Which Nutrients Help Treat Restless Leg Syndrome?

Can the right nutrients calm your jumpy legs and help you get a good night's sleep? Nutrition Diva describes 4 ways to help relieve your RLS symptoms.

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS
4-minute read
Episode #259

Top 4 Nutrition Tips for Restless Legs Syndrome

Tip #1: Check for iron deficiency. I mentioned earlier that certain nutritional deficiencies can cause or exacerbate RLS.  In particular, RLS can be a symptom of iron deficiency. If you are deficient in iron, fixing that is very likely to help resolve your restless legs.

If you don't have a deficiency, taking iron supplements will probably just make you constipated.

If you don't have an iron deficiency, however, taking iron supplements will probably just make you constipated. In some people, taking iron supplements can actually lead to iron overload. So, ask your doctor to test your iron levels and to advise you whether a supplement is necessary.

See also: Is it Safe to Cook in Cast-Iron?


Tip #2: Fill up on folate. Restless Legs Syndrome has also been linked with low levels of folate, but this is another nutrient that we don't want to supplement indiscriminately. High doses of folic acid can mask a B12 deficiency and have also been linked to an increased risk of colon cancer.

If you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant, or your doctor has confirmed that you're deficient, a supplement is a good idea - just don't exceed the recommended dosage. Otherwise, focus on getting folate from foods, which has none of the same risks. Garbanzo beans, lentils, and spinach are all good sources. 

See also: Folic Acid and Cancer Risk


Tip #3: Maximize your magnesium.  Magnesium has a popular reputation for preventing muscle cramps as well as for making you sleepy - which makes it seem like the perfect nutritional remedy for RLS. So far, the evidence that taking magnesium relieves RLS symptoms is pretty skimpy. But magnesium is also fairly harmless. If you want to try it out, take 500mg at bedtime. If it even seems to help, that's good enough for me. It may also have the bonus effect of promoting regularity.

Although true magnesium deficiency is pretty rare, many of us fall short of the daily recommended intake. So, whether or not you decide to experiment with a magnesium supplement, why not also make an effort to put more magnesium-rich foods into your diet? Magnesium is found in most whole foods, especially green leafy veggies, nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains. As a matter of fact, many of the foods that are high in magnesium are also high in folate and vice versa - two nutrients thought to help with RLS.

Tip #4: Avoid caffeine and alcohol before bed.  Although caffeine is a stimulant and alcohol is a sedative, both interfere with sleep patterns and both can make RLS symptoms worse. Whether or not you suffer from RLS, I suggest saving the java for your morning wake-up and trading that night-cap for a cup of herbal tea.

See also: How Much Alcohol Is Healthy?

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About the Author

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS

Monica Reinagel is a board-certified licensed nutritionist, author, and the creator of one of iTunes' most highly ranked health and fitness podcasts. Her advice is regularly featured on the TODAY show, Dr. Oz, NPR, and in the nation's leading newspapers, magazines, and websites. Do you have a nutrition question? Call the Nutrition Diva listener line at 443-961-6206. Your question could be featured on the show.