Do You Have Creepy Crawly Sensations In Your Legs?
Or maybe you would describe it as being electrocuted by gnomes with tiny live wires? If either of these sound familiar, you may be one of the 12 million Americans who suffer from Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS).
Doctors say there is no known cause or cure, but they can help you manage the symptoms with anticonvulsants, tranquilizers, opioids, and Parkinson’s disease medications. Watch out, though – you may need a few extra medications to manage the potential side effects: amnesia, the urge to binge on food or shop compulsively, breathing problems, dizziness, nausea and fatigue. (Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4)
The worst part? RLS tends to flare up the most during pregnancy, and none of these medications are safe for baby.
Fortunately, managing RLS naturally might be easier than you think. I’ve struggled with this sleep thief off and on since I was about 8 years old, and was taking tranquilizers to manage it by my early twenties. Fortunately, through a little trial and error I’ve been able to eliminate it without the help of medications. Here’s what I’ve learned about the possible causes of RLS, and how I’ve managed it naturally for the past 7 years.
Magnesium is needed to push excess calcium out of cells so that smooth muscle can relax. A deficiency can cause muscle tightening, twitches, involuntary jerks, and charlie horses.
What to do: It’s difficult to get adequate levels of magnesium through food for three reasons:
- Modern soil is very depleted in magnesium, as are the crops grown in it. (source)
- Stress causes us to burn through our stores more quickly
- Magnesium is not easily absorbed in the digestive tract (source)
The good news is, magnesium is easily absorbed through the skin. You can supplement with magnesium oil (here’s where to get it), epsom salt baths, or pico-ionic magnesium (a highly bioavailable form taken internally)
I also make sure to get other minerals that are known to be helpful for calming restless legs, such as potassium. My favorite “supplement” is homemade bone broth with a pinch of unrefined sea salt, which is an excellent source of magnesium, calcium, potassium, and trace minerals. Here’s how to make it.
But what about the 2:1 ratio of calcium to magnesium intake I’m supposed to have? Won’t this mess me up?
Experts often suggest that people need to consume twice as much calcium as magnesium for bone health. According to Dr. Carolyn Dean, the supposed “ideal” ratio is a myth. Apparently, the recommendation goes back to statements made by French scientist Jean Durlach, who warned that calcium intake should never dip exceed twice the amount of magnesium consumed. New research indicates why he made this suggestion – without adequate magnesium, calcium can calcify soft tissue and contribute to heart disease. (source)
According to Dean, “A hundred years ago we enjoyed a diet high in magnesium with a daily intake of 500 mg. Today we are lucky to get 200 mg. However, calcium in the diet has never been higher. This high-calcium, low-magnesium diet, when coupled with calcium supplementation, can give a calcium to magnesium imbalance of 10:1 or even higher — which constitutes a walking time bomb of impaired bone health and heart disease.” (source)
Dr. Dean recommends getting a 1:2 or at least a 1:1 (calcium to magnesium) ratio in the diet.
Other considerations: LOTS of drugs – from Maalox to Ritalin to the birth control pill – deplete magnesium. Here’s a partial list. Also, some drugs interact with magnesium, so caution should be used when supplementing.
Low Thyroid/Estrogen Dominance
This may actually relate back to magnesium. “Too much estrogen can lead to magnesium deficiency and vitamin B deficiency, according to Dr. John Lee. A deficiency in magnesium causes muscle tightening and that causes people to experience the leg spasms common in RLS. The deficiency in vitamin B can cause neurological problems, which is what causes the creepy, crawly sensations.” (source)
According to this study, “Patients with RLS have lower levels of dopamine in the substantia nigra and respond to iron administration. Iron, as a cofactor in dopamine production, plays a central role in the etiology of RLS.”
Low dopamine can cause neurological problems such as the creepy crawly sensations described above. That’s why Parkinson’s drugs work – they boost dopamine levels with a synthetic version.
Before you rush of to supplement with iron, though, there are two things to consider. First, iron and magnesium compete for receptor sites in the body, so taking too much can affect your magnesium stores.
Second, according to Dr. Campbell-McBride iron supplementation can actually make anemia worse under certain conditions:
Most people with abnormal gut flora have various stages of anaemia. It is not surprising. They not only can’t absorb essential for blood vitamins and minerals from food, but their own production of these vitamins is damaged. On top of that people with damaged gut flora often have a particular group of pathogenic bacteria growing in their gut, which are iron-loving bacteria (Actinomyces spp., Mycobacterium spp., pathogenic strains of E. coli, Corynebacterium spp., and many others). They consume whatever iron the person gets from the diet, leaving that person deficient in iron. Unfortunately, supplementing iron makes these bacteria grow stronger and does not remedy anaemia.” (Gut & Psychology Syndrome)
As mentioned under the thyroid section, a deficiency in B vitamins can cause neurological issues which result in tingling sensations.
So that’s it! Everything I’ve learned about Restless Leg Syndrome and a bag of chips (fried in coconut oil, of course!)
What’s worked for you?
Disclaimer: None of these statements have been evaluated by the FDA. The information on this blog is for informational purposes only and is not meant to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease. You can see my full disclaimer here.