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Dietary Supplements That Help Restless Leg Syndrome

Dietary Supplements That Help Restless Leg Syndrome

By James P. Meschino, DC, MS

It is estimated that 7-10 percent (possibly up to 15 percent) of the U.S. population has restless leg syndrome. It is a bit more common in women than men. RLS, also called Willis-Ekbom disease, causes unpleasant or uncomfortable sensations in the legs and an irresistible urge to move them. Symptoms commonly occur in the late afternoon or evening hours, and are often most severe at night when a person is resting, such as sitting or lying in bed.

This makes it difficult to fall asleep, thus leading to daytime fatigue, lack of productivity,and compromised quality of life. The chronic sleep deprivation can lead to severe depression and anxiety.1 Here are some of the key dietary / supplement considerations to discuss with your doctor if you suffer from RLS or know someone who does.


It is well-documented that low iron levels can cause restless leg syndrome (RLS), which is correctable in these cases with simple iron supplementation. However, not all cases of RLS are caused by iron deficiency or a marginal deficiency in iron. In such cases, it’s important to look deeper.

Vitamin D

An important breakthrough study published in 2015 in the journal Sleep and Breathing showed that low blood vitamin D levels can also be a commonly overlooked cause of RLS.7 This study showed that raising vitamin D blood levels to above 50 nmol/L significantly reduced the severity of restless leg syndrome scores in RLS patients who had blood levels below this value at the outset of the study.6

This is an important finding because the drugs prescribed for RLS are associated with potential for addiction and/or significant withdrawal symptoms. Drugs commonly prescribed for RLS include gabapentin, benzodiazepines (e.g., Valium) and opioid drugs (e.g,, oxycodone).1-2

targeting - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register MarkAnyone with RLS should have their blood iron and vitamin D levels evaluated. If serum ferritin is below 20 ng/ml and/or if vitamin D blood level is below 50 nmol/L, these nutrient deficiencies can be corrected through targeted supplementation to get values into the ideal range. Studies suggest this approach will resolve a large percentage of cases.6-7

Probiotics, Prebiotics and Other Considerations

Other natural interventions showing promise in resolving RLS include probiotic and prebiotic supplements, as bacterial overgrowth (often seen in irritable bowel syndrome) is also a common finding in many (perhaps as high as 70 percent of) RLS cases.3-5

Note also that use of alcohol, nicotine (smoking) and caffeine are known to aggravate RLS and thus should be avoided or greatly minimized in RLS patients. RLS is also associated with other health conditions and other factors including:

  • End-stage renal disease and hemodialysis
  • Neuropathy (nerve damage)
  • Use of certain medications such as anti-nausea drugs (e.g., prochlorperazine or metoclopramide), anti-psychotic drugs (e.g., haloperidol or phenothiazine derivatives), antidepressants that increase serotonin (e.g., fluoxetine or sertraline), and some cold and allergy medications that contain older antihistamines (e.g., diphenhydramine)
  • Pregnancy, especially in the last trimester; however, in most cases, symptoms disappear within four weeks after delivery1

Talk to Your Doctor

If you suffer from RLS and don’t have end-stage kidney disease, are not pregnant and are not using the drugs I have cited as potential causes of RLS, your serum ferritin and vitamin D levels should be evaluated. If either or both of these values are low, your doctor may use targeted supplementation of iron and/or vitamin D, respectively, to get these values into the more ideal range. As discussed, it is also prudent to avoid or minimize alcohol, caffeine and nicotine, and consider taking a probiotic supplement each day (and possibly a prebiotic supplement to support the growth of friendly gut bacteria).

RLS can be an extremely aggravating, annoying and life-altering condition that can lead to depression, compromised quality of life, and in some cases addiction to narcotic drugs. Patients and doctors should be proactive in the management of this condition as much as possible, with the inclusion of targeted lifestyle and supplementation strategies personalized to the patient’s health profile. Talk to your doctor for more information.


  1. Restless Legs Syndrome Fact Sheet. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institutes of Health.
  2. “Is Neurontin (Gabapentin) a Drug of Abuse?” Addiction and withdrawal side effects of RLS drugs. American Addiction Centers.
  3. Weinstock LB, et al. Restless legs syndrome is associated with irritable bowel syndrome and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. Sleep Med, 2011 Jun;12(6):610-3.
  4. Soifer LO, et al. [Comparative clinical efficacy of a probiotic vs. an antibiotic in the treatment of patients with intestinal bacterial overgrowth and chronic abdominal functional distension: a pilot study] (Article in Spanish). Acta Gastroenterol Latinoam, 2010 Dec;40(4):323-7.
  5. Kwak DS, et al. Short-term probiotic therapy alleviates small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, but does not improve intestinal permeability in chronic liver disease. Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol, 2014 Dec;26(12):1353-9.
  6. Wali S, Shukr A, Boudal A, et al. The effect of vitamin D supplements on the severity of restless leg syndrome. Sleep Breath, 2015;2:579-83.
  7. Wang J, O’Reilly B, Venkataramen R et al. Efficacy of oral iron in patients with restless leg syndrome and low-normal ferritin: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Sleep Med, 2009;9:973-5.

