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Supplements for Restless Leg Syndrome

Updated on September 13, 2012

There are a number of supplements that are important and available for restless leg syndrome (RLS). Iron deficiency and RLS is a very important area where research and treatment methods have focused in the management of the disorder. Other efforts have focused on vitamin B12 for RLS since there is a close relationship between the causes of the disorder and the deficiency of this vitamin in the particular areas of the body especially the brain.

What is iron?

Iron is a very important mineral that is used by the body for complex essential protein functions. It is found in traces in all living organisms and absorbed into the body through ingestion and metabolism activities. Cytochrome and catalase are some of the important examples of iron that are essential in the body. The hemoglobin component that carries oxygen is another very important example of iron that the body cannot do without. It should be noted that humans do not have free iron. Instead, iron is embedded on such important entities as transferrin that transports the same from the duodenum to the body cells. When this transportation to the cells is complete, the iron is then bound to the ferritin.

Fortunately, iron is a very common mineral that can be sourced from dietary sources. The food that is rich in this mineral includes red meat, chicken, cereals, vegetables, fish and beans. All these dietary sources of iron are classified into two general iron categories. These two iron categories are heme and non-heme classes of iron. The main characteristic of heme iron is the fact that this is broken down in the body easily. The absorption of the same is also easy and faster compared to the non-heme iron. The most common and rich source of heme iron includes the red meat. The non-heme source of iron is vegetables.

It is notable that the body does not have a mechanism through which iron can be removed from the body. This is with the exception of the limited amount that is lost during the loss of mucosal and epithelial cells. In this way, the uptake of this mineral together with its subsequent storage, transportation and use is strictly guarded and regulated by the body. These are the important factors that should be considered when addressing the issues of iron deficiency and RLS.

It is common that cases of iron deficiency are experienced in an increased manner compared to other minerals. The reasons behind the iron deficiency cases include the fact that the body may experience enhanced and frequent demands for the mineral which may not necessarily be well met by food sources. There are also instances where iron may be lost from the body as a result of increased blood loss due to bleeding or injuries. Some cases of iron deficiency may also be occasioned by reduced dietary intake of iron due to consumption of those food sources that are not rich in the mineral. Another very important reason that can occasion iron deficiency in the body includes the fact that the body may experience ill-absorption of the mineral due to diseases and other disorders.

In this sense therefore, apart from children (where incidences of iron are common), menstruating women also commonly suffer from iron deficiency.

Symptoms of iron deficiency

Well before the deficiency of iron manifests itself on very serious and dire manner, there are early symptoms of iron deficiency. Among the most common of these includes;

· Feelings of fatigue

· Feeling dizzy

· General body weakness

· Loss of hair

· Decreased immunity

· Restless leg syndrome

It is therefore very important to be on the lookout of these early symptoms of iron deficiency so that you can address the problem at the earliest opportunity.

What is RLS?

Restless leg syndrome is a health disorder that is basically manifested by the feelings of discomfort on the legs. This feeling is usually directed to create an urge of movement or activity for the affected body parts especially the legs. However, this disorder also affects other body parts such as the hands, the trunk and even the torso. This is part of the reason why the disorder is also known as Willis-Ekbom disease to clear the wrong notions that it affects only the legs.

In its manifestations, the RLS feeling of the urge to move may bring about a painful sensation. Other times the feeling may be itchy, crawling or twitchy. This is dependent on the particular case of RLS and that different people are affected differently. However, there is a common feeling of relief to all individuals when one satisfies that movement urge.

It should be noted that RLS is such a complex disorder that it is usually surrounded by scientific controversies as a result of its causes, symptoms and treatment options. Some people have argued that RLS is not really a disorder in itself; it is a manifestation of underlying health issues. Others have posited that it is in fact a neurological disorder caused by complete sets of causes and not related to any other health anomaly.

These scientific considerations and discussions are not in any way helped by claims made by popularly big pharmaceutical companies; that the disorder may be effectively treated by certain drugs and which are mostly meant to treat completely different disorders from RLS. However, it is good to note that RLS is a common disorder that is normally discomforting and disruptive. There is therefore a need to look deeper and get to see the real causes as well as making sure that a viable recourse for the anomaly has been identified and made accessible.

It is a clear fact that the disorder affects both men and women; but women are more prone to the same as a result of loss of iron during menstruation. Is has been documented that the disorder affects about nine or 10 percent of the population.

