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Restless Legs Syndrome - the What and the Why

Do you struggle with Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)?⁠ You know that jittery feeling in your legs, especially at night, that makes you want to constantly move/pace the lounge room!? ⁠People with RLS (myself included at times) feel the irresistible urge to move their legs, which can also be accompanied by other uncomfortable sensations. The sensations are often described as a dull or intense aching, throbbing, pulling, a strong desire to stretch and lengthen the legs and more. The sensations can range in severity from uncomfortable/annoying to painful. Typically moving or massaging the legs relieves the discomfort.

As RLS typically occurs/worsens at night, this constant desire and need to move can drastically affect an individual’s sleep, making the cycle even worse.

So, why so restless?

In clinic (and from personal experience 🙋‍♀️), I find restless legs are generally caused by 2 main factors;⁠

1. Iron deficiency⁠

2. Sleep deprivation/fatigue/stress

⁠Other potential causes of RLS include; certain medications, smoking, pregnancy (low iron could be involved here too), other nutritional deficiencies, excess caffeine/alcohol and nerve/organ damage. However, time and time again, I see the repeat offender is LOW IRON. So any patient of mine that struggles with restless legs, we need to run a simple blood test, especially to check their iron levels.

⁠What is iron?

Iron is the building block required to produce haemoglobin, a component of our red ⁠blood cells. Red blood cells and haemoglobin operate as ⁠tiny vehicles that transport oxygen from our lungs to ⁠the rest of our body! In turn, our cells produce carbon ⁠dioxide, which the red blood cells return to the lungs, where it can be exhaled. Pretty cool huh!?⁠ Apart from RLS, other signs you could be low in iron include;⁠

😴Fatigue/tiredness⁠ 😲Shortness of breath/excessive yawning⁠ 😴Overall weakness⁠ 👋🦶Cold hands and feet⁠ 🥴Dizziness⁠ 🚶‍♂️Pale skin⁠ ❤Fast or irregular heartbeats⁠ Some factors that can play a role in iron deficiency/anaemia include; being vegan/vegetarian, heavy menstrual periods, pregnancy, a compromised gut and other nutritional deficiencies which help with the absorption and utilisation of iron such as B12, Vit A, Vit C and B2.⁠ Rich food sources of iron include; red meat (most absorbable form), pork, chicken, fish, eggs, green leafy vegetables, lentils and some nuts and seeds. It’s important to note that if you have iron deficiency, diet alone may not be enough to ⁠restore your levels.

⁠ Yet, before taking any supplementation, always consult your healthcare practitioner first. Do you suspect you might be low in iron and/or do you suffer from restless legs? Book an appointment at Darling Health today, our practitioners are here to help!

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