So you have had an active and/or stressful day and you lay down to go to bed. Your leg or legs feel a bit twitchy and they won’t relax. Finally, you get to sleep and you are awakened by a really uncomfortable pain in your legs. This happens night after night and finally you cannot deal with it anymore. What is wrong and what can be done?
Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) is considered by many to be a neurological problem but there are many causes of the condition. So many, in fact, that it’s really tough to categorize the condition into one simple issue. What we need to do is consider any and all factors that could influence the condition and help minimize/eliminate it. The medical approach is to turn to medications to help with the condition, but those have side effects. There are natural ways to address RLS, and to many, it makes sense to start with these before going the medication route.
So, what are some interventions that might help with RLS?
The first thing to recommend is proper fluid intake and electrolytes. Muscle spasms and those ‘Charlie Horse’ feelings that some people get can be due to an electrolyte imbalance. We usually have enough sodium in our diet as most every food has more than enough of it, but we do tend to be deficient in magnesium and many of us don’t get in enough calcium either. A lack of magnesium is considered by many to be a major player in RLS. Calcium is vital as it’s responsible for muscle contraction…and relaxation, for that matter. If our electrolyte levels are not where they should be, we most certainly can get cramping and pain.
Since we’re discussing calcium, we might as well bring in Vitamin D. Vitamin D has been big in the news as of late due to its effects on not only calcium absorption but also on its positive effects on our immune system, athletic performance, and more. In the case of RLS, there appears to be a connection as well. Vitamin D acts essentially as a steroid, so we know it has profound effects in the body. Make sure you get your levels tested and work to maintain a healthy level of Vitamin D. On that topic, make sure you get enough sunlight as our bodies convert cholesterol into Vitamin D.
One of the earliest supplement interventions recommended for those with RLS was Vitamin E. Even in the 1960s, research was being conducted on its effect on RLS. I found this to be very interesting.
No discussion about the neurological system would be complete without covering the topic of oxidative stress. Oxidative stress refers to the deleterious effects of free radicals in our system. Oxidative stress is linked to everything from stroke to neurodegenerative diseases to most all health conditions. There should not be a question that oxidative stress is a contributing factor to RLS, and if it is, eliminating the stressor along with increasing both water soluble antioxidants and carotenoids (fat soluble antioxidants) should be addressed.
Needless to say, there are a lot of treatment options that offer realistic hopes of remedying the condition of RLS before medication is necessary. There are more options than the list above details but we hope that this provides a good starting point for those who suffer from RLS and wish to try some basic interventions before going for the drug route.
If you have had any successes with natural means of helping RLS, please comment on this blog and share your experience. Thank you.
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