It is good to note that there are two types of RLS. These are primary and secondary RLS. Primary RLS occurs usually before the age of forty and that it sometimes go dormant. The real causes of this RLS are unknown and it worsens with time. Secondary RLS occurs at the age of forty and above. The main causes of this RLS are drugs and other medications. It can also be caused by another hidden anomaly or disease in the body.

Signs and symptoms of RLS

Due to the fact that the feelings that are felt by individuals who claim to have RLS are subjective and particular to different people, there has been a need to define what can be used to diagnose RLS. In this way, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) was tasked with the efforts of coming up with what criteria that can be used to diagnose RLS. According to NIH, these are the criteria that should be used in the diagnosis of restless leg syndrome;

· The need to move the affected area. This feeling may be painful or not

· The feeling of relief after the moving of the affected area.

· Deteriorating of symptoms especially when resting is extended. The symptoms also deteriorate in the evening, during the night and also in the morning.

When these signs and symptoms are experienced, then there is certainty that one is suffering from this disorder.

Causes of RLS

There are a number of factors that are attributed to the occurrence of restless leg syndrome. These causes are discussed below;

Sometimes this disorder is caused by other underlying conditions and diseases. Some of these diseases that are associated with RLS include, but not limited to the following;

· Diabetes

· Sleep apnea

· Kidney diseases

· Arthritis

· Fibromyalgia

· Varicose vein disease

· Parkinson disease

However, it is notable that not all cases of the above disorders and diseases lead to development of restless leg syndrome. It is also good to know that you can still develop restless leg condition even without having any of those diseases.

Other reasons of developing this condition may be because of dietary deficiencies. Taking a diet without vital vitamins and minerals can cause development of restless leg syndrome. Among the most important dietary causes of RLS include deficiencies in iron. This is shown by the existence of very low levels of ferritin which may trigger the onset of RLS. However, it should be noted that the majority of cases of RLS are not caused by iron deficiency. According to the available statistics, iron deficiency only account for about 20% of cases of restless leg syndrome. Iron is very important in the brain and it is used to form dopamine. For those individuals with restless leg syndrome, the iron levels are usually lower than it is normally expected.

Pregnancy is also a very common cause of RLS. This usually happens during the last three months of pregnancy. However, restless leg syndrome diminishes once the mother delivers. This usually takes less than one month after delivery.

Alcoholism has also been cited as a cause of restless leg syndrome. There is a high possibility of developing the disorder once one has become a habitual drunkard. The situation is said to worsen when this drunkard is also a heavy smoker. In addition to alcoholism, failing to get enough sleep is also a possible cause of restless leg syndrome. In this sense, the body is said to experience stress and in this way, stress causes untold suffering to the body.

It has been documented that some drugs that are taken to treat other conditions are also attributed to the development of RLS. These drugs usually affect the brain and the central nervous system. Some of these drugs have properties that can well make them pass the blood-brain barrier. This makes then to go to the brain and interfere with the normal balance and hence make the user of these drugs to develop RLS. Among the most common drugs that are known to potentially cause RLS includes;

· Those drugs that treat nausea

· Antihistamines

· Those drugs that are taken to treat or manage depression

· Anticonvulsants

· Antipsychotics

However, this does not mean that they cannot be used; it means that they are potentially responsible for the development of restless leg syndrome.

RLS is also caused by hereditary factors. It has been indicated by statistics that about sixty percent of those individuals that have the disorder inherited it from the family tree. This means that genetics is a major cause of this disorder and that there are very high chances of contracting the disorder out of the fact that someone in your family tree had it. Scientists have singled out the genes that are directly responsible for the development and inheritance of the disorder. These genes are;

· BTBD9

· MAP2K5

· MEIS1

· PTPRD

The genes responsible for the condition have been studied using their loci in the chromosomes. This has brought about the knowledge that the loci of these genes in the chromosomes are different in different groups of people or societies.

Research in iron deficiency and RLS

A lot of research have centered on the importance of iron and the effects of iron deficiency in the body. It has been unambiguous that the levels of iron in those individuals with restless leg syndrome are usually very low.

One such study was done in 2001 and published in a popular journal (Journal of women’s health and gender-based medicine). This study examined the levels of iron in pregnant mothers. The iron levels were checked before pregnancy, during and after. Women who had no restless leg syndrome before pregnancy were used in the study.

In the last three months of pregnancy, 23% of these mothers had developed restless leg syndrome. It was also observed that only one mother in the study continued having RLS after delivery. The results of this study were that;

· Those mothers who developed RLS during pregnancy had low levels of serum ferritin before they became pregnant.

