An effective treatment for restless legs syndrome?

Sometimes I come across a study that is a complete surprise to me. That was the case here. Because how is it possible that restless legs syndrome (RLS) is caused by a deficiency of… potassium?

To begin with, it’s worth writing what RLS is, some people diagnose it for themselves, some get misdiagnosed by their doctor, and others simply don’t believe it exists. Contrary to popular misconception, it is not when we move our legs before bedtime, for example. In the syndrome, we have a very, very uncomfortable sensation somewhere in the calf area. It’s hard to describe, it’s something similar to an itch, an unbearable feeling that is inside the body. Someone who has felt it will not mistake it for anything else, but if someone has not experienced it, it is impossible to explain.

If you feel, especially at night before going to sleep, that there is something wrong with your calves, a little bit like it’s itching somewhere inside, a little bit like it’s suffocating, making you simply unable to fall asleep, it cannot be ignored in any way, that would be it. Back to the description of the clinical trial:

The study didn’t involve a large group of patients, only 68, and it’s also questionable where the clinical trial took place – anyone even control what goes on in Bangladesh? They could have written that after potassium people can levitate and no one will verify it.

„Banana” by Maxey is licensed with CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

This does not change the fact that potassium citrate supplementation, at a dose of a little over 1 gram, has cured EVERY patient. The syndrome is, as the name suggests, a collection of many different elements that result in nasty symptoms. In a nutshell, there is a disruption of dopamine metabolism, there is too little dopamine, or rather it is not being used properly. This has a lot to do with iron deficiency, necessary for its metabolism in the body, as well as oxidative stress, due to low levels of selenium and vitamin E.

But all the studies, on other supplements, only cured some of the patients. Which means that yes, low levels of iron, for example, can increase the risk of the disease, but there are people with anemia and without the syndrome, and there are those who have it despite the fact that they are even poisoned with this iron.

It’s different with potassium. It cured every one of the patients. This means that firstly, everyone suffering from RLS has a potassium deficiency, which he must fix if he does not want other, more serious diseases, secondly, it is an essential factor, without this deficiency the disease has no chance to develop.

Why did the result of the test surprise me so much? I myself have problems with it, and I am the last person I would suspect of a potassium deficiency in the diet! Have I been wrong all this time, thinking I was consuming enough of it? Maybe it’s a matter of something else, like low magnesium levels, which would make it difficult to store this element?

Some comments.

First, the researchers admittedly think potassium helps, but they used citrate, which means the patients were also getting a citric acid salt. For those not familiar with chemistry, I explain that salts generally work the same way in terms of what they are composed of. That is, if we want to supplement potassium, it makes absolutely no difference whether we take citrate or potassium chloride, or even nitrate (which would be harmful, but for a different reason). Similarly, potassium cyanide is just as deadly as sodium cyanide. The two components of salt must be evaluated separately. Any citrate will work the same way in terms of supplying the body with citric acid salts, any salt that has “potassium …” in its name will supplement that element the same way. There are exceptions to this rule, but they are few and irrelevant to this entry.

In other words, supplementing with magnesium citrate and potassium chloride will have the same effect as if you were taking potassium citrate and magnesium chloride.

Citric acid is not inert to the body, it is a very potent supplement. In studies, it very clearly improved concentration and reduced feelings of fatigue:

So it is possible that it is not potassium that is this “miracle drug”, but actually citric acid, or rather its salt, which in this case is the same thing. However, this does not matter much to people who want to experiment with supplementation, as food-grade potassium citrate can easily be bought for next to nothing, and is probably the best potassium supplement available. To the element’s credit, I did try drinking potassium chloride, which has been sitting in the cupboard since time immemorial, and it seems to work.

The second issue, safety. Potassium itself is perfectly safe, the dose the patients got is in literally one small banana. However, chronic use of even such small doses can be dangerous for people with extreme kidney failure, you should consult your doctor. But it’s better not to mention supplements to your doctor, because a doctor can get dizzy just hearing that word, you can ask if you can eat one more banana a day, “because I heard doctor, that they contain a lot of potassium”. This only applies to people who are on the verge of death because of kidney failure, for example they have to do dialysis to survive, don’t bother doctors asking if you can eat a banana if you don’t have such problems.

Dosage. An equivalent of 380 mg of potassium was used, but theoretically, and I stress: theoretically, even a dose 20 times higher is completely safe. The recommended intake is as high as 4500 mg for a 90 kg man, while the average person consumes 2000 mg, which means that for heavier men, only a dose five times higher than the one used by the scientists in the study will lead to them consuming as much as recommended by nutritionists.

Potassium carries a great many health benefits. But it’s hard to get conclusive evidence because it’s not being studied, it’s not patentable, so no one is going to spend fat millions on clinical trials. Only in Bangladesh they don’t give a damn that they can discover a drug that doesn’t bring profit to corporations, they can also conduct research without procedures used in the rest of the world, and therefore sometimes literally thousands of times cheaper.

High potassium intake is known to be associated with a much lower risk of stroke. It is suspected that this deficiency is behind the scourge of cancer. What we know for sure, supplementation is a very effective treatment for hypertension. Preliminary studies also suggest its role in stopping diabetes, by the way, people with this condition are generally severely deficient. The same goes for patients with depression or anxiety disorder, for them it may even be an excellent remedy.

A low level of potassium may indicate a deficiency of magnesium, the latter being necessary for the storage and utilization processes in the body to proceed properly. Then even despite a pretty good diet you can have a deficiency. The question is, why magnesium deficiency if someone has a good diet? Low levels of vitamin D3 significantly impede the absorption and use of magnesium, and we can’t provide it with a diet, sometimes you have to go out in the sun.

In conclusion, it is really worth a try, at worst we will simply be much healthier and the risk of many deadly diseases will decrease. Food-grade potassium citrate costs next to nothing, similarly, for little money you can buy a scale that allows you to check how much 1 gram will be.

The study used a dose of 1 gram of citrate, which is equivalent to 380 mg of potassium. I would suggest a higher one. The recommended daily intake is 4500 mg, we are eating too little of it, and it is very likely that only doses as high as 5 grams of citrate will get us to our optimal dietary intake of it. However, it is not known whether such doses of citric acid will be completely indifferent to health. 2-3 grams of citrate, divided into 2 portions during the day (e.g. 1 gram in the morning, 1 gram in the evening) seems to be optimal in terms of the balance of gains and possible losses.