Jefferson Adams is a freelance writer living in San Francisco. His poems, essays and photographs have appeared in Antioch Review, Blue Mesa Review, CALIBAN, Hayden's Ferry Review, Huffington Post, the Mississippi Review, and Slate among others.
He is a member of both the National Writers Union, the International Federation of Journalists, and covers San Francisco Health News for Examiner.com.
In addition to lost sleep and discomfort, these people often suffer chronic pain. Often, these symptoms baffle both patients and primary care doctors. Little do these people and their doctors know that the pain and restlessness is due to Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) and is likely caused by a problem with the digestive tract.
RLS affects 7% to 15% of the population, especially older adults and pregnant women. RLS symptoms can have a major impact on quality of life, and the syndrome often stymies the medical community. In recent years a number of drugs have been introduced to help the symptoms of RLS, but until now the cause has remained unknown.
Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) is a condition where abnormally large numbers of bacteria exist in the small intestine. Symptoms often include diarrhea, bloating, excess gas and abdominal pain. SIBO has strong ties to IBS, diabetes, celiac disease and Crohn’s disease.
St. Louis-based Gastroenterologist Dr. Leonard Weinstock has led research that has recently established a link between RLS and SIBO. Dr. Weinstock's clinical trials have shown that treating SIBO often sends the RLS into remission.
“When a patient was diagnosed with SIBO, given a course of treatment that included rifaximin, an antibiotic that is not absorbed by the bloodstream, we found that the patient showed quick, dramatic and continuing relief of RLS symptoms,” explains Weinstock.
This discovery promises a new lease on life for many RLS sufferers. Weinstock discovered the association while treating a patient for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) who also suffered from RLS. Treatment of the IBS, also seemed to send the patient’s RLS into remission. This discovery led to a number of trials, all of which produced the same overall result.
“While many new drugs help treat the symptoms of RLS. This research shows us the cause of the disease and in turn allows us to treat the RLS rather than just helping the symptoms,” says Weinstock.
Based on a standard RLS severity scale, all Weinstock’s patients have shown substantial improvement. In the most recent trial, severity scores for 9 of 14 patients dropped an average of 65% after one course of antibiotics. After an initial lack of response, two patients received a second round of antibiotics and no longer had any symptoms. A third patient was cured after discovering that she had celiac disease and beginning on a gluten-free diet.
The link between non-responsive celiac disease and SIBO has also been documented. The fact that such a link exists between SIBO and RLS, and other conditions such as celiac disease, IBS and Crohn’s disease clearly warrants further study, and should give anyone suffering from RLS some information to share with their clinician in approaching the issue.