· The same mothers who developed this disorder during pregnancy also had considerably lower levels of folate than those who never developed the condition during the study.

· The same mothers who developed restless leg syndrome also had delayed sleep as well as being more depressed.

The study also came up with recommendations;

· In order to prevent the development of restless leg syndrome, the amount or levels and ranges that would be considered normal for folate and serum ferritin should be reflected on when considering those mothers who are pregnant.

Another research that was published in 2005 centered on the levels of iron, its deficiency and the crossover to the brain. The paper was published in a popular journal called journal of sleep research. The study was aimed at examining the effects of different levels of iron in the CNS as far as RLS is concerned.

Twenty individuals were used in the study. Among these 20 individuals, ten of them had RLS while the rest had insomnia but no RLS. These Japanese researchers took the measure of serum and cerebrospinal iron, ferritin and transferrin. These levels had very little difference in the serum measurements for the two groups of subjects. Those with RLS recorded higher levels of transferrin in the cerebrospinal fluid than those subjects without RLS.

The researchers were able to speculate that the low level of iron in the brain was caused by the inability of the iron crossover from serum to the brain. They were also able to deduce that RLS was caused by the inability of transportation of iron from serum to the central nervous system.

Other studies have focused on the importance of iron in the part it plays in the production of dopamine. It has been shown that dopamine is responsible for very important roles in the brain and that insufficiency of iron causes restless leg syndrome. In this way, normal levels of iron in the body do not mean that you cannot develop RLS. The best measure of this is using the levels that are found in the brain.

In this sense therefore, iron supplements can be used by those people who have normal levels of iron in their body. This problem is caused by the fact that there is dysfunction in the communication of this iron from the blood to the brain.

Vitamin B12 and RLS

Vitamin B12 is very important in the body. It is concerned with cellular activities that are very important to the human body. Such activities include metabolism and the production of DNA and energy.

Vitamin B12 deficiency is known to lead to the development of restless leg syndrome. This is brought about by the fact that the deficiency of vitamin B12 in the central nervous system usually lead to destruction of the brain. When this damage is caused to the parts of the brain that is involved in the control of motor functions symptoms such as those of RLS results.

Vitamin B12 is closely linked to iron. In this sense, where iron is not present, then you will find that there is also absence of vitamin B12. When there is a case involving loss of blood through too much bleeding, there is loss of both iron and this vitamin. In this way, it has been shown that those patients suffering from restless leg syndrome registers low levels of both iron and vitamin B12. It is also notable that where there is a case of anemia, supplements of vitamin B12 is very important to control any other loss of iron. In this way, the body will be able to regain normal levels of iron.

It should be noted that vitamin B12 for RLS as well as treating other disorders such as anemia should be taken together with other supplements such as iron supplements. These supplements may be taken orally, as an injection and sprays through the nose. Combining these supplements is a good way of ensuring that you have managed and successfully dealt with restless leg disorder. Vitamin B12 alone is not enough to treat cases of restless leg syndrome. This is the reason why supplements should also feature other minerals and vitamins.

It would be difficult to take all these supplements at the same time and therefore looking for that product with all these minerals is a good idea. Sedorum has been one such good example of a product that contains iron and vitamin B12. The same also contains folate which is associated with RLS. Sedorum also has magnesium which is also associated with RLS when it is insufficient. Others that are found in this product include valerian and lemon extracts, calcium, GABA and glycine.

Conclusion

Restless leg syndrome is a fairly common disorder that is caused by a number of factors. Among the most important factors are hereditary factors, dietary deficiencies, drugs that are used to treat other diseases and disorders as well as other underlying medical factors. Among the most important ways to diagnose the existence of RLS is by monitoring the behavior of the feeling that one feels on the legs and other affected areas of the body. It should be noted that the disorder does not affect only the body. The pain that is felt mostly occurs in the evening, during the night and in the morning.

Supplements for restless leg syndrome should be taken so as to include all the necessary nutritional needs. In this way, supplements should include the necessary minerals and vitamins such as iron, vitamin B12, calcium, magnesium and any other mineral and vitamin that work to prevent, manage or treat RLS.

Research has shown that there is a close relationship between iron deficiency and RLS. Iron is responsible for the production of dopamine which is very important in the neurotransmission. Most of those individuals use iron supplements in addition to vitamin B12 for RLS. It has been shown that there is a close relationship between iron and vitamin B12. In this way, the two supplements taken together are very helpful in the treatment of restless leg syndrome.

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