James Meschino, DC, MS, practices in Toronto, Ontario, Canada and is the author of four nutrition books, including The Meschino Optimal Living Program and Break the Weight Loss Barrier.

Your Backpack Is Stressing Your Spine

Your Backpack Is Stressing Your Spine

By Editorial Staff

When we think about who wears a backpack, we often think first of students and members of the military. But these days, backpack wearers increasingly transcend age and occupational categories. Who wears a backpack? The businessman who wants to avoid checking a bag at the airport. The mom preparing for a family day at the park. The senior staying active by hiking. The list goes on and on…

Backpacks serve a valuable purpose, but they’re also risky when worn incorrectly or overpacked – particularly risky to the spine. In fact, according to recent research, a backpack can exert stress forces on the spine ranging from seven to 11-plus times the weight of the backpack, depending on whether the backpack is worn with the spine in a neutral position or 20 degrees of forward flexion (tilted-forward posture, as is often the case when carrying a heavy backpack – otherwise you would fall backward).

According to the study, published in Surgical Technology International, adding 1-100 lbs to backpacks in 25-lb increments revealed that with incremental weight increases, stress forces on the spine increased incrementally as well (again, from seven to 11-plus times the additional weight). Total stress forces were identical whether wearing the backpack with one or two straps, although it is important to note that using a single strap will distribute the force unequally to one side of the body, potentially causing postural and other compensations / injuries.

kids with backpacks - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register MarkPrevious research links backpack use to back pain, spinal disc compression, neck pain, altered posture and walking mechanics, and even foot pressure. It’s easy to understand why, considering the magnitude of force delivered to the spine and the fact that spinal health – for better or worse – influences the health of the entire body. Your doctor can tell you more about spinal health, backpack safety, and the appropriate weight and position (e.g., single- vs. double-strap, etc.) that will minimize injury risk when wearing a backpack.

P Stands for Perfect Posture

P Stands for Perfect Your Posture

By Editorial Staff

Posture is a buzzword these days, and not for the right reasons: With an increasingly slumped, slouched, ergonomically disadvantaged lifestyle in which we’re controlled by our phones and other gadgets, posture and our overall health are suffering – big time.

While lifestyle changes can definitely help (read our article on that topic by clicking here), the following exercises can also be valuable in preventing poor posture and the health consequences that can result. Here are four simple exercises / stretches to get you started on your path to perfect posture:

1. Thoracic Rotation: Kneel down, place your right hand behind your head, and point your elbow out to the side. Brace your core and rotate your right shoulder toward your left arm. Follow your elbow with your eyes as you reverse the movement until your right elbow points toward the ceiling. That’s one repetition. Complete 20 total repetitions on each side.

2. Band Diagonal Raises: Attach a band or handle to the low pulley of a cable station. Standing with your left side toward the pulley, grab the handle with your right hand in front of your left hip and bend your elbow slightly. Pull the handle up and across your body until your hand is over your head and your thumb is pointing up (a Statue of Liberty pose). Return to the starting position. Complete 15-20 repetitions and then repeat with your left arm.

3. The Open Book Exercise: Lie on your side with your knees bent and your arms straight out in front of you, palms together. Keeping your knees on the ground, take your top arm and rotate your upper body all the way in the opposite direction, following your hand with your eyes. Hold for 2-3 seconds; return to starting position. Repeat on the other side. Do five repetitions on each side.

4. The Wing Stretch: Place the palm of the hand on the outside upper gluteal (buttock) region so your elbow sticks out to the side. This is the shoulder to be stretched. Grab the elbow with your other hand and pull it forward, simultaneously resisting the pull by stabilizing your shoulder girdle backward on the stretching shoulder. Hold for 10 seconds; repeat with opposite shoulder.

Talk to your doctor about other ways to improve your posture, from adjusting your chair height at work and in your car, to gym exercises you should – and shouldn’t – do, and more. P stands for perfect posture; now go out and get it!


