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Vitamins for Restless Legs

Vitamins are one of the most common treatments for restless legs. Restless legs often respond well to vitamin supplements.
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Restless leg syndrome (RLS) affects as much as 10% of the population, much of which gets worse with age.

Despite this high number, the cause of restless leg syndrome is not 100% known. It's a neurological disorder, and many issues have been linked to RLS, but doctors and scientists have found it difficult to pinpoint an exact cause.

Yet one issue with which all doctors are in agreement is that RLS is often linked to vitamin deficiencies. It's unclear whether these vitamin deficiencies are the cause of RLS, or if they are the trigger that causes restless leg symptoms.

Regardless, vitamins are one of the most common potential causes of RLS, and vitamins for RLS are one of the main ways that doctors treat restless leg syndrome.

The Link Between Vitamins and RLS

Even if you're not truly "deficient" in a vitamin, many experts recommend taking vitamin supplements as a way to treat the symptoms of RLS.

One theory that many have posited is that it's possible that those living with RLS simply need more of the vitamin for their bodies to work efficiently. Generally, most vitamins are measured against a baseline of "normal" based on recorded levels of the vitamin in the body. It's possible that those with RLS simply need more of vitamins that are otherwise in regular supply.

It's also possible that vitamins themselves simply act as their own treatment for RLS.

RLS has also been linked to anemia. There are several vitamins that have a role in producing various forms of anemia, indicating that anemia prevention may be an important tool for combatting RLS.

Finally, vitamins for RLS may create an environment that balances out dopamine in the brain. One of the issues that has been linked as a potential cause of RLS is an inadequate dopamine balance. Several vitamins take part in the process that creates dopamine, so vitamins for RLS may act as dopamine agonists.

Regardless, it's clear that vitamins and RLS are linked in many different ways, and the research backs up this theory. Below are some of the vitamins and vitamin deficiencies linked to RLS.

Iron and RLS

Of all of the available vitamins for restless leg syndrome, iron is often the vitamin most cited as a potential cause of RLS.

A study at the RLS Foundation Collection department in the Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center compared the autopsied brain tissue of 7 RLS patients with that of patients without any neurological diseases.

There were no differences between the two brain tissues – confirming the belief that RLS is not indicative of a larger health problem. However, in one component of the brain, known as the substantia nigra, the iron levels were much lower in those with RLS.

It appeared that this area of the brain was low in the receptors necessary to receive adequate amounts of iron.

This implies that the issues are not related to any type of iron deficiency. Rather, the brain simply isn't receiving as much iron as it needs, despite adequate levels of iron in the body.

Similarly, an iron deficiency would presumably cause the same problem, even in those that have the right amount of receptors. In both cases, iron levels are lower than they need to be for proper functioning, leading to RLS, which is why iron is present in nearly all restless leg syndrome vitamins.

Magnesium and RLS

Another common RLS vitamin is magnesium. Magnesium deficiencies tend to affect as many as 25% of the country, and even more in some areas. Low magnesium levels may be caused by three different issues. 

Magnesium and RLS

Low Magnesium Intake – Modern foods are much lower in magnesium than they were decades ago, leading to more people suffering from magnesium deficiency.

Stress – Stress is known to deplete the amount of magnesium currently in the body. So those that are getting enough magnesium but suffer from a great deal of stress may still be low.

Calcium – Calcium and magnesium need to be in the proper balance. Often there is too much or too little of one or the other, potentially leading to similar health issues.


The link between magnesium and RLS is a new one, and all research is still preliminary – meaning it's unclear whether or not magnesium does have an effect, and possible that it does not.

Nevertheless, an open pilot study found that magnesium supplementation did appear to decrease the frequency of a restless leg episode. In addition, magnesium deficiency is known to cause neuromuscular excitability, so there are ample reasons to believe that magnesium is an important restless leg syndrome vitamin.

Folate/Folic Acid for RLS

Most of the links between folate and restless leg took place in the 1970's, but since then folic acid has been used as a potential RLS vitamin.

Several studies looked at the role of folic acid during pregnancy – a common time that some women suffer from RLS. They found that when folate levels were low, women were much more likely to suffer from RLS.       

Several studies have also used folic acid as a treatment for RLS. Preliminary research has found promising results, and while folic acid may not affect everyone, it does appear to have an effect on some people with RLS.

Vitamin B12 for RLS

Vitamin B12 deficiency has also been linked to RLS.

It's believed that B12 deficiency may be a rarer cause of RLS, indicating that either most people get enough B12 in their body or that B12 itself is less likely to cause restless leg symptoms.

But it also appears that when B12 is responsible for RLS, B12 vitamins for restless leg syndrome appear to be highly effective at relieving the condition.

A study in 1993 in Ireland examined several patients with RLS and ran their blood to determine which vitamins they were deficient. Most appeared to be deficient in iron, but a small number were deficient in vitamin B12, and when provided with B12 supplements they made a complete recovery.

As usual, it's difficult to make definitive judgments of this issue since the sample tends to be small, but several experts confirm that there does appear to be a link between B12 and RLS in some patients.

Vitamin E and RLS

Some research has linked Vitamin E as another potential vitamin for RLS. The study was fairly small, and not enough to draw any certain conclusions, but scientists at UCLA back in 1969 found that several patients responded very well to Vitamin E treatments.

Like many studies from that decade, there was no control and the sample size was very small. But it does indicate the potential for Vitamin E to improve symptoms of those with RLS.

Other Vitamins with RLS

Several other vitamins have been linked to RLS as well. Vitamin B6 and B1 both appear to create RLS symptoms if there is a deficiency. Also, some studies have linked Vitamin A to RLS, because some people that suffer from RLS have a sensitivity to light, which is often considered a sign of low Vitamin A levels.

Vitamin Supplementation with Restless Leg Syndrome

Vitamins for restless leg syndrome should only be taken under the advice of a doctor. Depending on your age and health, high doses of various vitamins may contribute to health problems or interact with various medications.

Nevertheless, RLS vitamins are considered to be the safest natural remedy options for restless leg syndrome. They're present in many diets, and supplementation can often ensure that you're getting enough in your blood stream to make a noticeable difference, as many of those living with RLS find that their symptoms appear to disappear or lessen once they initiate vitamin supplementation – something that is supported by the research.

Sources


http://www.deltasleeplabs.com/Facts_and_Statistics.html

http://winchesterhospital.org/health-library/article?id=21806

http://www.ninds.nih.gov/news_and_events/news_articles/news_article_rls_iron.htm

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