Folic Acid

Healthy Q & A: Restless Legs

Q: My mother has been diagnosed with restless leg syndrome, and she has a terrible time sleeping through the night.  Is there anything you would recommend to help her?

A: Your mother certainly isn’t alone.  It is estimated that as much as 10% of the US population has restless leg syndrome (RLS).   RLS in a neurological condition that causes an itching/pulling sensation in the legs and an overwhelming urge to move them.  Symptoms get worse while resting, leading to many a sleepless night.  

Though the cause of restless leg syndrome is unknown, some experts feel there is a nutritional link.  Folic acid and magnesium are especially important for people with restless leg syndrome.  Also, supplementing with antioxidants is important to address the free radical damage that is thought to accelerate RLS.

Magnesium, when taken daily, can help with muscle spasms and jerking.   If the body doesn’t 
have enough magnesium, it’s difficult for the muscles to relax.  It’s also been found that many 
people who suffer from RLS are deficient in folate (a B vitamin that regulates homocyctene), so adding some extra folate could be beneficial.

Also, since restless leg syndrome is a neurological condition, adding a high quality DHA 
supplement would be a good idea.  DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid, is found in high concentrations in the synapses of the brain.  Taking supplemental DHA can help with the smooth transition of messages between neurons in the brain, which can improve the symptoms of restless leg syndrome.

Since there is no known cure for restless leg syndrome, natural supplements like magnesium, DHA, as well as relaxing herbs like valerian can be very useful to help people with RLS to get a good night’s sleep.


Healthy Q & A: Supplements for Pregnancy

Q:  My husband and I are planning on starting to try for a baby.  I want to do everything right that I can, so I wanted to know what vitamins I should be taking before and during pregnancy.

A:  The first thing I’d recommend is folic acid.  It, more than anything other supplement, has been shown to help to prevent birth defects of the brain and spinal cord.  All women of childbearing age should take at least 400 mcg of the B vitamin, since most birth defects occur in the first 3-4 weeks of pregnancy, often before many women know they’re pregnant.  Even if you’re not planning having a baby, it’s still important to take enough folic acid, since you never know.  A good multivitamin will contain 400 mcg of folic acid, so it’s just another reason why taking a multi every day is a good idea.

Once pregnant it’s important to switch to a true prenatal vitamin, and would be a good idea to switch now if you’re planning on getting pregnant.  Certain vitamins need to be in a lower dosage than what a person would normally take when pregnant.  Excess vitamin A and E for example, can be harmful to a developing fetus.

Another supplement which is crucial to a developing fetus is omega 3 fatty acids, either a fish based supplement or a vegetarian DHA supplement like Flora’s Vegetarian DHA.  Flax oil is a good source of omega 3 for vegetarians, but it does not contain DHA (one of the beneficial parts of omega 3 fatty acids) like omega 3 fish oil does.  DHA is extremely important for fetal eye and brain development.  DHA is also important during breastfeeding, so don’t stop taking it after you’ve had the baby.  Here’s a great article which reports on a variety of studies and benefits on DHA and pregnancy.

When I was pregnant, I also took probiotics, or “good bacteria”.  It was one of the only supplements for boosting the immune system that was safe during pregnancy (you need to be very careful with taking herbs and whatnot during pregnancy, since what is beneficial for a regular person can be harmful during pregnancy).   I had also read some studies which linked probiotics during pregnancy to a reduced risk of allergies and eczema in children.

Finally, I’d recommend the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler.  It’s a fantastic book for explaining hormone and fertility cycles in women.  I really can’t recommend it enough.  Another book I liked when I was pregnant was The Natural Pregnancy Book by Aviva Romm.