Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) Iron deficiency can cause or aggravate symptoms of RLS, with the theory that mild iron deficiency may cause RLS by decreasing the amount of a neurotransmitter called dopamine. Blood tests for anemia won’t necessarily pick up the low-grade iron deficiency that is linked to RLS. For that purpose, you'll need tests that specifically evaluate iron levels, such as ferritin, serum iron, and total iron-binding capacity. You see, the body is unable to manufacture iron therefore we have to obtain it from our food (or your Doctor may prescribe iron tablets). The nutritional approach can be quite successful for the treatment of RLS, although it provides benefits, the results are slower and over a longer period of time. Although iron is widely distributed in foods, some sources are better absorbed than others. The best sources of iron are foods with a high iron content and are easily absorbed by the body. Iron absorption is best (15-18%) from foods that contain haem iron. Red meat, seafood and poultry are the best sources of haem iron. Iron absorption from foods that contain non-haem iron is much lower (<5%). Non-haem iron is predominantly found in plant foods such as cereals, vegetables, legumes and nuts. The absorption of non-haem iron can be improved by combining sources of haem iron with non-haem iron. Including vitamin C-rich foods with meals (e.g. juice or fruit with breakfast, capsicum in a stir-fry, salad or fruit with a sandwich) also enhances absorption of non-haem iron. Dried fruit, sweet corn, green leafy vegetables including broccoli, silver beet, spinach and chinese green vegetables are other good sources of iron. Some substances in food inhibit the absorption of iron. Excessive intakes of tea, coffee and bran have an inhibitory effect. Other vitamins reported to help include Vitamin B12 (sardines, salmon, yogurt, lamb, beef, cows milk) along with Folic Acid (folate) may assist. Folate is found in dark green, yellow and orange fruits and vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds and fortified grain products such as pasta and flour. Foods with a high concentration of folate include spinach, orange juice, and lentils. Vitamin E can be added for further support, especially when symptoms don’t respond to minerals. Excellent sources of vitamin E include: spinach, chard, and turnip greens. Very good sources include almonds, sunflower seeds, asparagus and capsicums. Eating smaller meals and avoiding sugary foods which cause low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) helps to stabilize blood sugar levels which can often be another contributing factor to RLS. It’s also equally important to hydrate with water, while minimizing sugary foods and soft drinks and caffeine, which tend leach important minerals out of the body. If you suffer with significant pain in the legs typically you may need a broader spectrum of vitamins and minerals such as magnesium, potassium, calcium and as mentioned Vitamin E. However, if the pain has reached this level it is best to consult with your GP. Cheers, Poppet. Disclaimer: The information on dietary factors, foods, and beverages contained in these articles does not cover all possible uses, actions, precautions, side effects, and interactions. It is not intended as medical advice for individual problems. Liability for individual actions or omissions based upon the contents of this article is expressly disclaimed. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of all medical conditions including the taking of supplements.