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Restless Leg Syndrome Common in Adults with Celiac Disease

Restless Leg Syndrome and Celiac Disease (photo courtesy of Geraint Warlow) 04/22/2010 - Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is a common neurological condition, with generally unknown causes, that is sometimes associated with specific disorders such as iron deficiency. Even though celiac disease is an autoimmune condition, people with celiac disease often suffer from associated malabsorption-related iron deficiency anemia and peripheral neuropathy.

A team of researchers recently set out to assess rates of restless leg syndrome in adults with celiac disease. The team included Marcello Moccia, MS, Maria Teresa Pellecchia, MD, PhD, Roberto Erro, MD, Fabiana Zingone, MD, Sara Marelli, MD, Damiano Giuseppe Barone, MD, Carolina Ciacci, MD, Luigi Ferini Strambi, MD, and Paolo Barone, MD, PhD.

They are variously associated with the Department of Systematic Pathology, the Department of Neurological Sciences at University Federico II and IDC Hermitage Capodimonte, Naples, Italy, and the Sleep Disorders Center, University Vita-Salute San Raffaele, Milan, Italy.

For their study, the team enrolled 100 adult patients for features of celiac disease, iron metabolism, clinical and neurological conditions, and enrolled another 100 people from the general population as control subjects. These subjects were matched for age and sex.

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To determine the presence of restless leg syndrome in celiac disease patients and controls, the team applied the four essential diagnostic criteria of the International restless leg syndrome Study Group, in addition to conducting a neurological examination. They gauged restless leg syndrome severity using the International restless leg syndrome Study Group rating scale.

The results showed a 31% prevalence of restless leg syndrome among subjects with celiac disease, which was much higher than the 4% prevalence in the control population (P < 0.001). The average restless leg syndrome severity among celiac disease patients was moderate (17 ± 6.5).

In the subjects with celiac disease, the team saw no significant correlation between restless leg syndrome and either gluten-free diet or iron metabolism; even though the celiac patients with restless leg syndrome showed significantly lower hemoglobin levels than celiac patients without restless leg syndrome (P = 0.003).

They also found no connection between restless leg syndrome and other possible causes of secondary restless leg syndrome, including signs of peripheral neuropathy, pregnancy, end-stage renal disease, and pharmacological treatments.

Their study increases the number of neurological disorders associated with celiac disease, and supports screening all celiac disease patients for restless leg syndrome.

SOURCE: Movement Disorders; 13 Apr 2010
DOI 10.1002/mds.22903 welcomes your comments below (registration is NOT required).

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11 Responses:

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said this on
23 Apr 2010 2:00:47 PM PST
I have restless leg syndrome, and celiac. This article is very interesting, and I hope much more research is done on this connection.

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said this on
03 May 2010 6:12:39 AM PST
Restless leg syndrome symptoms are how I found out I had celiac. My symptoms were not restless leg syndrome but were due to iron deficiency anemia. Severely low hemoglobin tests triggered endoscopy to search for Gastric intestinal bleed causes. Results showed celiac not the scarier things they thought they would find.

I seldom have gastric intestinal symptoms when exposed to gluten. Primarily my reactions are related to absorption deficiencies which make it tougher to tell when I've been exposed to something accidentally.

Combination of short term iron supplements and long term gluten free diet have resolved my jumpy legs.

I wonder how many other people are taking neurological drugs to treat celiac symptoms.

Charlene Travelstead
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said this on
03 May 2010 2:19:38 PM PST
I have painful restless leg syndrome and have had it for over 30 years. I do take medication for it and they are still not quite under control. I also found out last July that I have celiac too. I follow the celiac plan faithfully as I have had a few instances that made me very sick.

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said this on
08 Jul 2013 4:14:58 AM PST
I had RLS randomly for years. It was very frustrating when I was trying to sleep. I have been on a strict gluten-free diet for 3 years. I had forgotten I ever had that symptom until I read about this just now. I always thought it was a calcium/magnesium deficiency... I used to take loads and loads of supplements to try and figure out why I wasn't healthy... I wasn't absorbing nutrients! It took 20 years but now I know... absolutely no gluten!

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said this on
02 May 2010 6:32:18 PM PST
Interesting connection with iron. I was taught that restless leg syndrome was resulting from magnesium deficiency. Which would make sense why people with celiac would have it, considering the malabsorption issues we have before giving up gluten and healing.

In myself, I noticed it when I would consume excess caffeine, then restless leg syndrome would pop up. Simply taking excess magnesium supplements for a couple of days does the trick--and backing off the caffeine.

Betty Kneisl
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said this on
03 May 2010 6:02:27 AM PST
I am a 69 year old female who have had restless leg syndrome for many years, and was just diagnosed by saliva tests that I am gluten sensitive. I also have osteoporosis and had 6 painful spinal fractures in the past 2 years from malabsorption of nutrition over the years. I go to a nutritionist and am taking many bone building vitamins.

Dale Bundy
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said this on
03 May 2010 5:26:10 PM PST
Having had the problem for as long as I can remember, I am always interested in looking at information on this subject. I was first informed that this was a 'circulatory problem' and was advised to drink red wine. This seemed to alleviate what was 'happening' to my legs, however, as age grew, so did the strength of the discomfort. Several years ago, my doctor informed me that what I had was restless leg syndrome.
I find particular interest in reading these articles, the search for what causes restless leg syndrome and the cure.

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said this on
07 May 2010 10:41:14 AM PST
Excellent article, thanks.

Steve Frank
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said this on
10 May 2010 9:27:33 AM PST
Actually, I found a terrific product for restless legs Syndrome. It is an herbal lotion in a roll-on type bottle. It has herbs to quell over-active nerves and also ones to relax muscles. My Mom uses it for leg cramps and I tried it on my restless legs. It worked great. I was really surprised because it worked in like, 5 minutes. I’ve tried lots of supplements and stuff and nothing has worked before. The stuff is called Leg Relaxer. You should probably try it for your restless legs. No sense dancing when you should be sleeping.

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said this on
29 Oct 2012 11:49:31 PM PST
After my husband went gluten/dairy free, his RLS went away completely! He had it really bad. If felt like he was having seizures when I slept with him at night.

Barbara Cashmore
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said this on
31 Jan 2015 6:38:14 AM PST
Have been bothered with restless legs for years as well as food allergies. Recently became quite ill and had severe RLS. Have cut out dairy and gluten and symptoms have improved. I found the article very interesting.

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Great so they are safe! Good because I bought a bag and jab been suffering with a sore throat so this will definitely soothe it. Thanks!

Hi Louie, Welcome to the forum! It's true, you probably are doing the gluten-free diet wrong. The gluten-free diet is a huge change for many people, and it can take sometime to learn it and how to avoid all the places gluten can hide in foods. Really I consider the first 6 months a be...

No that's a really good point mate. I'll amend my post also. Thanks for pointing it out

Just needed to point this out while it seems the UK and perhaps even Canada they are. The US McDonalds has wheat in the fries. Second thought in the US you have to a take more careful with CC and chains, the kids go in and out of these like crazy and think gluten free is a kind of fad. I would ...

I hope I'll be fine too.