The Trail of Clues in Restless Leg Syndrome: Part I
OK friends, let’s take a quick quiz straight from the pages of the National Institute of Health. These 4 questions are a simple “yes” or “no” answer, and will help identify if this next set of clues resonates with your current situation.
✅Do you have a strong and often overwhelming need or urge to move your legs? (Often the urge may be accompanied by abnormal, unpleasant or uncomfortable sensations.)
✅Does the urge to move your legs start (or get worse) during rest and inactivity?
✅Does the urge to move your legs worsen in the evenings/at night?
✅Is the urge to move your legs partially or totally relieved by movement (at least temporarily)?
If you have answered yes to these questions, this post series may shed light on both why your legs may be restless and (next week) natural ways to help relieve the situation. Bear in mind that beyond the questions above, there are several mimickers of restless leg syndrome, so the process of elimination may come in handy! Poor circulation in the legs, fibromyalgia, neuropathy, and ADD/ADHD are a few disorders known for restless leg mimicry.
Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is a very common condition affecting about 10% of adults in the USA and even some children. There are several medications commonly used to treat RLS. According to many pharmacy clients I’ve worked with over the years, the medications are often minimally effective, not without unpleasant side effects (GI distress, constipation and/or diarrhea), and do not address root causes.
RLS is not generally a precursor of things to come thankfully….but it is highly annoying and life disruptive nonetheless, especially as it often leads to chronic insomnia.
As any good detective would do, you’ll want to discover the motive (root cause) of your RLS. Motives vary in each case, right?
*Occasionally, restless legs may be blamed on genetics, but that is the exception rather than the rule. Overwhelmingly, restless leg syndrome is given the dubious distinction of having an idiopathic origin. My personal feeling is that “idiopathic” is an overused medical term used when not enough time has been spent looking at clues to find the root cause! Understandably so….. insurance companies do not usually allow doctors the time or tools (comprehensive lab work) to actually find the source of the problem.
There are MANY factors leading to or exacerbating restless leg syndrome:
*Approximately 15% of RLS cases have an underlying iron deficiency. Iron deficiency may be easily checked with lab work. Checking iron alone is insufficient. Ferritin levels also need to be evaluated.
*Other nutritional deficiencies contributing to RLS include magnesium, calcium, potassium and/or zinc. Again, blood work is key. (If you get magnesium tested, make sure it is magnesium bound to red blood cells “mRBC” for a more accurate reading)
*Hormone imbalance is another common cause. Approximately 20% of pregnant women develop RLS, usually in the third trimester. This symptom tends to dissipate about 4 weeks after delivery of the baby. Women are more likely to have hormonal imbalances than men overall, and women are also more likely to develop RLS than men in life. Hyperthyroidism, another type of hormone imbalance, is an additional contributor.
*Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays many roles in the body, most notably in motivation and positive reinforcement of behavior. It also plays a critical role in the control of movement. So, as you might imagine, a dopamine imbalance may also play a key role in RLS. (We’ll cover dopamine deficiency in the near future.)
There also appears to be a relationship between ADD/ ADHD and restless leg syndrome. Additionally, pediatric restless leg disorder is sometimes misdiagnosed as growing pains or ADD.
*Symptoms of restless leg syndrome are common in people who have chronic kidney disease. When the kidneys are not functioning as they should, anemia, iron deficiency, and high calcium levels in the blood commonly occur. As you’ve just learned, all of those conditions exacerbate RLS.
*Hypertension, diabetes, and increased BMI (body mass index) also contribute to the incidence of restless leg syndrome. (The medications used to manage these conditions are also worthy suspects!) Uncontrolled high blood sugar often leads to peripheral nerve damage; another contributor to restless legs.
*Medication induced restless legs may be among the most common (idiopathic?) causes for developing this disorder. Every medication acts in multiple ways throughout the body. Immediate side effects of medication are fairly easy to spot, but often side effects such as restless legs creep in slowly, making it hard to pinpoint the culprit. Medications known to cause restless legs over time include:
💊Psychotropics (ex: haloperidol, aripiprazole, risperidone, quetiapine, mood stabilizers)
💊Antidepressants (SSRI’s,SNRI’s, and tricyclics, ex: fluoxetine, sertraline, venlafaxine, paroxetine, imipramine, amitriptyline)
💊Some nausea medications (metoclopramide and prochlorperazine)
💊Calcium channel blockers
💊Some sleep medications
I’ve talked to many pharmacy clients over the years who struggle with restless legs, and while it is a relatively benign condition, it is definitely life altering…anything that negatively affects quality sleep is! Westernized health culture is often very quick to prescribe or suggest over the counter medication to quickly solve a problem, overlooking the unintended possible consequences. Often, there is a gentler solution, but it does require ownership and a willingness to take personal responsibility for one’s own health management. There will always be a time and a place for western medicine, but it behooves us all to leave that as a last resort whenever possible.
