Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is described as a disorder of the nervous system “that affects the legs and causes an urge to move them.” Because it typically occurs at night and interferes with sleep, RLS is also considered a sleep disorder.
For the people who suffer from RLS, however, I think the best way to depict it is as the most annoying feeling in the world.
The legs tingle and ache to be moved until they convulse in such a way that one can be shaken from even the deepest of sleeps. Only that movement can relieve the tingling sensation, until it starts all over again and occurs repeatedly throughout the night.
Around 10 percent of the U.S. population is affected by RLS. Women are more inclined to get it than men, and it can begin at any age. Usually those who are middle-aged or older suffer the most extreme symptoms. Oddly enough, doctors have no idea what causes RLS. In some cases, chronic diseases, medications and pregnancy are to blame.
Most cases, however, have no seemingly obvious culprit.
Me, My Mom and Our Restless Legs
It is important to note that approximately half of people with RLS also have a family member with the condition. I have battled this disorder since my early 20s, and my mom has suffered nearly as long. Her symptoms are much worse than mine, however, and she has spent countless nights lying awake while her legs twitch and tingle to the point of misery.
At the end of August, she called me one day with a note of excitement in her voice. “I started eating bananas,” she said, “just one a day. All of my RLS symptoms are gone, and I can finally sleep through the night.”
I asked Mom how she discovered this simple remedy, and she said she read about it in a health magazine. So, as usual, I conducted some research and found that many people relate RLS to a mineral deficiency. Most cases, such as my mom’s, are caused by insufficient potassium levels.
Other people with RLS, however, may be deficient in magnesium or calcium. Thus, drinking orange juice or taking a multi-vitamin supplement may also help with symptoms.
A Banana A Day Keeps Restless Legs Away!
After reading of the success many people have enjoyed with these home remedies, I couldn’t help but wonder about the correlation between minerals and RLS.
Further reading indicated that potassium, also called an electrolyte, plays a role in nerve and muscle function. It specifically influences “muscle contractions and nerve impulses.” Yet, despite this connection, no clinical studies support the efficacy of minerals for treating RLS. The cases in which people have alleviated RLS symptoms with bananas and other potassium-rich foods like cantaloupes, chicken and beef are described as “anecdotal.”
This information, however, did not deter me. I figured if eating bananas had worked for my mom, it may also work for me. So I began the same regimen that she had started, and sure enough, my symptoms were immediately gone.
Since eating one banana a day, usually in the morning with a bowl of cereal, I haven’t had any problems at night.
This is such a relief, because RLS poses so much frustration when trying to get a good night’s sleep. The creepy-crawly sensations make it difficult to relax, and as I said earlier, the twitching can be severe enough to actually pull a person out of a deep sleep.
I have discovered that one of the benefits with any home remedy is in preventing the need for prescription drugs. Prescriptions are, in some cases, life-saving necessities. With a problem like RLS, however, I would much rather find a way to treat the symptoms without going to the doctor. In this case, I’m also giving my body more of what it needs to be healthy.
It’s a win-win situation.
PHOTO CREDIT: Demi-Brooke