While we specialize in helping people with digestive issues and autoimmunity, enough people have come to us who are also dealing with Restless Leg Syndrome that we’ve had to explore options to help them!
Here are 4 Natural Ways to Treat Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)
For 2 MORE ways to help RLS click HERE
What is Restless Leg Syndrome?
Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) is a maddening neurologic (brain) condition where tickling, itching sensations create an irresistible urge to move (typically the legs, but it can also affect the arms and torso) which provides momentary relief.
RLS is worse when in ‘quiet wakefulness’ like when you are lying still, watching TV, reading, or most importantly getting ready to go to sleep. RLS tends to cause major sleep problems, which dramatically affects your health.
The people I’m working with who have RLS in my practice has driven me to look deeper into this condition to try and understand the underlying issues behind it.
I don’t pretend to have THE answer, but here is what I’ve found so far.
RLS does seem to have a pretty strong genetic piece, with up to 60% of cases running in families.
The primary defect / dysfunction seems to lie with the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine has many functions but the one we’re focusing on with RLS is its role in normal movement. The most extreme example of dopamine deficiency is Parkinson’s disease. RLS seems to be the baby cousin of Parkinson’s disease, and some people have even called it ‘stage 0’ of Parkinson’s disease.
How conventional medicine treats RLS
Four Approaches to the Natural Treatment of RLS
My belief is that RLS, like most other diseases, doesn’t have one SINGLE defect /dysfunction but most likely a range of genetic defects (SNPs) / dysfunctions in the dopamine pathway. Since we can’t yet test to see where the problem is, we have to take things one step at a time and see what helps.
Here is the framework I currently recommend based on my research and understanding of what is going on.
1. General ‘anti-inflammatory’ regimen – this gentleman at rlcure.com talks about his 20 year struggle with RLS and how by using anti-inflammatory herbs and adopting an anti-inflammatory diet he was able to cure his RLS.
We know that inflammation plays a part in depression by “…Inflammatory mediators have been found to affect…[the brain by]… including altered monoamine and glutamate neurotransmission, glucocorticoid receptor resistance and adult hippocampal neurogenesis.” from this article.
It seems perfectly reasonable that inflammation could also be involved in causing problems in dopamine function, especially in genetically susceptible people, so I think this is a sensible place to start.
The author recommends using a micellized curcumin product, cayenne, and ginger, and drinking carrot juice as a starting place. He suggests you’ll begin to see relief within 2 weeks of following this regimen. From there he recommends a repair/healing phase and then a maintenance phase.
You can see his full recommendations here. This seems like an inexpensive, safe place to start the non-drug treatment of RLS.
2. Replenishing iron – there is general agreement that RLS involves a deficiency of iron in the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord).
It is quite possible that one of the genetic defects involved in RLS has something to do with the brain not being able to take up enough iron into the brain.
Iron is a necessary nutrient for the production of dopamine, and without it your brain can’t make dopamine.
As part of this second step, or while you are implementing the general anti-inflammatory ideas above, have your doctor check your ferritin levels.
If they’re less than 50, it would be worthwhile to supplement iron. In this study of 30 Japanese children with RLS ferritin levels before therapy averaged around 26. Three months of iron by mouth increased the average ferritin to 84 and was “…highly effective in 17 children, effective in 10, and ineffective in three.”
Given that reasonable iron supplementation is cheap, safe, and has proven effective I think raising your ferritin levels to around 100 is a reasonable goal. If you get significant relief great, if not, no harm done. The thought is boosting up your iron levels is able to force more iron into the brain, allowing your brain to make more dopamine. HERE is a good iron product that doesn’t cause stomach upset.
3. Supplement other nutrients – In order to make dopamine your brain also needs vitamin B6, Folate and B3. This gentleman at rlscure.com found relief from his RLS of over 30 years through a protocol that includes: SAM-E, B6, B12 and folic acid. His protocol (listed here) is SAM-E 200mg twice a day 30 minutes before breakfast and dinner, 100mg B6 daily, 800mcg folic acid daily, and 3mg methycobalamin (B12) three times per week. Some people might find more benefit using the 5-MTHF form of folic acid rather than straight folic acid (see my previous post on 5-MTHF). This protocol seems safe, and while the B6 dosage is pretty high, it is probably not dangerous. B3 may also need to be added into the protocol.
4. Increase dopamine synthesis through the balanced use of amino acid precursors – Marty Hinz, MD of the company NeuroResearch has been promoting a protocol for RLS involving the use of high dose amino acids fine tuned through the use of urinary testing.
He claims extremely good success in treating RLS for those who fully utilize his protocol, and is publishing an ever increasing amount of peer-reviewed literature validating what he’s doing.
He claims most of the side effects of the drugs and other amino acid protocols for boosting neurotransmitters come from causing imbalances in the neurotransmitters, and that done properly his protocols side step the side-effects common to other treatments.
I haven’t worked much with these protocols as they are fairly expensive (realistically most people who find success with Hinz’ targeted amino acid therapy spend $2-3000 getting it completely fine-tuned). However, I personally would try them before using the pharmaceutical drugs. I do think, because of their cost, it makes sense to try steps 1-3 before looking into step 4.
Based on my review of the literature and the science behind RLS I think the best place to start in the natural treatment of RLS is with an ‘anti-inflammatory’ diet and lifestyle, followed by repleting the nutrients needed to create dopamine. If that doesn’t work, we can always use an aggressive amino acid protocol to drive up dopamine without imbalancing the whole system.
For a couple more ideas on natural RLS treatments, go here.
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Photo attribution – https://bit.ly/2JccGmc
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