If you’ve ever felt tingling, crawling or tugging sensations in your legs, seemingly for no reason at all, you might have thought you were going crazy. These feelings may keep you from sitting still or interrupt your sleep.
It turns out that there’s a name for it — doctors have dubbed this mysterious occurrence, which affects as many as 12 million people in the United States, “restless leg syndrome.” But those uncomfortable legs are just an observed phenomenon with no known causes, so some have suggested that restless legs syndrome is simply a psychological condition.
Many women experience restless legs during pregnancy, and some people feel the sensations throughout their arms as well. For some, it’s only while trying to sleep, and for others it comes on during the day.
On the holistic wellness side, where listening to your body is of utmost importance, we believe that restless legs are a sign of something out of balance.
While conventional treatments include prescribing medication to ease the discomfort or applying hot and cold packs to the legs, it seems wise to dig deeper and try to discern the root cause of this problem.
What causes restless leg syndrome?
Natural wellness experts have suggested that restless legs are related to motor nerve impulses which are thrown off. The nerve signals may not function properly because of a lack of certain minerals in the body. Magnesium and iron are the deficiencies which are most often associated with restless leg syndrome.
Magnesium is required in the process of regulating nerve signaling. Magnesium needs calcium to work properly, so they should be consumed together in a ratio of 1 part magnesium to 2 parts calcium. Most people eating a real food diet get enough calcium through the consumption of eggs, nuts and seeds, leafy greens and bone-in fish, but magnesium is difficult to find in modern foods grown in depleted soils. Therefore having regular Epsom salt baths and using a transdermal magnesium supplement (one that you apply to the skin via an oil, spray or lotion) is the best way to top up magnesium supplies.
Iron deficiency can cause restless leg syndrome in some people. To increase iron levels, avoid consumption of grains and legumes, which block iron absorption. Consume foods like grass-fed beef and lamb, and seafood such as oysters, to improve iron levels.
Another nutritional consideration is a lack of B vitamins. They play a vital role in the formation of neurotransmitters which control your nerves and muscles. When a person is deficient in B vitamins, tingling, twitching and nerve sensations are common symptoms. A B-vitamin complex supplement taken with meals is recommended (be sure to find one with the active form of folate, not folic acid).
By topping up levels of magnesium (and calcium if you are deficient), iron and B vitamins, you should be able to find relief from restless legs within a few weeks.
Decreasing the time that you spend sitting or standing in one position throughout the day is also a vital step to improve circulation and muscle tone. An extensive workout routine is not required — just don’t sit still for more than 20 minutes at a time! Incorporating regular movement into your day is a great way to improve overall health and extend your lifespan.
Side effects of medications
Many medications may cause restless legs as a side effect. This may be via interaction with magnesium or a blocking of magnesium absorption. Some common culprits are Maalox, Ritalin and oral contraceptive pills, though the list is long. Do some research on any medications that you take to ensure they are not causing restless legs.
Natural treatment for restless leg syndrome
For fast relief, muscle-relaxing herbs such as passionflower, valerian and kava can be used prior to sleep. While they will not correct any underlying issues, at least these natural sedatives are gentler on the body than any pharmaceutical drugs. A suggested protocol is to take one dose an hour before going to bed and a second dose when you want to go to sleep.
For lasting healing, it’s best to work on correcting the underlying problem using the nutritional and lifestyle methods discussed above. Other herbs that may support the nervous system for long-term balance include gotu kola and ashwagandha. These should produce gradual improvement over a period of a few months.
Make restless legs a thing of the past with these natural deep-healing tips. While you are working on building up a robust nutritional remedy, why not try these other strategies for a good sleep tonight?
—The Alternative Daily