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Sausage & chips causing my cramps?

OK, normally I’m a complete sceptic as far as any connection between diet and symptoms is concerned.

Until recently, I’d never noticed anything I suspected was making me better or worse.

Like many people with MS, muscle cramps are a problem. I’m already on baclofen, diazepam and quinine to help with this -mostly successfully.

Recently, though, I’ve begun to experience occasional spells where nothing controls it. It’s agony, and very frightening - much as I know nobody ever died of cramp. I cramp from toe to groin, so the whole leg is effectively immobilised, as if made of concrete, and the pain is about 11 out of 10, so it’s very hard to think rationally about what I must do, or try to do, as it overrides rational thought - quite apart from the temporary disability of having a non-functioning leg, which normally means I have great difficulty negotiating my way down the stairs (yes, I’m always upstairs) to pop an extra muscle relaxant, magnesium,or whatever else I may have in the house that’s relevant.

Until recently, these episodes almost always followed an abnormally long walk - I mean of miles.

The last time, I had walked getting on for five miles on an organised walk. I don’t do this often, and have only managed about two or three this year, but as a reward for really pushing the limits, and also to avoid compounding my fatigue by having to cook when I get home, it’s been my habit to call in at the chippy for a rare treat of chips and battered sausages, with plenty of salt and vinegar, on the way home.

I know this is an unhealthy meal, but for the number of times I do it - once every six weeks, maybe less - I’ve never really had any concerns. It’s an occasional treat, not representative of my typical diet.

So anyway, once or twice lately, I’ve treated myself to the sausage meal without doing the walk first. Usually because I’ve got a bit low on groceries, or just fancied a morale boost.

The only walking involved is the five minutes to the chippy and back - NOT the five miles I’d done on previous occasions, and which I blamed for the subsequent afternoon of heavy, uncontrolled cramping.

But guess what? The last twice I’ve had the cramping after the sausage and chips, but without the walk.

I thought the most obvious culprits were the salt and the vinegar (acetic acid), but indeed, cramp is more commonly linked with LOW salt, and vinegar/pickle juice/acetic acid are often recommended as home remedies. So it seems unlikely these agents would actually cause a cramp, when the literature suggests they’re known for fixing it. So could the problem be the sausage or chips themselves? Something in the cooking oil, perhaps?

I think I’ve been wrongly blaming the long-distance walking, when it’s the meal I’ve indulged in afterwards. Any clue what this is all about, and why that meal in particular? I know a meal with a lot of salt could be potentially quite dehydrating, so I usually try to drink plenty of water too, to make sure it’s not that.

Seems like I’m in for a rotten afternoon/evening with the uncontrollable cramps again, and all I’ve done differently is treat myself to a chip shop lunch.

Tina

x

Hi Tina

I’m not sure but the chips sound yummy…

This interview with a professor on the BBC about cramp was interesting.

Thanks Lenney,

Yes, the chips were yummy - that’s why I’ll be particularly miffed if I find I have to give them up - especially if I don’t really understand why.

The video about causes of cramp was interesting, but I’m not sure it applies to people with MS, as our causes are related to nerve damage. I think we have over-excitable motor neurons, which fire off: “contract” signals to the muscles, when they aren’t needed. Drugs like baclofen dampen down this excitability, but obviously aren’t a complete solution in my case, as I’m getting these episodes where nothing works.

At my last neuro appointment, we did look at more powerful but potentially riskier drugs, but decided against it, because I’d have to take them all the time, regardless that the problem only occurs every few weeks.

Tina

x

Don’t know about the sausage & chips Tina, but if I were you I’d start keeping a stash of muscle relaxant upstairs! It sounds most unfair if it’s the reward for the long walk that causes the problem. I suppose all you can do is next time you do a long walk have salad for lunch afterwards.

Sue

Most if not all fish and chip shops use a whitening powder/solution to stop cut chips from discolouring. I don’t know what they use or the ingredients in the powder but it might be worth asking next time you go. A lot of shops now buy in the chips already cut so it might not be so easy to get a list of ingredients.

