What is it?
There are several naturopathic health strategies that may help alleviate symptoms of restless legs syndrome (RLS). It’s important to note that natural remedies should be used in conjunction with medical treatments for RLS.
Restless legs syndrome triggers uncomfortable sensations in the legs that result in a strong desire to move them, with the urge tending to be being more intense when relaxed or attempting to sleep.
(RLS) is a neurological disorder that is also referred to as Willis-Ekbom disease (RLS/WED)[i]. The primary indication of RLS is an intense urge to move your legs, particularly when you are sitting or lying down[ii]. You may also experience peculiar sensations such as tingling, crawling, or pulling in the legs, which can be alleviated by movement.
The primary concern with RLS is that it disrupts sleep, leading to daytime drowsiness and exhaustion. If left untreated, RLS and lack of sleep can increase the risk of other health complications, including depression[iii].
Why do we get it?
The causes of RLS are, as of yet, unclear, although a combination of genetic factors and environmental triggers may be involved.
There are certain things that may put you in a higher risk category for RLS. But it’s uncertain if any of these factors cause RLS. Some possible factors include:
Diet and Supplement Advice:
It is recommended to assess your diet to ensure that you're receiving adequate essential vitamins and nutrients. It's advisable to avoid high calorie processed foods with low or no nutritional value.
In some cases, those with RLS may have a deficiency in specific vitamins and minerals. Based on your test results, you may need to modify your diet or take dietary supplements.
If you have an iron deficiency, consider incorporating these iron-rich foods into your diet: dark green leafy vegetables, peas, dried fruit, beans, red meat and pork and poultry and seafood. Pairing iron-rich foods with vitamin C sources can help your body absorb iron. Consider incorporating these sources of vitamin C into your diet: citrus juices, grapefruit, oranges, tangerines, strawberries, kiwi, melons, tomatoes, peppers, broccoli and leafy greens[xv].
Including folate and magnesium in your diet can be helpful for RLS, since deficiencies in these nutrients can contribute to the condition. Folate and magnesium are important for proper muscle function and nerve signalling. By eating more foods that contain these nutrients, you may be able to alleviate your RLS symptoms. To boost your folate and magnesium intake, consider adding the following foods to your diet: liver, spinach and other dark leafy greens, black-eyed peas, lentils and beans, rice and quinoa, asparagus, Brussels sprouts and avocado[xvi].
What to avoid:
Consuming foods and beverages that contain caffeine may exacerbate RLS symptoms by overstimulating your nerves. These items may include coffee, tea and energy drinks. It is also advisable to reduce your intake of high calorie processed foods with little nutritional value, such as fizzy drinks, fried foods, and those with high sugar content.
Magnesium: Magnesium is a mineral that is essential for many bodily functions, including proper muscle and nerve function. It has been suggested that magnesium supplementation may be beneficial for individuals with RLS. Studies have shown that magnesium can improve sleep quality, reduce muscle cramping, and decrease RLS symptoms[xvii]. Try: Magnesium Bisglycinate
Vitamin C: also known as ascorbic acid, is a type of water-soluble vitamin that plays a crucial role in the growth and repair of various body cells[xviii]. Try: PureGenomic Ultra Multivitamin (90 Capsules)
Vitamin D: Several studies have indicated that individuals with RLS tend to have lower levels of vitamin D. In addition, lower levels of vitamin D have been linked to more severe RLS symptoms, depression, and lower sleep quality in these individuals [xix]. Try: Liquid Vitamin D3 (1000IU per drop)
Functional testing options for restless legs syndrome may include blood tests to assess iron, magnesium, vitamin D, and folate levels. Read more here about NutrEval
Lack of exercise, smoking, and alcohol use may increase the risk of RLS. It's important to note that having one or more of these risk factors does not necessarily mean that you will develop RLS, and some people with RLS have no known risk factors. If you are experiencing symptoms of RLS, it's important to talk to your healthcare provider for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
[i] Garcia-Borreguero, D., & Allen, R. P. (2011). Restless legs syndrome, in Neurobiology of Sleep Disorders, M. C. G. D. R. S. Pandi-Perumal, Editor. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, UK. p. 172-181.
[ii] Hening, W. A. (1996). The clinical neurophysiology of restless legs syndrome and periodic limb movements. In Movement Disorders (Vol. 11, No. 6, pp. 686-688). Wiley Subscription Services, Inc., A Wiley Company.
[iii] Trotti, L. M. (2017). Restless legs syndrome and sleep-related movement disorders. Continuum: Lifelong Learning in Neurology, 23(4, Sleep Neurology), 1009-1022.