I hope this helped someone identify their restless leg trigger(s). Next week I’ll talk about healthy options for living with RLS.
What does your pee say about your health? PART II
*Urine, in most healthy situations, should be seen but not smelled. There are exceptions of course (Have you ever experienced “asparagus pee”?), but the offending odor should be transient and not trending towards permanence. Urine with a strong ammonia smell may indicate dehydration or bacterial infections. A sharp change in hormones (ie: pregnancy or menopause) may also contribute to pungent pee. “Sweet or fruity smelling” urine may indicate a high ketone content in urine as is often seen in unregulated diabetes. Some medications can certainly create an environment for malodorous micturation. Sulfa based medications (note: sulfa and sulfur are NOT the same chemical entity), antibiotics, diuretics, birth control pills, lyrica, tramadol, and oxycodone are also potentially causative agents of stinky pee.
Frequent urination is a topic near and dear to my heart (and bladder). An estimated 33 million people in the USA struggle with this health clue. Having a spastic bladder can be a nuisance or it can be downright life limiting. The causes (clues) are varied:
🔎Urinary tract infection (pair with urine color and odor)
🔎Low estrogen levels (resulting from a hormone imbalance, menopause,or even excessive exercise)
🔎Pregnancy or post childbirth, chronic constipation, chronic coughing, frequent heavy lifting, obesity, pelvic floor weakness (see unbalanced pelvic floor muscles below)
🔎Enlarged prostate (men)
🔎Spinal cord injuries or dysfunctions
🔎Pelvic floor muscles (there are 16 of them) are unbalanced. Think of a webbed hammock where some of the webbing is strong and others are weak. Each muscle needs to be equal in strength. If this is a known issue, kegel exercises are not the answer. You’ll want to find an excellent pelvic floor therapist to guide you in your strengthening and healing process.
🔎Medication (ex: diuretics, lithium, steroids)
🔎Emotions. The bladder and kidneys are the home to emotions related to fear and anxiety. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, chronic bladder and kidney issues may correlate with “difficulty finding their place in life”. Many women (and men) who have a weak pelvic floor often report lacking support somewhere in their lives. Please do not underestimate the importance of healing emotionally when looking for ways to heal physically. Our issues do indeed reside in our tissues. There is an excellent book entitled The Body Keeps Score, by Dr. Bessel van der Kolk (MD) which explains the importance of resolving the emotional ties to specific health conditions. #worththeread
Interstitial cystitis is where my🙋♀️ personal “overactive bladder” story began in 2002. IC is an enigmatic chronic bladder condition that causes varying degrees of pelvic pain and discomfort. It also causes a chronic and constant need to urinate. Imagine having stomach ulcers in your bladder. That’s the best way I can describe what it felt like. In my case, it took nearly 3 years and 4 different doctors before finding one who suggested a cystoscopy to confirm her suspicions. As with all inflammatory disease states, what we expose ourselves to matters. I was blessed with a doctor who actually took the time to educate me on the truth of this. Instead of pushing me towards medication, she urged me to begin a strict elimination diet, stay well hydrated, and to learn to manage stress better. Wow! Imagine what our health care would look like if all western medicine based doctors would prescribe this type of sage advice! 🙌
Learning which foods and lifestyle choices triggered a worsening of my urge to pee was eye👀 opening indeed. Sometimes it was hit or miss, and I would often pay the price by having to get up 7-8 times a night to go to the bathroom. A serendipitous travel situation in 2008 completely changed everything when I discovered that nearly all processed foods were inflammation causing agents. I couldn’t believe how much better I felt in the presence of 100% fresh clean food! Staying well hydrated with filtered water quickly became key to keeping my bladder happy too. I know it may sound counterintuitive to strive for a full bladder to pee less….. Diluting toxins in the bladder makes what’s in the bladder less of an irritant!
