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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    Are there any treatments for restless leg syndrome?

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  • Lyn Craven

    Bowen Therapist, Naturopath, Nutritionist, Western Herbal Medicine Practitioner

    I specialise in gastrointestinal health problems, (leaky gut syndrome, allergies, bloating, candida, IBS, constipation, dysbiosis, reflux), women's health, back/neck pain, RSI, carpel tunnel syndrome, rotating/tilting … View Profile

    Restless leg syndrome occurs for several reasons however, treatments with vitamins and minerals have on many occasions helped minimise the symptoms or even resolve it.  It really depends on the root cause of the problem.  Please see this link to an article I wrote for further information.

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    The Sleep Health Foundation is dedicated to raising awareness of the importance of ‘valuing sleep’ as part of a healthy lifestyle alongside regular exercise, a … View Profile

    Treatments for restless legs syndrome (RLS), depend on what is causing the RLS symptoms. 
    Some people have RLS secondary to medical conditions such as iron deficiency, or nerve problems such as peripheral neuropathy or a nerve being pinched in the lower back. In iron deficiency, replacing iron is important as well as finding the cause of iron deficiency. If there are nerve problems, it is important to have those reviewed by your doctor. 
    For many people RLS is something that runs in the family, and RLS symptoms have been present throughout life, without necessarily having any nerve problems or other medical conditions. When RLS symptoms are mild, they can often be managed by limiting caffeine and nicotine intake, as well as making sure iron levels are adequate. Walking, moving or rubbing the legs can help settle symptoms when they come on. For more severe cases, where RLS symptoms are very distressing or disturbing sleep, medications can be used to reduce the intensity of RLS symptoms. 
    For more information on RLS, click here.

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    Joanna Sochan

    Naturopath, Nutritionist, Western Herbal Medicine Practitioner

    Joanna is a Natural Medicine Practitioner (Naturopath, Herbalist and Nutritionist) who offers an integrative and holistic approach to health and wellbeing. She applies a number … View Profile

    Cause(s) of restless legs syndrome (RLS) are not clear at present and it appears there are a number of factors involved. One of them is excess weight and it seems being overweight is an important contributing factor. As our weight increases so does your risk for RLS according to the 2009 study by the Harvard Medical School (1).  

    In the study researchers surveyed 88,000 men and women and found that those who were generally obese, with a body mass index higher than 30, were at 40% higher risk of developing RLS. Moreover, those with a high waist circumference had an even higher risk—60%. Scientists think that the levels of dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain which controls both movement and the pleasurable feeling from eating, may be involved. According to the Harvard study, the higher risks seem to lie in lower levels of dopamine which transmits signals between nerve cells and controls movement. Though scientists don’t exactly know why, lower dopamine levels are associated with Parkinson’s disease, as well as RLS. Consequently losing weight becomes of at most importance as it could alleviate and eventually correct RLS in many cases.

    RLS can also develop in people who are not overweight, and in this case it has been linked to excessive nerve related inflammation / toxicity. In such cases, specific nutrition and supplements supporting nerve health can make a real difference.

    Thirdly, it has been postulated that one of the causes of RLS is low iron. Research shows that iron is needed in the brain stem where pain signal is registered, and iron deficiency may cause pain by altering the structure and function of the brain stem which is reflected in altered nerve function that facilitates pain. This could be the case even if the iron blood test results are within the ‘normal’ ranges but fall towards the lower range of the spectrum.  

    In summary, more research is needed to pin point causes of RLS. Thankfully, nutrition and selective supplements tailored for each individual do make a difference as they play an important role in dealing with RLS at present. This includes providing nutrients that help to reduce inflammation, to heal the nerves and increase production of dopamine in the brain. Weight loss is of crucial importance (where needed), and diet high in iron, as well as high quality iron supplements are important considerations.

    All the best
    (1) Gao X, Schwarzschild MA, Wang H, Ascherio A. Obesity and restless legs syndrome in men and women. Neurology. 2009 April. Channing Laboratory, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA.

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