In a new study, researchers found that small intestine bacterial overgrowth may be more common in people with restless legs syndrome.
The finding may help develop new detection, prevention, and treatment for restless legs syndrome and other sleep disorders.
The research was conducted by a team from Stanford Center for Sleep Sciences and Medicine.
Small intestine bacterial overgrowth is a condition in which rare gut-residing bacteria are over-represented in the gut.
Restless legs syndrome is a sensorimotor disorder, in which patients have a strong, nearly irresistible urge to move the limbs that are often accompanied by other uncomfortable sensations.
These symptoms begin or worsen during periods of rest such as lying down or sitting, may be relieved by movement such as walking or stretching, and always happen at night.
In the study, the team found that small intestine bacterial overgrowth was found in all seven participants who have restless legs syndrome.
But in the general population, the rate of small intestine bacterial overgrowth is below 15%.
The team explains that low iron in the brain is a key risk factor for restless legs syndrome.
This brain iron deficiency may be secondary to dietary iron deficiency or, potentially, gut inflammation.
The team plans to test more study participants at the Stanford Sleep Center.
Further analyses will focus on their fecal microbial composition, subtypes of restless legs syndrome iron deficiency, and comparisons with insomnia.
The lead author of the study is Daniel Jin Blum, an adjunct clinical instructor at Stanford Center for Sleep Sciences and Medicine.
The study is published in Sleep. The paper is ‘Restless Leg Syndrome: Does It Start With A Gut Feeling?’
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