Episode 51: Restless Leg Syndrome

Although many of us in today’s hyper-busy world have a constant feeling of “ants in our pants”, a surprising number of people also suffer from Restless Leg Syndrome or RLS. Restless leg syndrome is defined by a need to frequently move the legs in order to alleviate uncomfortable cramping that occurs (especially at night). This discomfort can also be responsible for poor sleep as a result of being unable to relax.

Three of the main nutritional culprits that contribute to RLS are deficiencies of iron, magnesium and folic acid. In order for the amino acid Tyrosine to be converted to dopa and dopamine, iron is a necessary co-factor. Those whom are deficient in iron include vegetarians, vegans and those with certain types of anemia. Traditionally, the old-school method of increasing iron levels was to eat liver once per week as liver is one of the highest sources of iron in nature. When belief systems disallow this method of correction, an iron supplement is warranted, either orally, intramuscularly, or via intravenous administration. Magnesium deficiency, which I covered in episode 8, is also common in restless leg syndrome. When bruxism or clenching of the teeth and grinding are present, low magnesium is suspect. Folic acid deficiency or genetic dependency, are also causes of RLS. Symptoms from low folate in addition to RLS include depression and numbness of the knees with decreased knee vibratory sense.

Chinese Medicine classifies the manifestation of restless legs as a pattern known as ‘internal wind due to blood deficiency’, which is a metaphorical way of explaining the above. However, Chinese herbs are used in place of supplements. The most common base herbal prescription that is used in this regard is Si Wu Tang (also called 4 Substance Decoction). Which is modified in select cases and taken daily.

Finally, a diet lower in refined carbohydrates and methylxanthine containing foods such as coffee, tea and chocolate will also help to alleviate restless leg syndrome.

As far as doses for above mentioned nutrients go, liver and onions once per week for iron, 300mg of Magnesium Citrate before bed daily, and dosages starting at 5mg/day for Folic acid (in addition to 1mg of B12).

Tune in next week when we’ll talk about iron.

Be Well and Be Zen



R. Gaby., Restless Legs Syndrome., Nutritional Medicine (2011)., Ch. 141., ps.553-55, ISBN13: 978-0-9828850-0-0. Fritz Perlberg Publishing, Concord, NH.

D. Benski, R. Barolet., Chinese Herbal Medicine: Formulas & Strategies (1990)., p.248-49., ISBN: 0-939616-10-6., Eastland Press, Seattle WA.

R.C. Atkins, 1999., Dr. Atkins Vita-nutrient Solution: Nature’s Answer to Drugs., p. 351 Simon & Shuster Publishers., ISBN 0-684-81849-3.

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