Restless Legs Syndrome
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RLS and stomach/bowel problems

I have been looking up stuff about RLS for a while, and nothing points towards bowel problems as a leading cause of RLS. I have suffered from RLS for many years, but only recently have I made the link between bowel problems and the incidence of RLS. Notably, constipation is present when RLS decides to revisit. This is by no means the ONLY circumstance in which RLS makes itself apparent, but I have noted similar bowel or stomach complaints exist when RLS rears its ugly head. I've had years of trying out quack medicines and vague interventions. None have worked. Only when my bowel problems have subsided do my RLS symptoms do the same.

So, think hard guys... does this make sense to you?

31 Replies

I read your question. I don't know. I'm interested in responses from

others who might know. Sorry that I cannot help. I sincerely hope that

you are seeking some medical attention for the bowel problems. = l

In all of the reading that I've done on rls, I have never heard any connection

between the two. That doesn't mean that it doesn't exist. RLS is one of

those things that I learn more and more about each day. Keep us posted.

Reply There is a connection


read this

The connection is proven.


I cannot say if RLS is linked to my bowel problems but I had, and to some extent still do, problems with loose bowels. Other years it got worse and eventually I developed toxic colon and had to have an emergency colostomy.

The bowel problems started about 16 years ago, the RLS about 10, colostomy operation 5 years ago.

If at any time you need more info let me know and I'll message it to you.


Hi, Herlie, I can safely say that in my groups we have never come across bowel problems that may cause it in 15 yrs of posts, but at the same time, many of us have linked it to a full bladder, so it could be if you are constantly constipated, it "could'. there is so much we do not know. Do you keep a symptom diary. That would be interesting to see after you keep a diary for a few months if that pattern becomes apparent in your writings. We all should keep a sleep/symptom/med diary. Makes it easier to sort things out.


Exploring the science of gut bacteria

Monday, June 27, 2011

Flora-Killing Fallout: The connection between gut bacteria and restless legs syndrome

Some people's legs have a mind of their own. Their legs decide that they need to pace the room constantly instead of sitting. Their legs are responsible for the twisted knot of sheets at the end of the bed every morning. Their legs burn or tingle or get creepy-crawly sensations, especially when they try to sit down and relax.

Legs picture by Pedro Simões, via Flickr

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is associated with an irresistible urge to move the legs. As you can imagine, this brings its own set of problems. A lot of the time, people with RLS have trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep - making them grouchy and unfocused in the daytime. The sensory and motor abnormalities in this syndrome have a neurological connection, but so far there is no clear answer about how to make restless legs go away.

According to one intriguing new study in Sleep Medicine, restless legs syndrome may be another thing that is connected to gut bacteria gone haywire.

The study came about because its investigators, Weinstock and Walters, had previously noticed that many people with celiac disease and Crohn's disease happened to have a diagnosis of restless legs syndrome.

They wondered: Does the reverse relationship hold between gastrointestinal problems and restless legs? That is, if we take a group of people with known RLS, would we find that they have more gastrointestinal problems than people with normal leg movement?

The gastrointestinal problems they were interested in studying were irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).

Importantly, IBS is a "functional syndrome". That means doctors diagnose it based on reported symptoms rather than a specific test that confirms or disconfirms it. So to be fair, there's no guarantee that people with IBS have anything wrong with their gut bacteria. But in recent years IBS has been linked to SIBO, a condition that is definitely associated with too many bacteria hanging out in a neighborhood where they don't belong: the small intestine.

SIBO itself is diagnosed via an indirect method called the "lactulose breath test". The attraction of this method is that it involves nothing more invasive than drinking a cup of sugar solution and blowing into a plastic tube.

The researchers wanted to investigate both IBS and SIBO because each one indicates that something is going wrong with digestion; some patients have both problems, but others have just one or the other. Smartly, the researchers ended up with one measure of gastrointestinal distress that was based on reported criteria (i.e. IBS), and one that was based on measurable biology (i.e. SIBO).

People with restless legs syndrome discovered the study through ads that made no mention of gastrointestinal symptoms. Their diagnoses of RLS were confirmed by the investigators, and then each subject was assessed for both IBS and SIBO.

It turned out that IBS was diagnosed in 28% of subjects with restless legs syndrome, compared to 4% of the controls. In some of the cases, the IBS symptoms had appeared before the onset of the RLS symptoms. In others, the two problems started around the same time.

As for SIBO, the breath test showed it was present in 69% of the people with restless legs syndrome, compared to 28% of the controls.

