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Foods That Adversely Affect Restless Legs Syndrome

author image John Riefler
Based in New Jersey, John Riefler has been writing since 1987. His articles have appeared in "MD Magazine," "Emergency Medicine" and "Hospital Practice." Riefler holds a Bachelor of Science in biology from Bucknell University, a Master of Science in microbiology from the Medical University of South Carolina and a medical doctorate from St. George's University School of Medicine.
Foods That Adversely Affect Restless Legs Syndrome
People who have restless legs syndrome should avoid coffee. Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images

According to the Restless Legs Syndrome Foundation, restless legs syndrome, a neurological disorder, involves a strong urge to move the legs, which often accompanies creepy-crawly sensations. Symptoms start or become worse when resting and improve when the legs move. Relief occurs during activity and persists as long as the activity continues. Finally, symptoms worsen in the evening, especially when lying down. Patients should avoid certain foods that make symptoms of restless legs syndrome worse.


According to the Mayo Clinic, people with restless legs syndrome should avoid caffeine and caffeine-containing products, including chocolate and beverages like tea and soda. If symptoms improve after several weeks of no caffeine, then the patient knows to avoid these foods permanently.


Alcohol may initially allieviate restlessness and cause sedation, but after approximately one hour, this effect wanes and a rebound sympathetic drive may worsen leg restlessness and sleep disturbance. Decrease alcohol, which may also trigger or increase the span or intensity of symptoms of restless legs syndrome for most individuals. According to Medscape, red wines and dark-colored liquors containing amines or tannins exacerbate symptoms more than other sources of alcohol.

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Pasta and Bread

According to "Davidson's Principles and Practice of Medicine," celiac disease produces abnormal mucosa in the small intestine, which produces malabsorption. Gluten, a protein in wheat and rye, causes the disease. According to the journal "Digestive Diseases and Sciences," Dr. Leonard B. Weinstock conducted the first epidemiological study looking for an association of celiac disease with restless legs syndrome. He studied 85 patients with celiac disease and found the incidence of restless legs syndrome was 35 percent; incidence of a disease is the rate at which new cases occur in a population during a specified time. He found the prevalence of restless legs syndrome was 25 percent; the prevalence of a disease is the percentage of a population affected by the disease at a specific time. According to the journal "Sleep Medicine," as reported by Dr. Shalini Manchanda, four patients who all had celiac disease confirmed by duodenal biopsy showed improvement in restless legs syndrome symptoms after a gluten-free diet. Patients with restless legs syndrome should decrease consumption of pasta and bread.

Ice Cream

All flavors of ice cream may trigger or cause worsening of restless legs syndrome symptoms. For example, chocolate ice cream contains caffeine. In addition, some brands of ice cream may contain gluten. Ben & Jerry's ice cream is one of the few brands that are gluten-free. Patients with restless legs syndrome should decrease consumption of ice cream.

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