Statins
    • Steroids

Does Drinking Pickle Juice Help Prevent Muscle Cramps?

Is pickle juice good for leg cramps? Pickle juice can help battle and prevent cramps for a couple of reasons, but the main reason might surprise you. Although it’s rich in water and electrolytes—it has more sodium than top sports drinks—it’s also acidic, which is where its real power lies.

Research shows that pickle juice for leg cramps at night or during the day works better and faster than water by a rather large margin. But what’s so interesting is that it takes less time for pickle juice to relieve leg cramps than it does to be absorbed in the stomach—meaning it’s not the water content or electrolytes that are responsible for its cramp-fighting prestige, as it doesn’t have time to be absorbed into the bloodstream by the time the effects are felt.

A team of researchers from Brigham Young University and North Dakota State University electrically induced leg cramps in 12 subjects and treated them with either pickle juice or water. The participants who drank pickle juice for the leg cramps saw the symptoms diminish in less than a minute a half, while the water group had to wait two minutes for their symptoms to disappear.

Because of the time difference, it appears hydration levels had little to do with the cramping. If it did, it’s likely the response time would have been much closer. Furthermore, it didn’t appear that electrolyte levels were altered to the degree that would impact muscle function. So what is it about pickle juice that makes it ideal for leg cramps?

What’s in Pickle Juice that Helps Prevent Leg Cramps?

Pickle juice appears to treat leg cramps because of its acidity, which seems to trigger a reflex when it hits the throat, sending a signal to relax the muscle. The over-stimulated neurons, which are malfunctioning and reacting from overuse, are then reset so that regular communication with your nervous system is resumed. When this happens, the contraction stops, the muscle relaxes, and the cramping subsides.

The results show that leg cramping might not have anything to do with dehydration at all, but rather with some confusion in the central nervous system. Researchers still aren’t sure why the acid seems to be the perfect remedy for cramps; they just know that it works. There are also reports that drinking vinegar offers the same results—however, your taste buds might be a little more in tune with shot of pickle juice compared to some straight vinegar!

If you need to handle a leg cramp in a hurry, pickle juice is a highly effective remedy. It can help you get back on the playing field, continue your jog, ride your bike, or work out, and it can even help you during those random times when you’re hit with a cramp and don’t want to withstand the pain.

How Much Pickle Juice Should You Drink for Cramps?

One of the best parts about pickle juice is that you don’t have to carry around a big bottle of it; all you need is about three ounces, or a little under half glass, to handle leg cramps. If you pour a little out of a full pickle jar, just top it back up with vinegar—you don’t want to waste your pickles! On that note, you might be wondering what kind of pickle juice for leg cramps is best. The answer is simple: common dill pickles are the ones you’re looking for.

Why Every Athlete Should Have Pickle Juice for Leg Cramps

Pickle juice is essential for athletes because it allows them to both prevent cramps and quickly deal with them should they arrive. It lets them train, compete, and perform at their highest level. Because it only takes such a small serving and acts so quickly, it’s very easy to consume on the go when symptoms arise. Pickle juice before exercise can also help give you what you need to perform your best.

But it’s not just its ability to kill cramps that makes pickle juice so beneficial to athletes—there are also valuable nutrients to keep your body running at a high level and aid in the recovery process. Research has indicated it works virtually the same as sports drinks in supplying important electrolytes such as sodium and magnesium, as well as nutrients such as calcium, all of which are very important for athletic performance. The sodium content in two ounces of pickle juice, for example, offers 400 milligrams of sodium, while sports drinks have 225 milligrams in the same serving.

Another component of pickle juice that might beneficial to athletes is that it may help replenish glycogen stores during and after workouts. The acetic acid can help metabolize carbohydrates and fats.

Other Benefits of Drinking Pickle Juice

Drinking pickle juice for cramps can offer quick relief, but it can also be used for several other conditions.

  • Hangover cure: It helps to replenish sodium levels that have been lost through dehydration. Although dehydration might not cause cramps, it does make a hangover worse.
  • Exercise: You need lots of nutrients during intense exercise, and drinking pickle juice before a workout gives you what you need.
  • Pickle juice for menstrual cramps: PMS can result in plenty of lost fluids and nutrients, so drinking pickle juice can help to keep you hydrated and alleviate cramping. It can also help tame salt cravings.

How to Reduce Muscle Cramps Naturally

Of course, there are other leg cramp remedies; pickle juice isn’t the only one. Here are a few more ideas to relive the pain!

  • Stretch (this works for most cramps, especially in the calves).
  • Apply some pressure in the center of the cramp for a few minutes; it hurts, but it works! (This works very well for foot cramps. Put your foot flat on the floor and put all your weight on it like you were trying to press it through the floor.)
  • Apply heat to the area (using water or a heating pad).
  • Sleep with your toes pointed up or to the side.
  • Use Epsom salts.
  • Ensure you have an adequate calcium intake.

Tips to Prevent Muscle Cramps

You can also limit your chances of cramping, whether you’re an athlete or not, by:

  • Staying hydrated;
  • Eating a nutritious diet;
  • Warming up before activity;
  • Stretching after workouts;
  • Eating carbohydrates around workouts; and
  • Making sure you eat salt, but not from processed foods; table salt and sports drinks are fine.