Fast forward to 2013 when I was introduced to Young Living products. I had learned to manage my interstitial cystitis as holistically as possible, and in doing so, I had dodged the very real bullet of daily self catheterization that often occurs with people who have severe IC. I still had some nasty flare ups, and was still getting up 4-6 times a night (on average) to pee. One of the “thank you” products I had received from my Young Living monthly subscription order was Sulfurzyme. It was free, looked interesting, and tho I hadn’t really identified a personal need, I decided to take it. According to the YL website, Sulfurzyme may be of value to anyone who wishes to support their joints, range of motion, bone health, metabolic function, immune system, hair and skin. Within two weeks of taking Sulfurzyme faithfully I began noticing enormous changes within my bladder along with a decreased urge to urinate. Around that time, I also began using a DIY face serum recipe which contains Frankincense and Lavender every morning. Should I have been shocked that what I put on my face also happened to make my bladder very happy? In 2014, I was still learning essential oil basics, and this was a lesson to the truth that oils work best in “all the ways” when they are used. Get them out of the bottle and into the air or on your skin. You just never know what might happen with regular consistent use. 😉
I’ve continued to clean up my “issues within my tissues” over the years, and I am so much healthier in mind, body, and spirit than I was when I was in my 30’s. This is a lifestyle, not a “once ‘n done” kind of thing. Freedom is never free, especially in the case of a health condition. I had to be willing to do the hard work, to live like no one else sometimes, and to listen to what my body needed. Everyone has their own story, their own diagnosis, their own emotional journey to recognize. Overcoming ( ____________ ) requires change and the courage and willingness to do so. As they say, “Insanity is doing the same things over and over again, and expecting different results.” I pray you are discovering yourself as you become your own health detective. Learning to read your own health clues and then acting on those clues is true self love. Never forget that each of our bodies is a temple and as such, requires tender loving care and maintenance every single day. You are worth it!
What does your pee say about your health? Part I
Have you noticed that body fluids often take center stage in a crime scene? The same is true in a health detective scenario. A urinalysis may reveal such things as hyperglycemia, diabetes, kidney stones, blood in the urine, or a bacterial infection. Even without an official set of eyeballs and a urinalysis machine, the average Joe (or Jill) can still glean much from examining their “pee life”.
*Urine is a pretty interesting body fluid. As the body breaks down amino acids, ammonia (a potent toxin) is left over as waste. Ammonia is then broken down into urea (predominately by the liver), combined with water, and then flushed out of the body through the kidneys and bladder.
*Urine is 95% water & 5% urea combined with other solids. Those “other solids” typically contain over 3000 chemical compounds which result from daily exposure ……ie: what we eat or drink, drug byproducts, bacterial waste, household chemicals, skin care products, pollution, work related toxins, etc. As you might imagine, chronic exposure to some of these more nefarious compounds can cause some unpleasant effects on the kidneys and bladder over time. Thankfully, we have Young Living clean skincare, the Savvy makeup line, and the Thieves Household Cleaner which can eliminate many routes of daily toxin exposure.
*Urine color is an easy clue to observe. Ideally, urine should be a “pale lemonade” color. If the yellow color is any darker than this, it is usually a sign of dehydration. The more dehydrated a person is, the darker yellow the urine will be. Dehydration can be acute or chronic (often seen in the elderly), and can easily lead to brain fog, headaches, dizziness and constipation. Considering an estimated 75% of the USA population is chronically dehydrated, this may be a VERY IMPORTANT CLUE to monitor regularly.
*Red or pink urine may be a clue that there is blood in urine (Time to involve a health professional). Bear in mind, foods such as beets, blackberries, and rhubarb may turn urine pink in some people!
*Urine which has a brownish to orangish tinge may also reflect dehydration or an underlying liver condition. (Hint: if urine is dark and stools are light in color, the liver is likely struggling). There is a serious medical condition called rhabdomyolysis that can also cause this color change. Rhabo is caused by muscle breakdown in the body, and can happen as a result of a traumatic event, over exertion, or as a possible side effect from statins (a class of cholesterol lowering medications) and some of the newer vaccines. A medication called phenazopyridine will usually turn urine reddish orange as a non harmful side effect.
*Cloudy urine is often a sign of an impending urinary tract infection or kidney stones.
*Foaming or “fizzy” urine may indicate excess protein in the diet. If this type of urine is a regular occurrence, it may be time to bring it to the attention of your favorite healthcare professional.
If you’d like to show your 💛kidneys and bladder💛 a little extra love, let me introduce you to Young Living’s K&B liquid supplement. Those who know and use K&B love her well and do not want to imagine life without her!
*NingXia Red is another way to shower some serious love on your 💛kidneys and bladder💛 (as well as the rest of your body).
See you next week…. We’ll chat about the clues behind urine odor and frequent trips to the bathroom.
Stats don’t lie. If you submit yourself to a hospital protocol, are you given full disclosure of the meds used on you? Remdesivir was pulled from an ebola study because of the damage that was being done to the kidneys.
What happens when the kidneys don’t work properly? Fluid begins backing up in the body.
What happens when fluid begins backing up in the body? Fluid begins to accumulate around the heart and in the lungs, which could be misinterpreted /misattributed to something else especially if you happen to be in the hospital for a respiratory illness.
Remdesivir didn’t suddenly become safer. All to “treat” something with a 99.9+ survival rate (there are also early , and highly successful outpatient treatment options).
You must be your own health advocate. Make sure you’ve done your research and that you have given a loved one Medical Power of Attorney before its needed. That in itself is a form of insurance….. otherwise, you may be at the complete mercy of a system that shaves off survival rates considerably by using Remdesivir.
I share because I care. Do your research!