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Coping with Restless Leg Syndrome

All in the family

Restless leg syndrome (RLS) has always been a bit of a mystery, albeit one that affects millions of people in the U.S. But now a new study has pinpointed at least one of the genes partly responsible for the disorder and its nagging symptoms of burning, tugging, or creeping sensations in the legs.

This genetic factor may explain why about half the people who suffer from the disorder also have a family history of it. Individuals with the inherited form tend to be younger when symptoms first begin, although they have a slower progression of the condition.

While symptoms are mainly a factor at night, they can also occur during long stretches of inactivity, such as car trips, airline travel, in meetings, or when watching movies. Most people say that the unpleasant feelings can only be resolved with voluntary movement, such as walking or crossing and uncrossing the legs. But there may be something else you can try. Herbalist and regular Nutrition & Healing columnist Kerry Bone recommends horse chestnut extract for his patients with restless leg syndrome. Horse chestnut extract helps promote healthy blood circulation throughout the body, including the legs. Relieving pressure on the veins in the legs and keeping blood flowing smoothly through them can help alleviate the symptoms of RLS.


A burning question

Q: I see all the commercials on TV talking about heartburn, GERD, acid indigestion, acid reflux, etc. What’s the difference between them? And what can I do to get rid of them?

JVW: GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease, is chronic heartburn that has damaged the delicate lining of the lower end of the esophagus, the muscular tube that leads from the mouth to the stomach. It begins as a mild irritation, but if the reflux continues over a period of months or years, it can end up as scarring, constriction, ulceration, and even cancer. That is why even intermittent heartburn should not be allowed to continue.

Some mistakenly believe that GERD is the result of too much stomach acid, but actually, the opposite is true. People that have GERD usually have too little stomach acid. And in fact, stomach acid itself is not the cause of GERD. It may cause symptoms of the condition, but what actually leads to GERD is the improper work of the esophageal sphincter, the muscular valve at the end of the esophagus. When operating correctly, this valve opens wide to permit food and liquids to pass into the stomach, then closes to block any acidic juices from entering the esophageal tube. When not working properly, the backflow of stomach acid leads to heartburn.

The first step to correct GERD is to have your stomach function tested to measure stomach acid. If it is indeed low, supplement with either one capsule (5, 7 1/2, or 10 grains) of betaine hydrochloride-pepsin or glutamic-acid hydrochloride-pepsin before meals for two or three days. The goal is to gradually increase the dose (two capsules, then three capsules, etc., during the early part of your meals) until you reach a maximum dose of 40 to 70 grains per meal.

The process needs to be carefully monitored by a physician, and hydrochloric acid should never be used if you are also taking any anti-inflammatory medications, such as aspirin, Butazolidin, Inodicin, or Motrin.
But this treatment, along with certain diet and lifestyle modifications, can restore your GI environment to near normal conditions, and eliminate heartburn — and GERD — for good.

To learn more about this common problem and its treatment, you may want to read the book I have co-authored on the subject, Why Stomach Acid Is Good For You: Natural Cures for Heartburn and Indigestion. It offers an in-depth look at the issues surrounding this topic and is available from


What is…a gene?

A gene is a unit of hereditary material. It consists of DNA within the nucleus of a cell. Every cell holds within its nucleus more than 50,000 different genes. Genes influence and direct the development and functioning of every organ and system in our bodies.

Yours in good health,
Amanda Ross
Managing Editor
Nutrition & Healing

“Restless Legs Syndrome: Confirmation of linkage to chromosome 12q, genetic heterogeneity, and evidence of complexity.” Archives of Neurology, April 2005; 62:591-596.