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4 Home Remedies to Try for Restless Legs Syndrome

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Suffer from restless leg syndrome? These 4 home remedies may prevent you from needing prescription medication.

Restless legs syndrome (also called Willis-Ekbom Disease) is a common medical condition that affects up to 10 percent of all adults in the United States.

Although the condition is common, many individuals suffer in silence and have found little to relieve their symptoms. Recent studies have indicated that a variety of home remedies and herbal supplements can benefit RLS sufferers and make symptoms fade or disappear entirely.

Read on to see what home remedies for RLS you can try before resorting to prescription medication:

Home Remedies that Can Fight RLS

Try these home remedies to reduce your restless legs symptoms.

Exercise and Yoga

Exercise According to the Willis-Ekbom Disease Foundation, exercise is one of the most effective treatments for RLS. The foundation found that individuals who exercised daily for at least 30 minutes found that their RLS symptoms were reduced at night.

A study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine in 2013 found that yoga was particularly helpful for RLS patients. Women who practiced yoga reported less severe RLS symptoms, better moods, better sleep habits, and less stress.

Create a Sleep Routine

If your sleep hormones are out of balance, your RLS symptoms could worsen. One easy way to reduce your RLS symptoms is by creating a sleep routine. Follow the rhythms set by the sun. One easy way to do this is to watch the sunrise and set each day while you are outdoors. Going out at least once a day around noon can also help set your body’s clock. The rising and setting of the sun trigger your body to make melatonin, which promotes healthy sleep.

A lack of melatonin can cause problems such as insomnia and restless sleep. Blue light, such as given off by electronics, can interrupt the production of melatonin. Avoid using any electronic devices about an hour or two before bedtime if you struggle with RLS and insomnia.

Try to maintain a regular schedule with set sleeping and waking hours. This will also help regulate your body’s internal clock and make RLS symptoms less severe.

Manage Stress

Stress is associated with an increase in RLS symptoms in some individuals with RLS. If you live a high-stress lifestyle, working to reduce stress will not only improve your RLS symptoms, but it will also help you feel calmer and more relaxed. Engage in de-stressing activities each night, such as by drinking a warm beverage, reading a relaxing book, taking a warm bath, or asking your partner for a massage. Medication and deep breathing can also help reduce stress levels.

Try Herbal Supplements

Vitamin D: Recent studies have found that vitamin D can work to improve many common health symptoms. A 2014 study conducted by researchers from King Abdulaziz University found that vitamin D can also help individuals with RLS (but only in patients who were already low in vitamin D). When the RLS patients were given vitamin D3 supplements, their RLS symptoms decreased dramatically. The researchers also found that most study participants with RLS did have low vitamin D levels. The researchers suggested that low vitamin D levels could be a risk factor for RLS.

Vitamin B12: A study from 2000 published in The New England Journal of Medicine found that vitamin B12 deficiency is extremely common in individuals with RLS. In some clinical reports, supplementing with vitamin B12 relieves some of the tremors associated with restless leg syndrome.

Vitamin C and E: Previous studies have suggested that vitamin deficiencies could be a major trigger for RLS symptoms. A study from 2012 conducted by the Shiraz University of Medical Sciences found that when individuals with RLS were given vitamin C and E supplements, their symptoms were reduced significantly.

Valerian: Valerian has been promoted as a sleep aid and RLS fighter for several decades. A study from 2009 conducted by the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing found that supplementing with 800 mg of valerian daily for 8 weeks provided significant results when compared with placebo use. Valerian was able to both improve RLS symptoms and reduce daytime sleepiness in study participants. The study authors concluded, “Valerian may be an alternative treatment for the symptom management of RLS with positive health outcomes and improved quality of life.”

Folic Acid: A deficiency in folic acid is common in patients with RLS. A study from 2001 found that women who supplemented with folic acid and iron during pregnancy had significantly reduced RLS symptoms and better sleep at night. Iron Low iron levels have been linked with RLS for many years. A study from 1994 found that the majority of elderly patients studied with RLS symptoms also had low iron levels. The study authors concluded that “iron supplements can produce a significant reduction in symptoms.”

Calcium and Magnesium: Studies show that magnesium and calcium work together to regulate sleep. Studies cited by Healthline show that many individuals with insomnia are low in magnesium. According to Carolyn Dean, MD, the medical director for the Nutritional Magnesium Association, magnesium is effective in treating RLS. “When there is too much calcium and insufficient magnesium inside a cell, you can get sustained muscle contraction: twitches, spasms, and even convulsions.

Magnesium permits a small amount of calcium to enter a nerve cell, just enough to allow electrical transmission along the nerves to and from the brain, then forces it back outside,” she said in a statement to Healthline. Magnesium has a beneficial effect on many bodily systems, and relaxation is no exception.

Surprising Triggers for RLS

According to a report by Healthline, RLS symptoms can be triggered by a variety of common lifestyle choices. Avoiding these triggers could work to reduce your RLS symptoms:

A lack of exercise can also contribute to RLS symptoms. A lack of activity during the day is associated with an increase in RLS symptoms at night.

A Word about Pregnant and Lactating Women

RLS is common in pregnant women- often attributed to a vitamin insufficiency. Low levels of B vitamins, iron, and magnesium during pregnancy can contribute to an increase in RLS symptoms. Typically, these symptoms become much worse if the woman is already sensitive to RLS.

However, many common supplements and remedies for RLS are not safe to use during pregnancy. Two common natural remedies- GABA and Valerian, are controversial. In Europe, valerian is sometimes prescribed as a remedy for restless legs to pregnant women, but American medical professionals are usually more cautious in what is prescribed to pregnant women. We scoured the available research on both GABA and valerian safety for pregnant and lactating women and here is what we found:

Avoid These Herbs in Pregnancy 

GABA Risks for Pregnant and Lactating Women

GABA is an amino acid that works as a neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. Ordinarily, your body makes GABA on its own, although some evidence suggests that individuals with depression tend to have lower natural levels of GABA. GABA has a calming effect on the brain, which could benefit individuals with RLS. However, studies on GABA have found that it increases the levels of Human Growth Hormone which can encourage prolactin production (which is used to stimulate milk production). This sounds like it would be beneficial for lactating or pregnant women, but it may also stimulate early breast production in nursing infants. For this reason, pregnant and nursing women should avoid taking GABA for RLS.

Valerian Risks for Pregnant and Lactating Women

Valerian is sometimes prescribed by herbalists and medical professionals for pregnant women, but far more professionals recommend pregnant women avoid valerian supplements. The reasoning for this caution comes from a few in-vitro studies and animal studies where high doses of valerian caused various problems with developing fetuses/cells. In one animal study from 2012, when rats were given doses of valerian 65 times the normal human dosage, the fetuses had a significant reduction in zinc levels in the brain.

The researchers concluded, “valerian use should be limited during pregnancy.” Another study conducted in 1997 published in the American Journal of Physiology found that when injected into in vitro cells, valerian had cytotoxic and mutagenic effects. This side effect is more worrisome than the zinc side effect, which is the main reason why health professionals caution against heavy valerian use during pregnancy.

The book, Herbal Medicines in Pregnancy and Lactation states that pregnant and nursing women should use caution when supplementing with valerian during pregnancy.

What Can You Take for RLS During Pregnancy?

Studies show that vitamin supplements have visible benefits for RLS symptoms in many. B vitamins, iron, calcium, and magnesium may all have positive effects on preventing pregnancy-related RLS and are safe to take during pregnancy. For any other supplements, consult with your doctor, herbalist, or midwife before taking them during pregnancy and lactation.

Treating RLS at Home

If you don’t want to go the prescription medication route for RLS, you are not stuck suffering from the condition for life. There are several lifestyles and supplement changes you can make that will benefit RLS symptoms and help you sleep better at night. Before taking any prescription medication for RLS, or if you want to wean off of traditional RLS medications, these at-home RLS remedies can provide a viable alternative. Pregnant and nursing women should watch out for GABA and valerian, but other vitamin and mineral supplements for RLS should be safe to take during any stage of life.





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