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Restless leg syndrome? Functional neurology can help


Restless leg syndrome is a torturous condition that causes your legs to want to jump up and run away when you want to sleep. They can also itch, burn, or have a creepy-crawly feeling.

Drugs for restless leg syndrome dull the body and brain and don’t address the underlying cause of a condition that affects 5 million adults and 1 million children. Restless leg syndrome occurs in twice as many women than men and increases the risk for chronic disease and early mortality.

Diet and lifestyle links to restless leg syndrome

The cause of restless leg syndrome is different for each person, although it comes down to a few general factors. The first thing to look at is whether brain health is supported through diet and lifestyle:

Blood sugar stability. A diet high in sugars and processed carbs sends blood sugar spiking and crashing. These extreme fluctuations degenerate and inflame the brain, contributing to all manner of brain-based problems, including restless leg syndrome.

Poor gut health. Leaky gut and too many bad gut bacteria profoundly impact brain health.

Food sensitivities. An immune reaction to a food can inflame the brain. Gluten and dairy in particular are inflammatory for many people and can cause the immune system to destroy brain tissue in a neurological autoimmune disorder.

Other metabolic factors that may contribute to restless leg syndrome include poor nutrition, hormone imbalances, autoimmune disease, poor thyroid function, neurotransmitter (brain chemical) activity, and a previous head injury.

Additionally, research shows that iron deficiency as well as magnesium or vitamin D deficiencies may be related to restless leg symptoms.

Functional neurology for restless leg syndrome

If you’ve supported your brain health and still struggle with restless leg syndrome, you may need functional neurology help.

Restless leg syndrome can be traced to the basal ganglia, an area in the brain that governs involuntary movements. For instance, basal ganglia dysfunction also causes tics, spasms, and tremors.

In order for the basal ganglia to function properly, other areas of the brain must “fire” (communicate) sufficiently with the basal ganglia so it can do its job of inhibiting involuntary and repetitive movement.

However, these other areas of the brain may not fire adequately into the basal ganglia due to various reasons, including imbalanced brain development in childhood, brain injury, brain inflammation, brain degeneration, or other glitches in brain circuitry.

In functional neurology, we examine brain function through various tests that evaluate reflexes, movement and balance, responses to stimuli, and how the eyes move — the eyes are a window into how well brain circuitry functions.

Based on these findings, we perform therapeutic exercises in the office and give you techniques to practice at home. These practices activate or dampen different areas of the brain depending on what the basal ganglia needs to function optimally. This approach helps many resolve restless leg symptoms.

This is a very general overview to a complex neurological topic, but gives you a general idea of a non-pharmaceutical way to manage restless leg syndrome. Ask my office for more information.

Meet the Author

Dr. Matz DC

Dr. Boyle D.A.C.M., LAc., DiplOM. is the founder of the Holistic Wellness Center of the Carolinas where he is the Director of Functional Medicine. He holds a Diplomate in Oriental Medicine and is acupuncture physician and primary care physician in the state of Florida. His post-graduate focus has been in the fields of functional neurology, functional immunology, and functional endocrinology.

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