People diagnosed with restless leg syndrome may have abnormally high amounts of bacteria living in their small intestines. This is brought on by a condition commonly known as small intestinal bacterial growth or SIBO. This was concluded from a new Stanford University study, published in the Journal of Sleep April 2019 issue.
The study concluded several things:
- Many people with RLS May suffer from SIBO
- Iron concentration/levels in the human brain may be affected by SIBO.
- Also eating iron rich foods to fix this deficiency may not always be of much help.
- Normalizing your gut bacteria microbiome may help to alleviate the symptoms of Restless leg syndrome.
- Medications that treat acid reflux may go a long way to help address this condition along with modifying your diet.
A research team from the Stanford Center for Sleep Sciences and Medicine in Redwood City, California, took breath and stool samples from seven volunteers diagnosed with varying ranges of severity of restless leg syndrome (RLS).
A close analysis of those samples showed that all volunteers had a gut condition diagnosed as small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, or SIBO.
What is SIBO?
SIBO is a condition in which a person has an overgrowth of bacteria in the upper section of their intestines. The excess growth also tend to contain relatively uncommon types of bacteria.
Depending on the various digestive functions these bacteria normally perform, having too much of them can cause a range of gut symptoms including bloating, gas diarrhea, stomach aches and nausea.
Medical data shows that SIBO normally occurs in just about 15 percent of the population. The study’s discovery that SIBO existed in all of the seven patients with RLS was quite statistically significant.
The symptoms of Restless leg syndrome usually occur in the legs at night, and it results in the patient having the overwhelming urge to move around in order to temporarily stop the uncomfortable sensations.
Gut Biome health can be linked to various conditions.
Over the years several independent studies of the microbiome that resides in gut have revealed many connections between this complex ecosystem and a large number of health conditions.
It’s no surprise that this particular study shows that some aspects of gut microbiome health might be related to the prevalence of restless leg syndrome.
Iron Concentration in the Brain Might Explain The connection between Restless Leg Syndrome and SIBO.
Intestinal inflammation brought on by SIBO in the intestines, may release additional amounts of the hormone hepcidin, which is known to decrease the concentration of iron in the brain and contribute to RLS symptoms.
Past research has shown that low levels of iron in the brain is a major contributor to RLS. Restless leg syndrome symptoms exists at the interface between the brain and muscles, and in many people it involves how the body manages iron levels on a biochemical level.
While the connection between Restless Leg Syndrome and iron deficiency isn’t completely understood, there’s some evidence that low iron concentration in the brain play a part in the function of its dopamine receptors, which in turn may affect brain communication and signaling in ways that contribute to Restless Leg Syndrome, according to research from Johns Hopkins University.
Does that mean increasing iron intake can help with Restless Leg Syndrome?
Unfortunately, eating spinach ,oysters and other iron rich foods won’t always be effective for someone with RLS.
Experts have found that, in patients with RLS, the brain’s iron levels can still be low even if the person’s dietary and blood levels of iron are normal.
Could Restoring a healthy Gut Bacteria Microbiome Help RLS?
The Stanford study potentially suggest that addressing your SIBO may assist in correcting the brain iron deficiency that leads to restless leg syndrome.
Though it must be kept in mind that a lot more research is needed. Since this is a quite recent discovery, there still needs to be studies as to how this connection can be duplicated, and also how the neuro-muscular and iron dependent pathways interface to cause restless legs syndrome.
It’s also important to keep in mind that this study only included a small number of study participants: seven people, thus further studies would have to include a larger subset of the population.
How can I treat my SIBO?
Medications that are used to treat acid reflux, called prokinetics, may be of help to some people with SIBO. Also certain eating habits including having the last meal of the day about two to three hours before sleep may also help.
These and other alternative treatment options should only be attempted with a doctor’s supervision. And it’s important to remember that research has not concluded whether or not treating SIBO will make a difference for people with RLS.
These new findings suggest this treatment strategy may work, and is worth deeper and thorough research.
To summarize , there is still a lot we do not know when it comes to the interaction between the brain, the gut, and restless legs syndrome.
This study may help in our over all understanding of that relationship and if you are suffering from RLS you should look into whether SIBO may be affecting you.