Chippy chips are a lifelong weakness of mine

Jan x

I know Sue,

It’s sod’s law isn’t it? I’m always upstairs - and they’re always downstairs. Every time it happens, I keep thinking I should keep some upstairs, for exactly that reason, and wouldn’t have to negotiate the stairs. And then it doesn’t happen for a while, and I forget… I bet if I did start keeping some upstairs, there’d be some reason they weren’t there on that particular day - that I’d grabbed them and chucked them in my handbag earlier or something. I’m terminally disorganised!

Tina

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Hi Jan,

I don’t suppose they’d know if I asked them - although there are new laws now, meaning they have to be able to answer questions about allergens. I doubt the average chippy can, and I’m not sure the agent to prevent discolouring would be a recognised allergen anyway. They have to know if things could cause allergies, but I’m guessing not, if it’s “only” cramp - as agonising as it is, you can’t go into anaphylactic shock and die of it, which is what I keep reciting to myself every time it happens: “Nobody ever died of this, nobody ever died of this…”

In a way, I’d rather it was the chip shop food, as it’s not good if I get frightened to do the walks, which my neuro swears are better than anything he can prescribe.

I’d been just naturally assuming I was overdoing it on the walks - five miles is a long way for anyone with MS, however well they may be doing at the moment. It never even crossed my mind that the real trigger could be what I was eating afterwards. You wouldn’t, would you? If it’s a choice between: “I walked five miles” and: “I had some chips”, you’d think the walk would explain any problems by itself.

It’s only since I’ve once or twice had the chip shop meal without any particular exertion on the day, but still had all afternoon of cramps, that I’ve wondered if I was too hasty to assume the walk was the problem. I did think it was odd, though, that I don’t cramp all the way round, but only later, once I’m home - and after I’ve eaten the chips!

Tina

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Hi Tina

Before I started using the wheelchair, overusing my legs would usually result in painful spasms, so the long walks may not help. And I also find that having too much salt, like if I have a takeaway, can cause my legs to feel prickly & spasm. But, much to my eternal annoyance, I’ve decided to stop eating sausages as they always leave me feeling really weak. No spasms, just weakness. Other fatty meat does this as well, like lamb, so I’ve sadly had to cut that out too. I guess you could always do a test & try it a couple more times to get some more evidence. Then you may need to give your chippy a supply of veggie sausages to use just for you : )

Dan

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Only one thing for it Tina, you’ll have to do the walk without the chips afterwards and see what happens…a nice salad instead of yummy sausage and chips

Hi Dan,

I’m sorry to hear you’ve found lots of meat doesn’t agree with you. In my case, I’m pretty sure that can’t be the case, as there’s nothing much to sausage and chips, apart from meat and potatoes, and I’m fine with meat and potatoes generally, and even sausages - which I don’t prepare often, but can’t remember ever having a problem with.

IF it’s linked to the chip shop at all, and not just a rather freaky coincidence, it must be something to do with the way it’s prepared, and not the basic ingredients, as sausage and potato would not normally cause me any trouble at all. Although I’m sure chip shop sausages are not premium pork - but apart from bits of the animal you’d rather not think about, the only likely filler is breadcrumbs - bread does not cause me cramps either. I wonder if it’s some kind of preservative exclusive to the chip shop - or, as Jan suggested, something they add to retain the colour.

It still might be coincidence - just - but it’s an increasingly suspicious coincidence. I think the last four times I’ve eaten from the chip shop, I’ve had uncontrollable cramps the same afternoon. The first twice, I’d been on a long walk first, so obviously blamed that, but the next twice, there was nothing like that.

The only other thing I can think of is whether it’s linked to the female cycle. Hormones are said to influence cravings, so am I simply more likely to buy chips at a certain time of the month - and the same hormones making me choose chips also cause the cramps? I’d have to keep a detailed diary to test this: When did I get the cramps? Had I visited the chippy? Had I been for a walk? Where was I in my cycle?

Tina

Hi Tina

Sorry to hear that the sausages are causing you problems. I genuinely hope that you can find a compromise as it seems a shame to miss out on a simple pleasure.

Cheers fluffyollie xx

Hmmm.

NICE + SALAD

Does not compute.

T.

x

I don’t know if I’d rather it be the chip shop or the walks, Ollie!

I agree with you - the odd chip-shop meal, as long as it’s not all the time, should be harmless and bring enjoyment. It’s a real shame if the evidence is mounting that I can’t do it.

