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Home > Healthy Living > Health Library > Restless Legs Syndrome (Holistic)
Replace sugar, refined flour, and alcohol in your diet with small, frequent meals containing whole grains, fish, nuts, seeds, and fresh fruits and vegetables
Help reduce the severity of RLS by steering clear of coffee, tea, and other sources of caffeine
Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) is a poorly understood condition that causes leg symptoms shortly before
going to sleep—symptoms that are temporarily relieved by movement. Occasionally the condition may also
involve the arms. It can cause sudden jerking motions of the legs and can lead to insomnia.
RLS is most common in middle-aged women, pregnant women, and people
with severe kidney disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and nerve
diseases (neuropathy). Restless legs have also been reported to occur in people with varicose veins and to be relieved when the varicose veins are
RLS is characterized by an almost irresistible urge to move the affected limbs because of unpleasant sensations beneath the skin, which are described as creeping, crawling, itching, aching, tingling, drawing, searing, pulling, or painful. These symptoms occur primarily in the calf area but may be felt anywhere in the legs or arms. The sensations are typically worse during rest or decreased activity, such as lying down or sitting for prolonged periods.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that RLS symptoms my decrease with a cessation of smoking.2 Although additional research is needed to confirm such reports, a trial of smoking cessation seems prudent for people who suffer from restless legs.
Preliminary studies of large groups of people with reactive hypoglycemia have reported that 8% have restless legs. These symptoms have been reported to improve following dietary modifications designed to regulate blood-sugar levels; changes included a sugar-free, high-protein diet along with frequent snacking and at least one night-time feeding. For patients with reactive hypoglycemia, some doctors recommend elimination of sugar, refined flour, caffeine, and alcohol from the diet; eating small, frequent meals; and eating whole grains, nuts and seeds, fresh fruits and vegetables, and fish. One study found caffeine ingestion to be associated with increased symptom severity in people with RLS.
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Mild iron deficiency is common, even in people who are not anemic. When iron deficiency is the cause of RLS, supplementation with iron has been reported to reduce the severity of the symptoms. In one trial, 74 mg of iron taken three times a day for two months, reduced symptoms in people with RLS. In people who are not deficient in iron, iron supplementation has been reported to not help reduce symptoms of RLS. Most people are not iron deficient, and taking too much can lead to adverse effects. Therefore, iron supplements should only be taken by people who have a diagnosed deficiency.
In some people with RLS, the condition may be genetic. People with familial RLS appear to have inherited an unusually high requirement for folic acid. Although not all people with RLS suffer from uncomfortable sensations, folate-deficient people with this condition always do. In one report, 45 people were identified to be from families with folic acid-responsive RLS. The amount of folic acid required to relieve their symptoms was extremely large, ranging from 5,000 to 30,000 mcg per day. Such amounts should only be taken under the supervision of a healthcare professional.
In a preliminary trial, people with period limb movements during sleep (PLMS) or RLS who suffered from insomnia had a significant improvement in sleep efficiency after supplementing with magnesium (about 300 mg each evening for four to six weeks).
In a group of nine people with RLS, 300 IU of vitamin E per day produced complete relief in seven. Doctors who give vitamin E to people with RLS generally recommend at least 400 IU of vitamin E per day, and the full benefits may not become apparent for three months.
1. Kanter AH. The effect of sclerotherapy on restless legs syndrome. Dermatol Surg 1995;21:328-32.
2. Mountifield JA. Restless leg syndrome relieved by cessation of cigarette smoking. Can Med Assoc J 1985;133:426.
Last Review: 06-08-2015
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