4. Restless Legs Syndrome
People suffering from lack of enough iron will often have what is known as Restless Leg Syndrome where they will experience a strong urge to move their legs, to alleviate unpleasant sensations. This urge will often come with an unpleasant crawling sensation in their legs which can make it hard for them to sleep. The sensations range from mild to unbearable and can be relieved by moving or rubbing the legs. People suffering from the Restless Legs Syndrome can experience the symptoms every day or occasionally, and may have problems sitting down for long periods of time.
The Restless Legs Syndrome occurs when the legs are at rest, and is characteristically most severe in the evenings and nights, disrupting a person’s sleep. The uncomfortable and crawling sensations are felt in the legs when one is sitting or lying down. People who have experienced this describe the feeling as tingling, burning, crawling and throbbing. This feeling may also be experienced in other parts of the body such as the head and arms.
Research shows that the Restless Legs Syndrome is related to a dysfunction in the production of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which helps the brain to control muscle movement. A part of the brain called the basal ganglia uses dopamine to control the body’s muscle activity and movement. Dopamine is the messenger between the brain and the body’s nervous system that helps the brain regulate and coordinate movement. Iron, found in red blood cells, is involved in the production of dopamine. An iron deficiency will lead to poor dopamine production in the body, and this is linked to the Restless Legs Syndrome. Low amounts of dopamine in the brain causes muscle spasms and involuntary movements, such as Restless Legs Syndrome.
Dopamine levels naturally reduce towards the evening, which explains why the Restless Legs Syndrome is most severe in the evening and at night.