This article will start with a description of the anatomy and physiology of the Central Nervous System elements involved in RLS. A very good description of Restless Leg Syndrome may be found on the website of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders And Stroke (1) . This website states that considerable evidence suggests that RLS is related to a dysfunction in the brainís basal ganglia circuits (2) that use the neurotransmitter dopamine (DA) (3), which is needed to produce smooth, purposeful muscle activity and movement. The latest medical research indicates that the RLS is likely a neurological disorder caused by malfunctioning DA receptors (4) in the brain. However, the largest concentration of dopaminergic neurons (that release the neurotransmitter DA from their axon terminals) is in the midbrain of the mammalian system that lies just below the basal ganglia. Go to PubMed for a description (5). That article states that although their numbers are few, these dopaminergic neurons play an important role in the control of multiple brain functions including voluntary movement and a broad array of behavioral processes such as mood, reward, addiction, and stress. This role is key to understanding RLS as will be explained below.
The Spinal Cord is an integral part of the Central Nervous System (6) in that it coordinates the overall voluntary muscle effector and feedback systems, i.e. voluntary muscle control in the arms and legs. This website details the following: Dopaminergic Modulation of Spinal Neuronal Excitability (7). The essence of this article is that DA neurons have a variety of effects on motor neurons that increases synaptic transmission by increasing neuron excitability. This means that the hyperexcitable DA neurons are more likely to cause the motor neurons to make the muscle fibers contract. This means then that your night time sleep schedule will be interupted by the symptoms of RLS. It is also known that diencephalic (6) dopamine neurons send projections down the spinal cord. The diencephalon lies just below the basal ganglia. The hypothalamus is a part of the diencephalon. One of the functions of the hypothalamus is to regulate the autonomic nervous system (ANS) that lies mostly outside of the spinal cord. The majority of the ANS neuron cell bodies run very closely along side the spinal cord. The ANS coordinates tha activities of the digestive system (that includes the liver), the urinary system (that includes the kidneys) and the reproductive system (that includes the organs of coitus). The ability to metabolize ingested toxins and stimulatory substances is the role of the liver. The kidneys flush the blood of unwanted substances. The kidneys will also flush needed nutrients if overstimulated by compounds like caffeine.
Thus we have these guilty parties to thank for RLS: mood enhancement, reward/pleasure, addiction and stress. People take all manner of drugs and botanical substances in order to feel better, get high, enhance pleasurable experiences, combat lethargy and respond to the symptoms of stress. Addiction acts much the same way in that all the above phenomena deplete vital nutrients that are neceassary for the healthy function of all neurons and in this case those of the DA neurons. Stress is particularly harmful since the causes of and varieties of stress are many fold. So stressed DA neurons are depleted neurons and therefore in a state of hyperexcitability. It seems that the DA neurons that control the motor function of the legs are particularly sensitive. Thus, in order to relieve the symptoms of RLS, one needs to feed the DA neurons. Since RLS in the beginning of its symptomology begins only at night, this leads to an interupted sleep cycle and that causes even more stress.
The author of this article is particularly sensitive to the nervous system effects related to the ingestion of foods with residual pesticide and herbicide compounds and will later cause the symptoms of RLS. Also, the ingestion of too much chocolate, coffee and tea during the day that are loaded with caffeine cause the night time symptoms of RLS. The effects of the toxic compounds are not as specific to DA neurons as are the botanicals with caffeine content. The drugs that get you high also seem to stimulate the DA neurons preferentially.
The author has personally found that the following all assist in the alleviation of RLS symptoms. Vitamin-C is known to stabilize nerve cell membrane phenomena by reducing hyperexcitability. Vitamin-C also binds to toxic substances and free radicals so that they may be metabolized and broken down to render them harmless. Taking Folate also helps as Folate is necessary for nerve health just as is Vitamin-B12. Make sure that you eat your salad greens as Folate comes from foliage, i.e., leaves. DA neurons seem to need reduced iron or Fe+2. So taking Ferrous Sulfate will also help. Lastly, Magnesium+2 in the form of Magnesium Malate, and it definitely has to be Malate, helps by reducing and calming nerve cell hyperexcitability. Magnesium malate is designed to bind to aluminum and other toxins that block DA receptors, clearing the channel of communication for these receptors to begin working properly again and in turn, greatly decrease RLS symptoms.
Malate is found in all fruits but is in relatively high concentration in Apples. The problem with Apples is that it is a heavily sprayed crop and has high levels of residual pestcides adhering to the skin. This is exacerbated by the fact that when getting ready for packing, Apples are washed briefly and then coated with wax so that they do not dry out while being stored. When you wash the Apple just before eating, it is next to impossible to get the wax coating off and you get the residual pesticides underneath adhering to the skin. Thus, it is a good idea to peel your apples and discard the peelings and eat just the fleshy part. The author assumes that this is the origin of the truism, "Eat an apple a day to keep the Doctor away".
Another reason for eating your green vegetables is that Magnesium+2 is the cation that is responsible for the green color of chlorophyll. Hence, eating Apples and green vegetables is a quite healthy regimen for general nerve functionality.
Thus, if you do consume the substances that you know will cause RLS later at night, take Vitamin-B12, Folate and Vitamin-C in the morning with breakfast to augment nerve cell health in general. Also take Vitamin-C with the other meals throughout the day and eat your green veggies for the Folate. Then take the Ferrous Sulfate and Magnesium Malate a couple of hours before bedtime to augment the DA neurons and DA receptors. You will most likely need to determine the correct dosage to take for your degree of indulgence during the day.