Courtesy of “To Your Health”

The Problem With Surgery for Low Back Pain

The Problem With Surgery for Low Back Pain

By Editorial Staff

If you’ve ever experienced back pain, whether acute or chronic, there are a few facts you should know. First, you’re not alone; studies suggest 80 percent of adults experience at least one episode of low back pain in their lifetime. Second, thousands of people undergo back surgery every year for back pain, putting their bodies at risk for surgical complications. Third, chiropractic and other conservative, nonsurgical treatment methods have been shown to be effective for uncomplicated cases of LBP.

And here’s one more important fact: Research suggests the big problem with surgery for back pain, particularly chronic back pain (recurrent pain over weeks or months), is that it doesn’t seem to work – at least not any better than conservative care. The latest evidence: study findings published in the research journal Spine that found: “After an average of 11 years follow-up, there was no difference in patient self-rated outcomes between fusion and multidisciplinary cognitive-behavioral and exercise rehabilitation for cLBP (chronic low-back pain).

surgery - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register MarkThe results suggest that, given the increased risks of surgery and the lack of deterioration in nonoperative outcomes over time, the use of lumbar fusion in cLBP patients should not be favored in health care systems where multidisciplinary cognitive-behavioral and exercise rehabilitation programs are available.”

This isn’t the first study to suggest surgery isn’t your best option when it comes to the back. And if you think you can go to any type of doctor, think again. Expertise aside, research indicates that the type of doctor you visit first – namely a surgeon vs. a doctor of chiropractic – can essentially determine whether you’ll eventually undergo surgery. So think surgery last and visit a chiropractor first. Your back will thank you for it.

Weatherproof Your Body This Winter

Weatherproof Your Body This Winter

By Editorial Staff “To Your Health”

OK, it’s time for a quick lesson in weatherproofing your body. Particularly when you’re in the throes of winter (like now), skin health is pivotal. Here are some simple strategies to keep your skin healthy during the winter months:

    • Go easy on the water: Many of us have a tendency to languish in a hot shower or bath when it’s cold outside, but that’s exactly the recipe for skin disaster. Why? Because, contrary to what you might think, water actually depletes the skin’s natural moisturizing capabilities, particularly overly warm / hot water. As the water evaporates, it takes natural oils with it, leading to dry, flaky, unhealthy skin.


    • Lotion is your friend: A good moisturizer is key to protecting your skin during the winter months, and even more so after contact with above-mentioned water. Choose a product that lubricates the skin, slows the rate of water evaporation, and leaves your skin with that “silky-smooth” look and feel. To learn more about the right (and wrong) ingredients in skin-care products, click here.
    • skin - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark
    • The sun is still there: Winter might bring less daylight hours and more overcast skies, but that doesn’t eliminate the potential for the sun’s rays to harm your skin. A good sunscreen is still essential during the winter months whenever you plan on being outdoors for more than 15-20 minutes at a time, particularly during the hours of the day when the sun’s at its most intense: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Ditch the sunscreen and you’ll age your skin and increase your risk of developing skin cancer.


  • For some people, diet goes out the window during winter. After all, why stay in shape when you’re blanketed in cold-weather clothing all the time? Unfortunately, poor diet can take a toll on your skin, so make sure you eat plenty of skin-supporting foods during winter (and throughout the year). Click here for a complete list.

Your skin is your body’s largest organ, so take care of it this winter by incorporating the above tips into your daily routine. Your skin will thank you for it.

Poor Sleep Leads to Chronic Pain

Poor Sleep Leads to Chronic Pain

By Editorial Staff

Not getting enough sleep – or not enough quality sleep that leaves you refreshed and ready to take on the day, rather than fatigued, irritable and ready to crawl right back into bed? A major health issue could be in your future: chronic pain. In fact, your odds of suffering chronic pain due to poor quality and/or quantity of sleep may increase by a factor of two or three compared to people who experience better sleep.

A large multi-national review of 16 studies spanning 10 countries and involving 61,000 participants arrived at this disturbing conclusion, with the lead study author even declaring that the impact of sleep on pain may be more significant than the impact of pain on sleep – often regarded as a major contributor to poor sleep.

poor sleep - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark

And that wasn’t the only finding: Poor sleep also was associated with impaired responses to bacteria, viruses and other foreign substances, poor physical functioning, increased inflammation, higher cortisol levels, and other markers of pain, fatigue and overall compromised health.

Chronic pain isn’t something to mess with, but you don’t have to, thanks to your doctor of chiropractic. Discuss any pain you’re experiencing and don’t forget to mention any sleep issues. Whether poor sleep is causing your pain, or pain is causing poor sleep, your chiropractor can help determine the cause and correct it. Now that’s called a win-win.

