Restless Legs and Alcohol

I sometimes hear from fellow sufferers that alcohol is a trigger for restless legs for them. I can’t really comment on this because I don’t drink.

When you look at what triggers are in diseases and disorders, alcohol is often one of them. Other ‘frequent offenders’ are, for example, smoking, coffee, sugar and chocolate.

Apparently it contains substances that are not so good for many things. There is, of course, a difference between an occasional drink and alcoholism.

I recently wrote a blog about side effects of drugs that are prescribed for RLS. The material I read on that subject regularly stated that alcohol increased those side effects.

In this blog I discuss what alcohol is and what its effect is on all kinds of things. Of course I focus my story on the restless leg syndrome.

What is alcohol

Alcohol is a chemical compound. Alcoholic drinks are created by fermenting sugar in fruit, grains or, for example, potatoes.

Essentially, alcohol is a toxic substance that is harmful and addictive when consumed in excess. Even with regular drinking you run the risk of damage to your organs. The more you drink, the greater the risk of diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease or liver disease.

Alcohol also has an effect on your hormone balance. The stress hormone cortisol, for example, stays in your body longer due to it. It seems as if drinking is relaxing, but in fact the stress builds up in your body.

Alcohol has a numbing effect on your brain. You become more disinhibited by it, react more slowly, more emotionally and see less well. Excessive use can lead to insomnia, fatigue, depression, anxiety and concentration problems.

If you take medication, you have to be extra careful. Alcohol can strengthen, weaken or even cancel the effect of medicines. Side effects may become more severe.

Therefore, read the package leaflet of your medication carefully and, if necessary, discuss your drinking with your doctor or pharmacist.

Restless legs

Even without restless legs, there are plenty of reasons to be careful with alcohol. However, drinking can make your restless legs worse. It is worth taking this into account when choosing a drink during a pleasant evening out.

Alcohol also has a strong influence on your sleep. Initially, it has an anesthetic effect and makes it easier to fall asleep. During the night, however, alcohol disrupts and fragments your sleep.

On a hormonal level, alcohol enhances the action of the calming neurotransmitter GABA, but inhibits the action of the neurotransmitter glutamate, which is important for your learning and memory.

GABA affects your dopamine level. As you may know, dopamine is likely a factor in restless leg syndrome. Drinking may therefore be a trigger for your complaints.

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