I saw a commercial recently for a medical condition called RLS (Restless Leg Syndrome).
Seriously? This is a medical condition so common that they have developed a prescription drug for it?
We’ve all had restless leg syndrome. I’m laying in bed and can’t get my legs comfortable; and they’re a little bit twitchy. Personally it’s what happens to me when I have too much sugar or caffeine or both. It’s also been linked to anemia. Now I’m certainly not an expert on RLS specifically, but what I do know is that the majority of unpleasant physical conditions we suffer from today are either diet-related, or side effects of pharmaceutical drugs.
On a whim I decided to check out RLS.com and here’s what it says, along with a little snarky commentary for fun:
IN ADDITION to medications, there are other things you and your doctor can consider when trying to help you deal with RLS. These options may include:
(Note the all caps “IN ADDITION to medications”. I’m sorry, but not taking medication is not an option.)
1. Checking to see if there is an underlying iron or vitamin deficiency and then possibly supplementing your diet with iron, vitamin B12 or folate. (Hmm ok, I might try those BEFORE taking your drug.)
2. Looking at medications you may be taking which make RLS worse. These may include drugs used to treat high blood pressure, heart conditions, nausea, colds, allergies and depression. (Told ya! So you may need drugs for the side effects of drugs for the side effects of drugs… they’ve really got you now.)
3. Looking at any herbal and over-the-counter medicines you may be taking to see if they could be worsening your RLS. (Oop, I detect a little subtle anti-herb propaganda in this one. “Herbal medicine abuse is becoming a real problem” said no one ever)
4. Identifying habits and activities that worsen RLS symptoms. (And those “habits and activities” are… Oh wait, if you told me what they were, I may not need your drug… Dang it!)
5. Looking at your diet to assure it is healthy and balanced. (Ah yes, more ambiguity, the “healthy and balanced diet” solution. That clears it up.)
6. Discussing whether or not antihistamines could be contributing to your RLS. (That sounds like a fascinating discussion topic! I’m filing that one away for my next cocktail party.)
7. Eliminating your alcohol intake. (Good advice generally speaking, but after careful observation of the effects of alcohol on my own legs in the past, I wouldn’t describe that condition as RLS, more like DLS: Drunken Leg Syndrome.)
8. Looking at various activities that may help you personally deal with RLS. These could include walking, stretching, taking a hot or cold bath, massaging, acupressure, or relaxation techniques. (Finally one I like! But it’s still not addressing the cause, only the symptoms)
9. Attempting to keep your mind engaged with activities like discussions, needlework or video games when you have to stay seated. (Talking, knitting and video games may help distract you from your twitching legs)
10. Implementing a program of good sleep habits. Possibly eliminating caffeine from your diet to aid in general sleep hygiene. (Aha! There it is! Notice how caffeine is the LAST one on the list and they downplay it as “possibly” eliminating caffeine. Also who or what is “General Sleep Hygiene”?)
I can almost see the drug company marketing goons writing that piece now:
Goon #1: “Phil unfortunately our clinical research has shown that dietary changes and reduction in caffeine are the most effective solutions to RLS, so we have to include that in the list right?.”
Goon #2: “That’s right Ted. Just put the one about caffeine at the bottom, and put that B-12 one at the top. And don’t make the list too helpful… Remember we’re trying to sell pills here. Who am I kidding, put whatever you want, nobody read these things anyway! AHAHAHAH!”
Ok that was fun, but seriously. Before you send me hate mail, know this: I’m not making fun of RLS, or of you if you have RLS. This is a rant against the pharmaceutical drug industry.
Prescription drug dependance is an epidemic in America today.
Check out this CDC data from 2008:
- The percentage of Americans who took at least one prescription drug in the past month is 48%.
- That’s 1 out of every 5 children, and 9 out of 10 older Americans.
- 31% of Americans used two or more prescription drugs.
- 11% of Americans used five or more prescription drugs.
- The most commonly used types of drugs included: asthma medicines for children, central nervous system stimulants for adolescents, antidepressants for middle-aged adults, and cholesterol lowering drugs for older Americans.
The problem with prescription drugs is that offer a “quick fix” to your problem with no self-discipline required other than a daily pill swallow. But they are only treating the symptom, not the problem itself. What’s worse is that prescription drugs have long-term side effects, and will eventually require you to start taking additional drugs to deal with the problems caused by prescription #1 ; compounding your health problems. In the past when I’ve strained my back I didn’t take a pain pill to solve the problem, I went to see a chiropractor and he fixed the problem.
If you have a condition like RLS, my best (friendly) advice is to transform your diet, start exercising. Sugar and caffeine are obvious ones to cut out, but you could also have a mild dietary allergy to wheat, dairy, or one of the many artificial ingredients in our food today. This also may be caused by a prescription medication you are currently taking. You can take the hardcore approach and make a drastic change, or do it gradually and systematically.
The Hardcore Approach: Eliminate all processed food from your diet: fast food, junk food, sugar, grains, meat, and dairy; and eat only organic raw fruits and vegetables for one week and see how you feel. The is the best approach by far. Do what I did and keep it simple: Juice, eat Giant Salads, and make your own Super Healthy Smoothies.
The Gradual Systematic Approach: Ween yourself off of food groups in phases and see how you feel: First eliminate caffeine for a week, then refined sugar, then grains, then dairy. Those are the major agitators. The systematic approach may allow you to pinpoint the exact cause of your condition if it’s dietary, but it takes a lot of self-discipline.
Be honest with yourself and what you’re capable of. I’ve found it’s sometimes easier to make drastic changes rather than gradual ones, especially if you tell everyone what you’re doing so they can support you.
But if you don’t want to make any changes to your diet and lifestyle, I guess you can just keeping doing what you’re doing, and take a little pill every day called Requip for your restless legs; which by the way, according to the manufacturer, can cause
Parkinson’s Disease. That’s the one where your whole body twitches uncontrollably.
Think Michael J. Fox.
More about the raw detox diet here.
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