I started really noticing my restless leg syndrome around the time I went vegan.
Naturally, I thought it was related.
There are a few possible causes of restless leg syndrome that might be caused by a vegan diet.
I’m going to go over those possible causes in more detail here.
Side note: Don’t dismiss other potential causes. In my case, the issue was actually over-hydration (I was drinking 6+ liters per day).
Possible Causes of Restless Leg Syndrome That a Vegan Diet Can Affect
Restless leg syndrome still hasn’t quite been figured out.
Researchers have identified many possible causes, but sometimes the cause just isn’t obvious.
Here’s a list of the most common causes:
- Vitamin D Deficiency
- Iron deficiency
- Kidney failure
- Spinal cord conditions
- Nerve damage (from diseases like diabetes and alcoholism)
A vegan diet would only really affect those first two.
Both vitamin D and iron are harder to get on a vegan diet.
The most likely issue, however, is iron deficiency.
Why is Iron Deficiency Common in Vegans
There are 2 reasons that vegans often struggle with iron deficiency:
- It’s harder to find iron in plant-based foods
- The type of iron that is dominant in plants (non-heme) isn’t as easy to absorb as the iron in animal products (heme)
If you’re not paying special attention to iron when you first go vegan, it’s easy to find yourself in a deficit.
Start by getting enough iron. Use a food tracking app like Cronometer to see if you’re getting enough iron. If you’re not, refer to this list of the best vegan iron sources and focus on including more of them.
If you still can’t meet the RDA for iron, consider getting a vegan iron supplement.
Next, you should always try to consume iron alongside vitamin C, which makes a big difference in how well you absorb it.
Finally, soaking any legumes you eat will reduce their phytate content. Phytates bind to minerals like iron and prevent absorption, so getting rid of them will help you absorb more.
When to See a Doctor
If you’re getting restless legs often, you should see a doctor.
While the cause may be as simple as not getting enough vitamin D, it could be completely unrelated and more serious.
Be on the safe side, get checked out, and get a blood test to check iron levels while you’re at it.