Skip the Soda During Pregnancy

Skip the Soda During Pregnancy

By Editorial Staff

While it’s not completely understood why many women experience food cravings when baby’s on the way, we are beginning to understand which cravings you should try to fight if you can help it.

Soda – particularly non-diet soda – is one of them. Here’s why: Women who drink non-diet soda during pregnancy are doing their son or daughter a big disservice when it comes to their weight in childhood.

A recent study published in Pediatrics highlights this risk. Researchers studied more than 1,000 mother-child pairs and found each additional serving of non-diet (i.e., sugary) soda a pregnant woman consumed per day increased the odds that their child had larger waist size and body mass by age 7 compared to children whose mothers did not consume non-diet soda. What’s more, approximately 25 percent of children enrolled in the study were overweight or obese by mid-childhood; body-mass index, waist circumference and skinfold thickness (an indication of body fat) were highest in children whose mothers drank two or more non-diet sodas per day during pregnancy.

drinking soda - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register MarkThe bottom line: Stay away from the sugary soda when you’re expecting! You and your child will benefit in a big way. And by the way, while maternal diet soda consumption was not linked to childhood obesity in this study, that doesn’t mean the diet variety is part of the healthy, balanced diet you and your future child need. Your doctor can tell you more about which foods to stock up on and which to limit / avoid during this important time

Growing Up With Antibiotics, Growing Up With Asthma?

Growing Up With Antibiotics, Growing Up With Asthma?

By Editorial Staff

In the latest (but probably not the last) research to associate antibiotic use during infancy with the development of asthma, three studies suggest exposure to antibiotics (either prescribed to the pregnant mother or the child during the first year after birth) increases the risk that the child will suffer from asthma.

The first study found that “both prenatal (before birth) and post-natal exposure to antibiotics was associated with an increased risk of asthma.” Building on this, the second study noted: “Antibiotic use in the first year life is associated with an increased risk of early-onset childhood asthma that began before 3 years of age. The apparent effect has a clear dose response” (the more you take, the greater the risk).

asthma - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register MarkThe third study compared babies born in urban areas with those born in rural areas. While a number of factors increased the risk of asthma, “the use of antibiotics” was one factor contributing to development of the condition, particularly in urban areas.

Talk to your doctor about the risk-benefit profile of any medication you’re prescribed / recommended (including over-the-counter products); then make an informed decision on whether it’s worth the risk.

Prevent Arthritis Pain With Fiber

Prevent Arthritis Pain With Fiber

By Editorial Staff

Fiber has been shown to promote numerous positive health benefits, including bowel health, blood sugar control, cholesterol reduction and weight maintenance. But pain prevention? Yes, at least knee pain due to arthritis, according to recent research.

According to a study of middle-age (early 50’s at the start of the study) adults, people who eat the most fiber are less likely to suffer osteoarthritis-related knee pain and stiffness. The study of more than 1,200 adults found the top quarter of fiber consumers had a significant reduction in their risk of knee OA (61 percent lower risk) compared to the bottom quarter of fiber consumers. Knee OA was assessed nine years after the initial assessments, showing fiber intake earlier in life can have an impact on knee OA risk during later years.

arthritis - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register MarkThe study authors speculate that fiber may reduce the risk by two mechanisms: 1) reducing inflammation, which can cause pain; and 2) helping maintain a healthy weight, which puts less stress on joints and bones. To learn more about osteoarthritis and fiber, talk to your doctor. Click here for five easy ways to get more fiber in your daily diet.

Why You Should Be Making Periodic Visits to Your Chiropractor

Why You Should Be Making Periodic Visits to Your Chiropractor


When you experience back pain, chiropractic care can help relieve the pain and identify the underlying cause. But your care shouldn’t stop once the pain stops (or comes back, which can frequently happen).

A new study suggests maintenance chiropractic care (defined by the researchers as “treatment at regular intervals regardless of symptoms”) is more effective than symptomatic treatment (receiving chiropractic treatment only when you’re experiencing pain).

In the study, patients with recurrent / persistent low back pain who received maintenance care (scheduled every 1-3 months) after their initial treatment reported an average of 19.3 less days of “bothersome” low back pain over a 12-month period compared to patients who received only symptomatic chiropractic care. Overall, during the 12-month period, maintenance care patients made seven visits, on average, to their chiropractor, versus five visits, on average, for symptomatic patients.

So, if you’re suffering low back pain and your chiropractor suggests you come in periodically for treatment, you may want to heed his/her advice. It’s a research-supported suggestion that could dramatically reduce the amount of time you spend in pain.

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