Last week a patient of mine asked if restless leg syndrome (RLS) is real. Unfortunately, for the millions who suffer, yes! Also called Willis-Ekborn disease, symptoms include uncomfortable sensations that cause the legs to voluntarily or involuntarily to move, jump or jerk. The sensations can be stabbing, prickling, aching, etc. While there are many causes of RLS, there are also many solutions.
As with most health conditions, there are things we do and things we don’t do that set the stage for this to occur. Usually there are more than one factor involved.
To determine what may be affecting your RLS, start with your medications. Many medications cause RLS in some people. Antidepressants, anti-nausea, anti-histamine and other medications may have RLS listed as a side-effect. Since RLS substantially effects quality of sleep (and quality of sleep can have a major impact on your overall health) having a conversation with your physician to help you find another solution to remedying your health issue without that medication may be in order.
Restless leg syndrome is associated with cardiovascular health and diabetes. Poor peripheral circulation and unhealthy blood due to high sugar, high triglycerides and high cholesterol could be to blame. Sound dietary advice to reduce these health challenges often alleviates RLS at the same time.
Iron deficiency anemia and pernicious anemia may also contribute to RLS. Getting your iron and B12 levels up by eating foods high in those nutrients can be helpful. Eating red meat, liver, green leafy veggies, unsulphured dried fruit, poultry, pork, seafood, seaweeds, plums, raisins and prunes are all good for supporting healthy iron levels. These foods plus beans and legumes, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, and avocado help folate levels. Be careful to not overdo iron as it can cause other problems in the body.
Since there are several minerals that need to be present in proper proportions, a good balanced blend of minerals can be helpful, especially if taken at night. Be careful in choosing minerals as many are in forms too difficult to digest and assimilate and can contribute to other health conditions if in the wrong form.
Caffeine, alcohol and sugar are also known triggers for restless legs. Smoking is another. Dehydration another. Since everyone is different, it would be prudent to start logging everything you eat and drink during the day and try to identify a pattern or corollary to the nights you suffer. If you suffer every single night, it is most likely medication related. If it is not nightly, consider that it may be food or drink.
It can also be health related. Certain health conditions have a propensity towards RLS- obesity, cardiovascular compromise, thyroid conditions, issues with dopamine receptors and others.
Exercise that is either too much or too little can contribute as well. Correcting the lifestyle factors or the health conditions contributing to RLS is a must. Using acupuncture, nutrition and herbal therapies can really be supportive of all your health goals and let you sleep at night with legs at rest!
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Holly Carling is a Doctor of Oriental Medicine, Licensed Acupuncturist, Doctor of Naturopathy, Clinical Nutritionist and Master Herbologist with nearly four decades of experience. Carling is a “Health Detective.” She looks beyond your symptom picture and investigates WHY you are experiencing your symptoms in the first place. Carling is currently accepting new patients and offers natural health care services and whole food nutritional supplements in her Coeur d’Alene clinic. Visit Carling’s website at www.vitalhealthcda.com to learn more about Carling, view a list of upcoming health classes and read other informative articles. Carling can be reached at 208-765-1994 and would be happy to answer any questions regarding this topic.