Why does muscle cramping occur after eating mussels?

Fact Checked

The muscle cramping that develops is an indication that the digestive system is facing difficulty in properly digesting the food that has been consumed. Mussels are the usual type of shellfish that can trigger an allergic reaction in both adults and children. It is important to note that if an individual has shellfish allergy, he/she might be allergic to one or more types of shellfish. If the individual ate other fish without suffering from adverse reactions, he/she might be exclusively allergic to mussels. Always bear in mind that shellfish allergy is regarded as a common food allergy and can be a life-threatening condition. It is vital that you know the steps to take during a severe allergic reaction. All you have to do is to register for first aid training today.


The usual symptoms of an allergic reaction to mussels tend to form within a few minutes after eating or even up to two hours. The muscle cramping is a usual symptom of shellfish allergy that can be accompanied with nausea, diarrhea and vomiting. Other symptoms include dizziness, tingling sensation in the mouth, lightheadedness, fainting, hives, wheezing, eczema, facial swelling, nasal congestion and difficulty breathing.

Muscle cramping
The muscle cramping is a usual symptom of shellfish allergy that can be accompanied with nausea, diarrhea and vomiting.

Possible causes

If an individual is allergic to mussels, the immune system tends to overreact to the proteins present in the shellfish. The body erroneously identifies the proteins as a threat to the body and assaults the proteins with immunoglobulin E antibodies and histamine. Take note that these two chemicals in the body fight off the proteins but leads to irritation, inflammation and swelling in different parts of the body. The histamine present in the GI tract will cause swelling and inflammation.

Testing for allergy

An effective way to confirm an allergic response to mussels is to undergo allergy testing. The allergy tests will help diagnose if the individual is allergic to mussels or other types of shellfish. Take note that the allergy testing is carried out in two methods – blood test and skin prick test. When a skin prick test is performed, a small amount of the mussel protein is placed under the skin to check how it reacts. As for the blood test, it is used in order to confirm if the blood produces IgE antibodies once mussel proteins are introduced to the body.


Once an allergy is confirmed, all fish products must be avoided from the diet. All packaged foods must indicate if there are any fish-related components present. Remember that the fish ingredients might be concealed in certain foods. When eating outside, ask the server about the ingredients used in the dish being ordered.

What to do for anaphylaxis?

It is important to note that shellfish allergy usually causes a severe allergic reaction. Anaphylaxis is considered as a life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical care. If the individual develops swelling in the face, throat or lips along with hives and lightheadedness, call for emergency assistance.

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