What are restless legs?

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a common movement disorder that causes uncomfortable sensations in the legs, usually with an overwhelming urge to move the legs. Symptoms are most likely to occur when sitting still or at night when trying to sleep, thus causing insomnia and sleep deprivation.

How many are affected?

It is thought about 2% of school-age children and 10% of adults in the US are affected.

What causes restless legs?

Officially, the causes of RLS can include iron deficiency anaemia, too much caffeine, alcohol or smoking, and the side-effects of some medications including antidepressants. Food chemicals such as additives and salicylates are not mentioned.

What our readers say

As usual, people are different, but symptoms can vanish on the diet we recommend. Salicylates and additives are often mentioned including artificial colours, natural colour 160b and MSG.

‘With salicylate reduction ... my restless legs (which I didn’t realise I had … until this diet) reduced dramatically. Sleeping is SO MUCH BETTER …’ - from story [1413]

“We have been FS for 4 weeks ... the bed wetting, terrors and restless legs have gone too I just can't believe what a totally different child I have” – from story [1226].

Restless Legs Syndrome was absolutely driving me crazy. If I forced my legs to be still, they would then jerk with even greater intensity. While I was watching TV, my legs were constantly swinging, because of this urge to move them. They were not itchy - it was just like there was something under the skin driving me crazy… American websites about RLS basically fall back onto all sorts of medication, which I do not want to take. Within two weeks of trying the elimination diet, I was able to sit still at night, AND get into bed without fear of tossing and turning all night because of this urge to move my legs. I now know the foods I should not touch - salicylates and additives ... when I eat any of these forbidden foods there is a definite reaction” – from story [122]

Cutting out all artificial and natural food colouring from our daughter’s diet had stopped all her restless legs and muscle pain! Has worked wonders for her!!!” – Michele from story [1254]

MSG does it for me, insomnia and restless legs like crazy– Hanna from story [1563]

“…Many times in past years I have suffered with restless legs and disturbed sleep and hadn’t known what caused them… decided to investigate the fish fingers we had for dinner and found that they contained 160b [natural colour annatto] ... One month later … Since I’ve stopped eating the fish fingers I’ve had no more restless legs. I’m convinced that it is the 160b causing them. I’ve since eaten the fish fingers without the batter and had no ill effects…" - from story [906]

Facebook threads

“… restless leg syndrome. The RLS is the most random symptom isn’t it lol … I cut out salicylates and it’s completely gone away. I challenged salicylates and it came back later that night-super weird !!“– Lydia from from facebook thread [1644]

“My daughter was put on the elimination diet for salicylates and amines and I thought I’d be supportive and do it with her. Well it seems that I am more intolerant than her. Who knew that was the cause of my body pain … I’m just wondering what other common symptoms there are for a middle age lady? – Julie [1493]

More info

Introduction to food intolerance

What are salicylates?