Tourette's syndrome is a neurological disorder for which no cure exists. In some people, the cause may be genetic, while in others the cause may stem from a brain abnormality. Often the exact cause is not known. The disorder is characterized by tics, involuntary movements or sounds. Although conventional treatment involves medication, diet may play a role. Supplementing with certain vitamins and minerals, or determining possible food allergies, may help control this condition.
In a person without Tourette's syndrome, the brain can easily control any movement the person focuses on. If you choose to lift your arm, a specific area of your brain concentrates on this movement, while the remaining areas of your brain prevent the movement of your legs. For those with Tourette's, there is a functional imbalance, or underconnection of electrical brain activity. This imbalance causes tics to occur, while the slow electrical activity results in the brain's inability to prevent impulsive movements.
The symptoms of Tourette's tend to appear between the ages of 7 and 10, usually worsen during teen years and may improve as you progress into adulthood. Tics may present either physically or vocally and vary in severity. Simple tics are sudden, brief and repetitive. Physical simple tics include blinking, finger flexing, shoulder shrugging and jerking of the head, while simple vocal tics include yelling, hiccuping and barking. Complex tics involve several muscle groups and are more distinct. Complex physical tics involve touching the nose or other people, obscene gestures or flapping arms. Examples of complex vocal includes repetition of words, shouting expletives or repetition of another person's words or phrases. Food allergies and lack of certain vitamins and minerals may contribute to or worsen tics. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) hypothesizes that a magnesium deficiency may be the central cause of Tourette's symptoms.
Magnesium is a mineral necessary for a healthy immune system and strong bones. If you have Tourette's syndrome, magnesium is imperative for normal muscle and nerve function. Foods such as spinach, legumes, unrefined whole-grain products and nuts are good sources of magnesium. If you have a deficiency, your doctor may recommend taking a supplement. Clinical trials are necessary to determine the medical efficacy of magnesium as a low-side-effect treatment option for patients with Tourette's. However, eating a healthier diet containing foods rich in magnesium may help until studies offer a conclusive determination.
Yeast, or Candida albicans, is a naturally occurring substance in the human body. It resides in the intestinal tract, generally causing no harm. At times, though, a yeast overgrowth occurs; your body absorbs the chemical compounds it produces, which are toxic to your nervous system. Once these chemicals reach your brain, it can result in disorders such as ADHD, autism and Tourette's. Clearing candida from your intestines helps flush these toxic chemicals from the rest of your body — the chemicals that may cause the slow electrical activity in your brain responsible for tics.
A yeast-free diet is extremely strict. You must eliminate all foods containing sugar, along with all fermented foods. You are allowed all vegetables, especially dark green and leafy. You can enjoy all types of meat, along with shellfish and fish, as well as beans of any variety, eggs, all whole grains, unprocessed nuts and seeds and unrefined vegetable oils. Talk to your doctor before following this diet, making changes to your diet or taking any dietary supplements.
- MayoClinic.com; Tourette Sundrome; May 2010
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Magnesium
- National Institutes of Health; The Central Role of Magnesium Deficiency in Tourette's Syndrome: Casual Relationships Between Magnesium Deficiency, Altered Biochemical Pathways and Symptoms Relating to Tourette's Syndrome and Several Reported Comorbid Conditions; January 2002
- CandidaFree.net; The Effects of Yeast Overgrowth and Autism, ADD, ADHD, Tourette's, Headaches, Fatigue, Depression and Schizophrenia; Bruce Semon, M.D., Ph.D