[iv] Garcia-Borreguero, D., & Allen, R. P. (2011). Restless legs syndrome, in Neurobiology of Sleep Disorders, M. C. G. D. R. S. Pandi-Perumal, Editor. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, UK. p. 172-181.
[v] Winkelmann, J., Schormair, B., Lichtner, P., Ripke, S., Xiong, L., Jalilzadeh, S., ... & Zimprich, A. (2007). Genome-wide association study of restless legs syndrome identifies common variants in three genomic regions. Nature genetics, 39(8), 1000-1006.
[vi] Silber, M. H. (2004). Restless legs syndrome. Clinical neurophysiology, 115(8), 1965-1981.
[vii] National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. (2021). Restless legs syndrome fact sheet. Retrieved from
[viii] Allen, R. P., Walters, A. S., Montplaisir, J., Hening, W., Myers, A., & Ferini-Strambi, L. (2004). Prevalence of restless legs syndrome in the North-Eastern United States. Journal of Sleep Research, 13(1), 10-16.
[ix] Allen, R. P., Walters, A. S., Montplaisir, J., Hening, W., Myers, A., & Ferini-Strambi, L. (2004). Prevalence of restless legs syndrome in the North-Eastern United States. Journal of Sleep Research, 13(1), 10-16.
[x] Hening, W. A. (2002). Genetics of restless legs syndrome. Sleep medicine, 3(2), 133-140.
[xi] Winkelman, J. W. (2007). Etiology and pathophysiology of restless legs syndrome. In Sleep Medicine (pp. S3-S9). Elsevier.
[xii] Kearns, C. M., & Schaefer, N. P. (2015). Management of restless legs syndrome: a review of non-pharmacologic and pharmacologic interventions. Geriatrics & gerontology international, 15(5), 548-557.
[xiii] Connor, J. R., & Wang, X. S. (2016). Iron in the aging brain. In Iron Deficiency and Overload (pp. 295-320). Springer.
[xiv] Gao X, Schwarzschild MA, Wang H, Ascherio A. Obesity and restless legs syndrome in men and women. Neurology. 2009 Apr 7;72(14):1255-61. doi: 10.1212/01.wnl.0000345673.35676.1c. PMID: 19349606; PMCID: PMC2677487.
[xv] Lane, R. D., Sun, Y., Wei, Y., Liang, X., Wang, Y., & Learned-Miller, E. G. (2019). Iron deficiency in patients with restless legs syndrome: A quantitative evaluation of the literature. Sleep medicine, 53, 98-104.
[xvi] Chaudhuri, K. R., & Boeve, B. F. (2017). RLS and related disorders: Diagnosis and treatment. In J. S. Duncan & R. S. Hutton (Eds.), Neurology: A queen square textbook (2nd ed., pp. 463-472). John Wiley & Sons.
[xvii] Abbasi, B., Kimiagar, M., Sadeghniiat, K., Shirazi, M. M., Hedayati, M., & Rashidkhani, B. (2012). The effect of magnesium supplementation on primary insomnia in elderly: A double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. Journal of research in medical sciences: the official journal of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, 17(12), 1161–1169.
[xviii] Dadashpour, S., Hajmiri, M. S., & Roshani, D. (2018). Effect of intravenous vitamin C supplementation on the quality of sleep, itching and restless leg syndrome in patients undergoing hemodialysis; A double-blind randomized clinical trial. Journal of Nephropharmacology, 7(2), 63-68.
[xix] Liu HM, Chu M, Liu CF, Zhang T, Gu P. Analysis of Serum Vitamin D Level and Related Factors in Patients With Restless Legs Syndrome. Front Neurol. 2021;12:634175. doi: 10.3389/fneur.2021.634175. PMID: 33995305; PMCID: PMC8115227.
[xx] Gaby, A. (2011). The role of vitamins and minerals in integrative medicine. Primary Care: Clinics in Office Practice, 38(3), 513-524. doi: 10.1016/j.pop.2011.05.002
[xxi] American Academy of Sleep Medicine. (2014). International Restless Legs Syndrome Study Group. Diagnostic criteria for restless legs syndrome.
Please note that the information contained within this website does not and should not replace medical advice, and is not intended to treat or diagnose. We always recommend you consult with your doctor. Our Nutritional Therapy team is highly trained and we offer one to one Nutritional Therapy Consultations, which are designed to be complementary to any medical treatment from a functional medicine approach, as well as offering a preventative & optimal health focus.