So you may have heard of Restless Legs Syndrome….a neurological condition where someone has compulsion to move their limbs in order to feel relief. It most often happens in the evening or at night and can contribute to insomnia or poor sleep (sometimes without the individual realising this). Sometimes it is the bed partner who is most acutely aware of the restless legs!
Research over the past 20 years has suggested some of the causative factors at play include a lack of iron specifically in the brain, excess neurotransmitter activity during the day (dopamine in particular), and genetics.
When considering why someone may have a deficiency (lack) of iron in their brain, we would look into the following areas:
- What is their iron intake (food diary)?
- How well are they digesting their food?
- How well are they absorbing the iron in their food? Is there any competition for iron absorption in the gut….think microbes who often take iron before the human cells get access to it.
Restless Legs Syndrome can also be confused with leg cramps at night which can be due to common causes such as dehydration, lack of magnesium or potassium.
Finally ensuring an individual has a strong and balanced immune system is key (remember 70% of the immune system is in the gut) and stress management is very important to address in this area. Raised cortisol (from the adrenal glands), due to stress can suppress the immune system.
Please share this article if you know someone with restless legs. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/neurology_neurosurgery/centers_clinics/restless-legs-syndrome/what-is-rls/causes.html
The Magic of Magnesium….magnesium is a very important mineral needed in our bodies for many reasons. It is responsible for over 300 enzyme reactions and is mainly concentrated in the brain, muscles and bones.
A lack of magnesium in someone’s body may lead to tension, spasms or cramps. Bowels can be sluggish and slow. Brain and mood symptoms may include anxiety, panic, migraines and restless legs causing trouble sleeping. People with Type 2 Diabetes are statistically much more likely to have low magnesium as insulin affects both glucose and magnesium entry into the cell. Do you take a proton pump inhibitor (eg Nexium) or know someone who does? Magnesium levels are often lower in individuals who take these medications long term. See this link for a report by the Food and Drug Authority in the USA.
Why are we so deficient in this essential mineral?
Many of us eat a diet with practically no magnesium: refined foods eg bread and pasta, dairy and meat contains no magnesium.
Modern lifestyles commonly deplete our magnesium stores:
- Excess alcohol, salt, coffee and soda
- Prolonged stress
- Some intestinal parasites
- Absorption of magnesium requires vitamin D, B6 and selenium which can be lacking in our diets also.
Where do we easily get magnesium from food?
- Sea vegetables – seaweed
We regularly test the amount of magnesium in cells (red blood cell) rather than in the serum (fluid around blood cells) as this gives a longer term result on the amount of magnesium absorbed (over the past 3 months) rather than from intake over the past 24 hours. Depending on testing and symptoms, different types of magnesium supplementation are recommended on an individual basis.
An easy way to relax and absorb magnesium is to have a Epsom salt bath – relax in there for at least 20 minutes to allow the magnesium to be absorbed.
A great pre-sleep routine.
People with severe kidney disease or heart disease should only take magnesium under a doctor’s supervision.