The conclusion? People with restless legs syndrome have a greater incidence of IBS and SIBO - that is, a greater incidence of problems in the digestive system - than people without it. And in at least some people with restless legs syndrome, the associated gastrointestinal problem was related to bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine.

The research is far from concluding that gastrointestinal problems CAUSE restless legs or vice versa. But the researchers did put forward the tantalizing idea that there may be a common mechanism that leads to both: maybe some kind of inflammatory process in the body that leads to central or peripheral nerve damage, or a change in micronutrient absorption, resulting in restless legs.

In support of this, the researchers did an informal review of conditions that tended to co-occur with RLS; 89% of these disorders had been associated with inflammation or immune system activation.

In turn, the connection between inflammation and problems with gut bacteria has strong support in the literature. But that's a topic for another day.

Lots of questions remain about restless legs syndrome, but the connection that this study made between restless legs and gut troubles seems to confirm certain clinical observations - not to mention people's personal experiences. We need more information though - let's hope this area of research stays alive and... ahem... kicking.

Weinstock LB, & Walters AS (2011). Restless legs syndrome is associated with irritable bowel syndrome and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. Sleep medicine, 12 (6), 610-3 PMID: 21570907

Posted by Kristina Campbell at 1:41 PM

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Labels: gut bacteria health, gut flora, healthy gut flora, IBS symptoms, inflammation, irritable bowel syndrome, lactulose breath test, restless legs syndrome, SIBO test, sleep disturbance


AnonymousJuly 14, 2013 at 3:39 PM

Thank you now I know I'm not crazy


AnonymousJuly 24, 2013 at 9:23 PM

I hadn't heard of this but was toying with taking an 'inner health' good bacteria pill the other night. Not sure why, just instinct. God knows nothing else seemed to be working (mag./calcium pills, mag.glycinate pills, mag,chloride baths, iron via liver, potassium vis avacados and bananas... etc, ad nauseum). It was so bad last night that I called my husband home from work this morning in desperate tears and have been crying off and on all day trying to sleep, but the legs won't permit it.

I'll take the pill now and see if it makes a difference.



AnonymousSeptember 14, 2013 at 1:30 AM

Very interesting! I've been having IBS and now have RLS. I want relief!!!


colonic irrigation MelbourneSeptember 23, 2013 at 9:43 PM

It is really hard to concentrate in what your doing when your restless.


AnonymousOctober 19, 2013 at 4:27 PM

Mycotoxins produced by fungi can produce restless leg syndrome. Myself and my son suffered when we stayed in a house where we were unknowingly inhaling toxic mould. Candida overgrowth in the gut can produce the same mycotoxins... resulting in the same symptoms. I had fibromyalgia symptoms due to the toxins. We both recovered within a year of moving out. I think candida overgrowth occurs in children following antibiotics. Probiotics are a good idea, plus an antiyeast diet for a while.


checkt this outOctober 28, 2013 at 5:05 AM

First time I've heard about this restless legs syndrome.


SharenApril 24, 2014 at 12:08 AM

I started taking a probiotic supplement about a month ago when I was prescribed antibiotics. I just realized, this week, that my restless legs were considerably improved and I'm sleeping through the night for the first time in over 10 years. Proof enough for me!


WajahatApril 28, 2014 at 11:48 AM

I have RLS for very long time and I hard to remember a night when I slept all night without waking up. Heat pads / Hot showers / baking soda + water / leg press in gym are all temporary relief things .


AnonymousOctober 27, 2014 at 11:01 AM

I took a dose of antibiotics recently and it caused me to lose sleep for two weeks with a flare up of RLS.

Tried tyrosine, magnesium, painkillers, even rubbing deep heat into my legs.

I'm taking some baterial yogurts now and it seems to be helping somewhat.

Think the antibiotics might have killed a lot of the bacteria in my gut.


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I suffer with IBS and have done for years but RLS started long before that so can't see a link where im concerned but then anything possible as each of us are different ..


Hi and thanks for the reply. Is it possible that you had minor digestive upset before being diagnosed? I'm not very knowledgeable about IBS, sorry if the question seems silly.


i've had IBS since childhood and still have it usually brought on by anxiety :( making it worst or the other way round either way i got told it's IBS


Yes, I feel there is a connection between my uncomfortable intestinal tract and my rls

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Hi guys, I realise I've posted again about this subject elsewhere on the site and I apologise. I'm rarely 'regular' but for the past month or so I haven't had a single episode of RLS and I have had normal bowel movements. My attacks have always been intermittent so this isn't a conclusion, but I shall be keeping a close eye on things. I'm not saying that controlling your bowels will be a wonder cure for RLS, but it may help for some. I would most definitely appreciate finding a cure for my symptoms without visiting a doctor or taking any pills.


