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FAQ - Twitching legs

By Jenny Bodenham BA (Hons) DipION MBANT

Expert nutritionists share their frequently asked questions…

Q "I cannot seem to stop my legs from twitching constantly and they feel prickly some of the time. What is causing this and is there anything I can do about it?"

A - Unpleasant sensations generally described as tickling, burning, prickling or aching in the muscles of the legs, often feeling worse in the evening and at night, are very common symptoms, often referred to as ‘restless legs’.

People with low iron levels are particularly prone to developing these symptoms. Iron deficiency may affect the production of dopamine. Levels of dopamine, a brain chemical that effects movement, naturally fall at night, which could be why the symptoms often get so much worse later in the day and at night.

You should, however, only take an iron supplement if you have low levels, so it would be a good idea to consult a doctor to confirm the possibility of iron deficiency.

Iron tablets prescribed by the GP can be difficult to absorb, causing digestive problems, such as constipation. To avoid this, be sure to choose a food-form iron supplement that is gentle on the stomach and easily digested and absorbed by the body.

Magnesium helps to support the relaxation of muscles and nerves and is also commonly deficient in people who suffer with ‘restless leg’ symptoms. Magnesium is found in green vegetables, brown rice, nuts and seeds. However, magnesium deficiency is very common and it is, therefore, beneficial to supplement with magnesium as well as eating magnesium-rich foods.

Other nutrients that may be helpful include vitamin E and folic acid. Good sources of vitamin E include nuts and seeds. Folic acid is found in green vegetables, beans and lentils, although it is difficult to take enough in the diet, because of its bioavailability from vegetables, and a supplement may be sensible. Omega 3s DHA and EPA are also an important support for the nervous system so oily fish or a supplement may be beneficial.

A diet that helps to balance blood sugar levels may also be helpful. To achieve a healthy blood sugar level, it is important to avoid foods which release sugar into the blood too quickly, such as refined sugar, white bread, white rice, cakes and biscuits. Alcohol and caffeinated drinks should also be avoided. Eat breakfast containing slow-release carbohydrates with a low GI to help achieve a steady blood sugar levels and supplement with the mineral chromium, which also supports blood sugar balance.

A few small changes to your diet will make a big difference to how you feel.

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