Emma Nutrition

Simplifying the science through cooking and education. When I'm not on Mummy duties…

Causes of Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)


If you’ve ever suffered from restless leg syndrome (RLS) you will know how frustrating it can be. As a previous sufferer myself I recall pacing the streets at night to try to rid the feeling of ants crawling inside my calf muscles. It really is awful!

The cause of RLS is unknown but there are some theories surrounding nutritional deficiencies. Here are some:

  • B Vitamin deficiency – Folic acid/Folate/Vitamin B9 deficiency is a common precursor to RLS
  • Magnesium deficiency -low levels of Magnesium are associated with muscle cramping and supplementation has been shown to decrease muscle pain
  • Iron deficiency – Iron is important for blood flow and study results reveal a protein profile in RLS that is consistent with iron deficiency, dopamine dysregulation and inflammation.
  • Dehydration – Ensuring you are topped up with water is imperative for RLS. Being dehydrated can reduce circulation as well as alter mineral balance.
  • Hormones – pregnancy and taking the oral contraceptive pill (OCP) have strong links to RLS.
  • Mutant gene – mutations in the MEIS1 gene that results in the production of an aberrant protein have been linked to RLS. “The gene defect may need additional triggers to develop the syndrome…This gene is probably not the most common cause of restless legs syndrome in the population we studied, but it may be more prevalent in other regions of the world”

Dr Stephanie Patton from Penn State University who led this study explained, “Our results reveal a protein profile in the RLS/WED CSF that is consistent with iron deficiency, dopamine dysregulation and inflammation.” The study authors postulated that the iron deficiency that occurs in RLS may be due to and may also contribute to vitamin D deficiency. The dopamine pathway may be altered via a vitamin D-mediated pathway and because of the tie between iron, dopamine and vitamin D, it could be reflective of the alterations in the iron/dopamine pathway. The results also suggested there could be inflammatory or immune factors at play. The studies have not yet found specific therapeutic strategies but the links found above are strong and tie into previously known therapies.

If you suffer from RLS you could look at increasing B Vitamins, Vitamin D and Iron while decreasing acidic inflammatory causing foods.


Author: EmmaNutrition

Emma Wight-Boycott MSc mBANT is a natural health expert with a passion for simplifying the science. Emma works with post natal mums, weekend runners and those with digestive issues to find the source of their health issues and rediscover their health mojo.

2 thoughts on “Causes of Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)

  1. Thanks for posting about RLS! I haven’t had it in several years, but I used to suffer horribly from it. I’d heard about the suggested link to dehydration and magnesium, but the B9 link was new to me.

    • I’m sorry you suffered from it; it really is infuriating. I will find the link re B9 for you and post it tomorrow in case you would like to read about it further – although I do hope it never returns 😉

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