I think there is something in what you say Herlie. i get rls a lot in my pelvis ans always feel a bowel movement would or should ease it .


i have IBS, dont know if its relevant or not, i do know a fair few of us that do have it also, arent we a weird lot. Ive had an awfull night, dont know what was worse, the RLS or the arthritis pain, ive been up and down all night, in and out of the bath, getting painkillers, through the night, even done a 2.30 am slug hunt in the garden, pesky little devils !!, anything to try take my mind of it, so im not having a good day now as im tired and grouchy


poor Tallula...hope you get a nap this afternoon x x x x


aparently, i have been snoring for England for the last 2 1/2 hours :)................. i never heard a thing ??


I have Mb Crohn since 1975 and an ileo ostomy since 1979, my RLS/WED started (?) in the early 1980.

And I do believe that they both have the same background, the same reason. I just cannot find it.

Maybe an inflammation somewhere in my system?


Yes, I agree. My RLS is related to IBS. Having an empty colon - even if it means at 2am going to the bathroom - will ALWAYS relieve RLS. I am not anemic but if I can't go to the bathroom then I take "easy iron" and within 40 minutes I can feel body relaxing. My restless leg has become restless body over the years. I know RLS is called the anemic brain and even if you're not anemic I think our brains have trouble calling up the needed iron. So that free floating iron at night seems to help. Or maybe it's just our gut bacteria that is active at night and using the available iron that it too loves so much. Seems like having a bowel movement disrupts their party and allows our brains to get a little iron. Very strange.



My symptoms are somehow close to your. I will explain it in the following and let you know what I did finally.

Mine actually fall into the following:


An urge to move the legs, usually accompanied or caused by uncomfortable and unpleasant sensations in the legs.


Beginning or worsening of the urge to move or unpleasant sensations during periods of rest or inactivity such as lying or sitting.


Partially or totally relieving of the urge to move or unpleasant sensations by movement, such as walking or stretching, at least as long as the activity continues.


Worsening of the urge to move or unpleasant sensations in the evening or night than during the day or only occur in the evening or night.

Extracted from the following:

In fact my symptoms hearts me more when I go to bed and some times during the day time while sitting on a chair.

I feel nervousness in my legs and I need to move/vibrate them to get rid of it.

I was visited by neurologist doctors and their medication was of no or only little help and no cure.

Gradually I could find by myself that is a relation between my RLS and gas in my rectum and end part of my large intestine (Sigmoid Colon).

I found this by noticing that the nights when RLS is high and does not let me sleep and so I forced to go for a walk (go and return) inside the dinning room after releasing some gas my leg nervousness become less.

So in short I focused on the new issue: gas and how to minimize intestine gas.

What is wrong there in the food I eat and my digestive system that not only creates this much gas but also is sensitive to it.

So I came to the main cause of inflammation and how I should eat and what should not eat that creates high volume of gas. How can I cure the inflammation and I came to the conclusion of having a gluten free and low carb or better say substituting carb with vegetables, and having ginger, turmeric, tart cherry Joice , detoxification, cleansing the digestive by natural organic juices,...

Oh last but very important I dropped dinners while having all the good breakfast and lunch.


I have recently been dealing with my RLS again. I have just put these two things together, finally. I honestly didn't think I would find anyone who would believe me. I have gastroparesis. I take pills so I can eat food. My BM's are extremely loose. I have finally realized that when I can not go right away, that the RLS kicks in hard. Then, when I have used the restroom, the RLS seems to calm down. I am calling my doctor tomorrow to discuss this with her. When I told her I needed to be on Re-quip again, she looked in a book for any adverse reactions with all the other things I take. She told me that the pills I take for my stomach is going to require more re-quip because they do interact. I think there may be a lot more to this than I realized. I will try to find out more about this and report back.


hi herlie, i dont know if you still use this site. but i too have questioned the bowel movements and RLS as i pace the house for hours each night, and then i have a bowel movement. and suddenly my severe RLS pains disappear and i can finally go to bed.


That was me too. Besides certain medications triggering RLS, an angry GI tract will do the same. I am able to massage the abdomen and get rid of the distress (aka poop) and within minutes the RLS is gone as well. One day I will figure out why that is. I have a feeling it has to do with our gut microbiome and the fact that they are swept along (and some are swept out) with a bowel movement. I read that dopamine is released when you have a bowel movement so that's another theory. The other thing I noticed is getting very sleepy after going during the day as well??? Ridiculously sleepy. It took me a while to make the connection but the two.