So, does pickle juice help cramps? It may seem odd, but the answer is yes. So don’t throw out the juice when you’re done with that jar of dill pickles—it could save you some discomfort in the future!

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6 Health Reasons You Need to Be Drinking Pickle Juice

By: Alexa Erickson | Updated: Oct. 01, 2019

If you’re pouring your leftover pickle juice down the drain, you could be missing out on the brine’s healthy benefits—says science.

Pickles and other fermented foods boast some pretty impressive health benefits. But you have to use some caution: If you have high blood pressure or are sodium-sensitive, salt can drive up your blood pressure levels, and pickles and pickle brine are loaded with sodium that could do more harm than good.

First, a primer. There are two types of pickles: naturally fermented pickles and the ones that are preserved in vinegar. Both versions convey benefits, but they do differ.

Pickle juice’s high sodium content—in both the fermented and vinegar versions—may be beneficial for helping the body retain fluids. This is important when you’re working out for longer periods of time—an hour or more—since losing fluids through sweating can cause dehydration and leave your muscles cramping.

A study from Brigham Young University found that pickle juice was more beneficial for alleviating muscle cramping in male participants than plain H2O. For the study, male participants rode bikes for 30-minute sessions, with 5 minutes of rest between. When the researchers could document that the men’s fluids were depleted by 3 percent—which qualifies as mild dehydration—they electrically stimulated a nerve in the ankle to provoke a foot cramp. The researchers found that pickle juice could relieve the cramp about 37 percent faster than the men who drank water.

With gut issues on the rise in recent years, fermented foods have garnered a lot of attention for their probiotic potential. If you can find fermented pickles (they’ll be in the refrigerated section, unlike the vinegar-cured pickles on the shelf), drinking the juice might be helpful for alleviating digestive issues. The probiotics in pickle juice may support the growth and healthy balance of good bacteria and flora that keep your gut healthy, according to a 2018 study in the journal Foods. One note: You can get the same benefit from other fermented foods such as sauerkraut and kimchi.

According to a study published in Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry, pickle juice may help aid in your weight loss goals thanks to the main component in vinegar—which is acetic acid. The researchers found that the acid seems to interfere with the body’s ability to digest starch. This interference results in less starch being broken down into calories in the bloodstream.

Having high blood sugar levels can lead to type 2 diabetes, along with a variety of other chronic diseases. Vinegar has been found to be beneficial in lowering blood sugar levels by improving the body’s response to insulin and dramatically reducing blood sugar levels after meals.

One study, published in the Journal of Diabetes Research found that drinking a small serving of vinegar before a meal works to stabilize a person’s blood sugar levels after eating for people with type 2 diabetes.

This one falls under the old wives’ tale thanks to the lack of scientific evidence, but some people swear by drinking a small glass of pickle juice as a fail-safe cure for hiccups.

You can try the remedy out next time you have hiccups by gulping down half a teaspoon of salty pickle juice every few seconds until the hiccups subside.

In the same way that the juice may help ease muscle cramps from exercise, some women say that it can help with menstrual cramps. While the theory makes sense, it hasn’t been effectively studied (and it’s just one of several unusual tricks for dealing with menstrual pain).

Want to give it a try? Some women swear by drinking a half of a cup of dill pickle juice to ease cramps.

Medically reviewed by Maureen Namkoong, MS, RD, on August 18, 2019

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Pickle Juice: 4 Health Benefits Of Drinking The Green Juice

Apr 25, 2014 | By Sabrina Bachai

Pickle juice — it’s often the forgotten counterpart when enjoying delicious pickles, and fortunately it actually does more than just add flavor to your favorite side dish. There are also many health benefits associated with the leftover juice. 

According to the New York Food Museum, the history of cucumbers dates back to 2030 B.C. when cucumbers were first brought over from India to the Tigris Valley, and people needed a way to preserve them. Cleopatra even claimed that her diet of pickles helped maintain her beauty. In modern times, pickles are used in many ways: drinks, foods, and beauty remedies, to name a few. However, pickle juice also has amazing health benefits like curing a hangover and soothing heartburn. We’ve listed some helpful ways you can incorporate pickle juice into your life:

1.       Hangover Cure:

One of the main reasons people feel so terrible when they’ve spent a night drinking is because alcohol is a diuretic, leaving you feeling dehydrated. Drinking pickle juice helps to replenish your depleted sodium levels.

2.     Post-Workout Cure:

Many athletes swear by it because it helps to rebuild electrolytes post-workout. Pickle juice contains sodium and vinegar — both necessary in aiding athletes and those who sweat heavily. Some researchers also credit vinegar to help relieve the cramps; others say it’s the magnesium. This might also be useful pre-workout, too. The National Institutes of Health found that ingesting high-sodium drinks pre-exercise can improve thermoregulation and performance.  

3.       PMS Remedy:

It works the same way as it would for a post-workout cure because it helps to hydrate the body and alleviate cramping. It also will help to curb the salt cravings that many women have when they are menstruating.

4.       Heartburn Relief:

This might sound like it would cause the exact opposite effect, since vinegar triggers heartburn for some, but the vinegar in pickle juice actually helps some people soothe heartburn, according to Yahoo Shine.

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