According to Medline Plus, facial tics are defined as "repeated spasms, often involving the eyes and muscles of the face." Common tics are eye blinking, grimacing, nose wrinkling, squinting, throat clearing, grunts and mouth twitching. They occur mostly in children, but some cases may last into adulthood. The cause is unknown. Tics affect boys three to four times more often than in girls. There is a growing interest in dietary changes and supplements helping to curb tics, and in some cases, obliterating them all together.
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In his book "An Extraordinary Power to Heal," psychiatrist and nutritionist, Bruce Semon M.D. and Ph.D., treatments for tic disorders have historically been through "heavy" medications, such anti-psychotics, antidepressants and muscle relaxants. Dr. Semon attributes tic disorders, and many other brain-related disorders, to the intestinal yeast, Candida. He has had success with treating tics with nystatin, which kills yeast in the intestines, along with a special diet that removes fermented foods such as alcohol, chocolate, pickles and aged cheese.
Dr. Semon further explains his rationale for this regimen by stating that "Yeast makes chemicals that slow and disrupt brain function." Yeast produces toxic substances such as acetone and alcohols. These act as "sedative chemicals" and they are found in everyday foods, states Dr. Semon. Vinegar has a chemical, ethyl acetate, which is sedative, and malt contains chemicals called pyrazines, which slow the brain. These may kill bacteria but feed the yeast. These food eliminations and nystatin must work together to be the most effective.
Since transient tic disorders are short-lived and fairly common in childhood -- as many as 25 percent of all kids, at some time in their lives -- science has looked at many different environmental factors. The National Institutes of Health, or NIH, reports muscle twitching may be strongly linked to a deficiency in magnesium. NIH recommends the following daily amounts: 130 mg for children 4 to 8 years; 240 mg for ages 9 to 13; and 410 mg for boys 14 to18 years. NIH identifies magnesium as crucial for the contraction/relaxation of muscles, production and transportation of energy and the production of protein.
Foods high in magnesium include fruits and vegetables such as bananas, avocados and dried apricots. Seeds and nuts are high, as is beans, peas and soy. Whole grains and brown rice should be included in a raised magnesium diet. The most common reasons for magnesium deficiency include use of alcohol, malabsorption disorders, surgeries, burns and being deficient in calcium.
"The Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders" reports that tics can lead to social anxiety and withdrawl, fatigue and embarrassment. This source also says that tics are often combined with obsessive compulsive disorder, OCD, and attention-deficit disorder, ADD. To help with all of these conditions, it is recommended to stick to organic foods, avoid pesticides, use antioxidants, increase folic acid and the B vitamins and to eliminate caffeine, artificial sweeteners, colors and dyes.
For many people, tics are associated with Tourette's Syndrome. Unlike transient facial tics, Gilles de la Tourette's Syndrome is a chronic motor disorder, very rare and a completely separate brain dysfunction. The tics involved in Tourette's are not just in the face, but often include shoulder shrugging, lip biting, repetitive or obsessively touching, head turning, kicking and jumping.