It seems now that my gut is more in order I no longer need to do the middle of the night massage thing. Can you get your gut to behave?


thanks for the massage tip will try it, xx


I too suffer from nls . Only last night after a laxative began working at 2 am did the twitching end. This caused me to think for. The first time that there might be a correlation. Your statement reinforces my thinking. I have this nls about 5-6 times per month.


yes yes. I truly believe the work by DRS Weinstock and Walters is the answer for some people. All I know is that for the 7 days I took an antibiotic for urinary tract I did not have any RLS and for 2 years it has been a nightly pattern, I literally walk most of the night. On the antibiotic, nothing, not one twitch. It's promising, but can't find a Dr. to prescribe.


Hi DLGS. I think it's antibiotics effect on our gut microbiome that may help or hurt us in terms of RLS. The world of the very small controls our bodies. I recently read articles that state gut microbiome control functioning in other organs including brain and heart. And here's an interesting one about the change in gut microbiome just prior to onset of type I diabetes in children.

Let's pretend your RLS is caused by your out of control zoo animals. You need those zoo animals, we all do, but we need them in the right amount and diversity. When the zoo animals get out of control, a high alert signal goes off telling the liver that the body has an infection. The liver then secretes a chemical called hepcidin that controls the absorption of iron from the GI tract as well as the release of iron from our stores. It's our bodies defense mechanism. Every living thing requires iron to survive, including bacteria. By withholding iron our bodies are trying to starve out the critters. I call Hepcidin the iron gatekeeper. In the process we get RLS because our brains are also denied iron. By taking antibiotics you greatly reduce the number of zoo animals (both good and bad). The high alert signal goes quiet because an infection is no longer sensed. Iron flows free again, until you stop the antibiotics and the bacterial count swells.

I don't think antibiotics are the answer. But if you're desperate there are two things you can try. One is to take natural antibiotics like oregano oil, zinc, wormwood, black walnut. The list of natural antibiotics is endless. Mix them up. Keep them in the house and take them when you remember because that's kind of the way it would have happened in the wild. We would roam and eat various substances that were inherently anti-bacterial. In our fast food world we rarely get these substances anymore. But people make themselves crazy coming up with these elaborate regimens to cleanse themselves and no one really knows exactly what it takes to have that perfect zoo. But you know that you felt better on antibiotics so it's worth a shot. Just don't overdo any one substance. And try not to be constipated or eat too much sugar, the favorite food of the very small.

Or, instead of herbs, you can sneak your brain some iron at night (when everyone's iron level drops, even non-RLSers). I think it hits its lowest point at midnight. By taking a bio-available form of iron at night on an empty stomach you are literally sneaking some iron to your brain before it gets stored never to be seen or heard from again. Iron isn't a supplement to someone with RLS, it's a drug. An emergency drug and a dead end. It works for about six hours and has to be repeated whenever you have an attack. Iron tends to be constipating thus a vicious cycle begins.

You know how well the antibiotics worked for your RLS, now find a way to reproduce that natural. That's more the answer than the iron.


Recent events with my mother allowed me to discover interesting potential link between ibs and restless legs. So if you consider ibs/intestinal issues as potentially a nutritional malabsorption issue, then throw in poor diet (bland diet you can tolerate with ibs present) , my mom ran into bad anemia issues / low iron. Interestingly low iron / anemia is know to cause symptoms of tingling / restless leg syndrome. Just a thought, but maybe your restless legs went away once your gut issues were addressed and your body was able to absorb iron and other nutrients properly. Ill learn if this holds true as we address my mom's anemia / ibs.



I have suffered from IBS for some years and thankfully mebeverine twice daily has this under control. I have been struggling with RLS only since the end of April. I am taking 30/500 cocodomol in the morning due to the pain in my legs. I am aware of the constipation possibility but two days ago I had the worst IBS experience that I have had for several years. So my problem is very different from yours. I hope very much that the problem was simply something I ate and very much hope that this is not going to repeat itself



OMG why not try stopping the mebeverine on the outside chance that is somehow triggering your RLS? Are you taking any other drugs for Ibs or reflux?


You are correct, the research is being carried out at the moment.

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I swear it is linked. I could be up all night with RLS. However if I have a BM it goes away immediately and I can sleep. For years this has been the case. I focus on eating fibre in the am so that I can plan for RLS relief this way. It's almost as if the colon is against a nerve when it is expanded. Wish this could be figured out. I have read other comments on sites with similar symptoms and cure. Anybody else?


I found your post because I searched RLS in connection with IBS. It seems whenever I have IBS systems such as constipation or diarrhea episodes I have RLS. I have found some medical reports that say there can be a connection, so yes. You are on the right track. Talk to your doctor.


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