What is the effect of food on RLS?

In a sense, I wrote before about the possible influence of diet on restless legs. Several blogs I devoted to vitamin and mineral deficiency. I wrote about magnesium and iron, about vitamin B12 and about folic acid.

However, by food I also mean what you drink. Drinking alcohol and caffeine is not beneficial for RLS. Drinking enough water, however, is important to do.

Of course you don’t eat cigarettes, but smoking also aggravates your complaints. It is not only bad for your restless legs, but you probably already knew that.

I don’t know to what extent it has been scientifically proven, but limiting sugar in your diet also seems to reduce the chance of worsening your complaints. The same goes for eating chocolate.

Eat regularly

I personally stick to three meals a day. I don’t take snacks. I also make sure that I have my last meal a few hours before bed at the latest.

I take my breakfast around six in the morning. I know that with a good breakfast I get my digestion going. I do fine on this for the first hours of the day. For me, the morning is the most productive part of the day.

Lunch is divided into a large portion of vegetables first and the rest two hours later. For me, this is a way to get a lot of vegetables, with the necessary vitamins and minerals.

Late afternoon is my third and last meal of the day. Then I only drink a cup of tea, at least an hour before I go to sleep. It would be best to take herbal tea, so as not to ingest theine (similar to caffeine) shortly before bedtime. However, I also sometimes take green tea.

I understand that this diet is not for everyone. Some people have more meals per day or need a snack more regularly. If, taking this into account, you manage to introduce a reasonably stable rhythm in your diet, I think this will have a positive effect.

Vegetarian food

For over 20 years I have not eaten meat, fish or poultry. I am a vegetarian. I’ll take dairy. I’ve always loved yogurt and curd. Every now and then I eat cheese and I use milk to make protein shakes. I sometimes buy a box of eggs.

For my restless legs, there may be some downsides to only consuming plant-based foods. This makes it more difficult to get enough of some vitamins and minerals.

In my blog about iron, for example, I wrote that vegetarian food contains a different form of iron than meat. The iron that you take in from vegetables is less well absorbed by the body. You therefore have to eat much more of it in proportion to achieve the same effect as a meat eater.

As a vegetarian, it is therefore better to keep an extra close eye on whether you run into deficiencies. Have your blood measured by your doctor and ask for advice from an expert about your diet. Take a dietary supplement if necessary.


A fellow sufferer said that she benefited from ‘intermitted fasting’ for her restless legs. At first I thought she meant that sometimes she stopped eating for a few days. Later I understood from her that she only eats between 12 noon and 8 p.m. every day.

I myself am not the type to live on only water or vegetable juices for a few days in a row. My body runs better on regularity. However, I can imagine what this fellow sufferer suggested.

In the past, I have participated several times in long meditation retreats where something similar was done. Between 8 and 11 in the morning you got two meals and then at 4:30pm only a piece of fruit. For the old-timers there was lemon water or you could choose to drink only water or herbal tea.

At the time I didn’t have the RLS symptoms as I have them now, so I don’t know to what extent this form of fasting would have had an effect on my legs. I do find it interesting though. Maybe I should look into this some more.

Food diary

One idea someone else suggested to me was to keep a food diary. You write down exactly what you eat in a day. You test for certain periods whether adding or omitting certain foods changes anything in the complaints you experience.

At the beginning of this blog I mentioned a number of things that you should not take or only very limited. For example, if you want to know what the effect of drinking coffee is on your restless legs, leave coffee out for a few days. See how that makes you feel.

This does require the necessary discipline. With things like coffee, smoking and alcohol it will be quite difficult to stop. On the other hand, the complaints of RLS are not so pleasant either so you may want to give it a try.

If you find it really difficult, maybe there is someone who can help you with it. I am thinking, for example, of a dietician or a psychologist. Maybe your partner or someone else wants to join you. That can also be helpful.

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