I know the cramps aren’t dangerous, but they’re so very painful I’d certainly be put off doing whatever it is (walks OR chips) if I realised there was definitely a link.

I’m also reluctant to go on the pills my neuro suggested (it wasn’t Tizanidine, another one), as we came to the conclusion it was over-the-top for something that only happens once-in-a-while. What I really want is something I can pop only when the cramps occur. Sadly, according to my neuro, there’s nothing that works like that - only stuff you’d have to be on all the time, as a preventative.

He also said the more stuff you’re on, the more chance of side effects, so as I’m already on baclofen, diazepam, and quinine (he didn’t suggest stopping any of those), I’m a bit reluctant to throw anything else into the mix - certainly if it’s not just on a “take occasionally as needed” basis.

Tina

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Agree Tina, two words that don’t go together are NICE and SALAD!

Re the sausage and chips - the problem may be that it’s not so much what you eat but the amount you eat. A heavy meal can cause us problems whereas a light salad (aaaaargh) would not.

Sausages are full of gluten.

xx

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Point taken, but if I had a problem with gluten, wouldn’t I always have a problem with gluten - not just one particular meal, from one particular shop?

This is the only thing I’ve noticed it with - everything else is OK - even sausages (the ones I buy myself).

It still could be some kind of weird coincidence, but it seems a few too many times lately to be pure chance. Then again, I probably don’t notice if I get bad cramps when I haven’t been walking - OR had sausage and chips. I suppose I just blame the weather - or something else.

But we are programmed to look for patterns, so if something happens several times in a row, we start thinking: “That wasn’t chance, was it?”. Even if sometimes, it was.

Good to see you, anyway.

T.

x

I wonder? I suppose it is a bit of a blow-out meal, when I do it.

In fact, I had to start asking for a kid’s portion of chips, because when I used to get a full portion, I couldn’t eat them all.

Also I mostly don’t have a main meal at lunchtime - just soup or a sandwich.

So it could be that I’m not trained to expect a large meal at that time of day. I must say, though, I’m more than ready for it when I’ve been on one of the walks. I read somewhere that we MSers use three to five times more energy just to walk, even if we’re not conspicuously disabled. It certainly feels that way - when I get back from a proper walk - not 5 minutes round the block - I’m absolutely, ridiculously, starving!

T.

I wonder if there might be some additive or other in the chippy sausages. 30 years ago they’d have been crammed with MSG, wouldn’t they, not so much these days though.

Do you think it might be one of those things that’s a combination of everything? Long walk followed by a meal that’s larger than normal. as well as being deep-fried.

Hi there,

It might have been one of those awkward combi things that are so hard to get to the bottom of - if it hadn’t started happening when I haven’t done the walk first.

I was so convinced it was the walks, it never crossed my mind it was anything I was doing afterwards. Not 'til I got the cramps with no walk, and realised: “But I’ve still been to the chip shop, though!”

Bit of a bummer if it is that. I don’t have many vices, but fish shop chips not OK, now? I think I deserve some sort of celebration if I’ve managed to walk five miles. A chip shop lunch is not a mega-indulgence, is it?

Fed up with this disease! I know things could be so much worse. I never thought, nore than four years from diagnosis, I’d be out walking five miles - further than I ever thought of walking when I was well. But then you get something totally unexpected, like: “There seems to be a problem with chips!” Sometimes it’s the little things that seem unfair. You think: “But it’s so harmless, so ordinary - why should it now become a problem?”

Tina

x

Ah, brain ignored the bit about how it’s happened after just the chippy meal. I did read that, but it flew straight out of my other ear

Absolutely it’s the little things that seem unfair! You do kind of expect the big life upheavals from disease, don’t you, and are semi-prepared for those. So when it’s small, seemingly inconsequential things it can definitely have a big WTF effect, because it’s blind-sided you a bit. You’re expecting a disabling disease to give you loads of problems, but not being able to eat from the chippy isn’t one of them!

I wonder if they’d tell you (honestly) how often they change their fat. Might be something as simple as that? If you could try your battered sausage and chips when it’s been cooked in fat that was fresh that day, and see if that made you cramp…

As an aside, it’s donkeys years since I had battered sausage, but I want one, RIGHT NOW! :stuck_out_tongue: