By Dr. Michael Cassaro
Restless leg syndrome is a condition that can rob you of a good night’s sleep…every night. In mild cases, it may just be an aggravation. In severe cases, it is extremely painful and can have you awake all night pacing the floor. Even if you are able to sleep through it, your constant “kicking” can keep your spouse awake. A man told me once, that whenever his wife laid down to sleep, it was like a helicopter started up.
Restless Leg Syndrome gets a lot of attention these days. It’s even advertized on television. But don’t be fooled, this is not new. It’s always been around. Until the early 2000’s most people controlled their restless legs with quinine. Unfortunately, the very safe, $3 per month, quinine was removed from the market to make way for the much less effective and much more expensive drugs, with horrible sounding side effects, that are advertised on television.
So what are you supposed to do now to control your restless legs? Well, lets start by looking at what causes restless leg syndrome. First of all, there is nothing wrong with your legs. Second of all, there is really not much mystery about this condition. And finally, most people (spouses too) can get a good night’s sleep with inexpensive, home remedies.
Restless Leg Syndrome requires two specific problems. If you don’t have both problems, you don’t get the cramps, pain, or helicopter legs. Those two things are nerve irritation and mineral deficiency. What causes nerve irritation? There’s a pretty short list. The things at the top of the list are bone spurs (arthritis), pinched nerves, and chemicals. Most of the irritating chemicals are in your foods and drinks. Some medicines can cause nerve irritation. Household chemicals are another group. These chemicals can include anything from cleaning chemicals, to air fresheners, lawn treatments, bug sprays, and virtually anything else that has a warning on the package similar to “harmful if swallowed”.
As far as food and drink goes, artificial sweeteners are very common culprits. Flavors and colors in processed foods are also contributors. The exact chemicals are frequently hard to pin down because they are never listed individually on a product label. They are listed collectively as natural or artificial flavors, or colors. They do a good job of lighting up your taste buds. But after you swallow them, they go around your body lighting up other things, like your nervous system.
The second requirement for Restless Leg Syndrome is mineral deficiency. This can be a shortage of almost any mineral. But there are a few common mineral deficiencies that account for most of the problems. The top three are magnesium, potassium, and iron. Potassium is easy to get in your diet. It is in everything. Most people with a potassium shortage get enough potassium in their diet. Their problem is that they lose potassium by frequent urination, usually because of medications or illness. Blood pressure medications, or medications for “swelling” are the most common culprits. Diabetes is the most common illness to cause excessive urination.
Magnesium deficiency is common because of low magnesium in the diet. The natural sources of magnesium are green vegetables, eaten raw. ‘Nuff said.
Even mild iron deficiency can contribute to Restless Leg Syndrome. Even if your blood count is normal, you could still have low iron. If you have restless legs, ask your doctor to order a blood test for ferritin. If the result is less than 50, start taking iron. If regular iron pills give you indigestion, get herbal iron supplements from a health food store.
To increase your magnesium, take a bath in Epsom Salts every night before bedtime. Put a couple of hands full of Epsom Salt crystals into the bathtub. Soak in the tub for 20 – 30 minutes, or until the water starts to cool off. The magnesium from the water will soak right through your skin and get much more magnesium into your body than you could ever tolerate by mouth.
Also, take folic acid 25 mg daily. This is a much higher dose than what is in most multi-vitamins. While you’re at it, a good multi-vitamin could help, too.
Try this at home for at least two weeks and see if your legs let you, and your spouse, sleep better.