Imagine being bound by obsessive thoughts, repetitive behaviors or impulsiveness that you cannot control or rationalize. These are only a few symptoms individuals with OCD struggle with. Constant obsessions and rituals not only affect daily life, but can also affect social connections and the ability to hold a job.
Obsessive behavior is more than checking to see the stove is off before leaving the house. Usually, individuals who struggle with obsessive rituals will not feel satisfied even after checking to see the stove is off, sometimes performing the ritual up to 100 times before they are able to relax. It can be very time consuming and individuals can feel trapped by their own obsessive thoughts, unable to stop the irrational thoughts, even if they can acknowledge that it is irrational.
Diagnosing OCD is complicated as symptoms and severity can vary. OCD symptoms typically emerge in childhood, peeking in the teen years with research suggesting that OCD may run in families. The exact cause of obsessive compulsive disorder has not been identified, however, it has been speculated that environmental factors may play a role. Areas of the brain that are involved in processing stress, fear and anxiety are more active in those that suffer from OCD. Managing stress and anxiety is key to reducing the severity of OCD symptoms
There are many treatment options for OCD symptoms including psychotherapy treatments help to reduce repetitive thoughts and reduce impulsiveness. Anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medications can be useful but need careful monitoring for side effects and effectiveness. Naturopathic medicine offers several interventions that can also provide support in treating this disorder.
Addressing Nutritional Deficiencies
Diets that are low in essential fatty acids, naturally found in fish, nuts and flax, put one at a higher risk of developing mental disorders like OCD. Specifically DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid that supports brain function and health, has been found to help reduce the severity or obsessive compulsive behaviors.
Amino acids are considered building blocks of protein as they help to build and maintain muscle mass and body tissues. They also play a role in neurotransmitter production and degradation. Neurotransmitters are the chemical communicators between cells in the brain. When these neurotransmitters are not produced in proportionate amounts mental disorders can result.
L-tyrosine is an amino acid that supports the manufacturing of neurotransmitters that support mood and reduce stress. Supplementing with L-tyrosine has been shown to help to alleviate the amount of impulsive behaviors in those who suffer with OCD.
L-tryptophan is another amino acid that gets converted to 5-HTP in the body and then further becomes serotonin. Serotonin is a mood supporting neurotransmitter that is needed for a positive balanced mood.
Inositol, a water soluble B vitamin, facilitates the transmission of neurotransmitters within the brain. Inositol also assists in maintaining cell membrane integrity, reducing damage to nervous system cells. Inostiol has been used as an adjunct therapy for OCD with great success.
Folic Acid, another B-vitamin, is known for its cognitive enhancing benefits. Found primarily in dark leafy greens, organ meats and fortified foods, folic acid in addition to other b vitamins are commonly low in the standard America diet. Folic acid supplementation is essential in a pregnant mother to develop the brain and nervous system of the fetus and serves similar nervous system supportive benefits in adults. Supplementation can help to ensure sufficient amounts of folic acid for nervous system support.
Many B vitamins, specifically B12, are needed in the production of neurotransmitters. When B12 is low, neurotransmitter production slows down and symptoms of OCD can be exacerbated. B12 being a finicky nutrient to absorb, it is worth while to be tested to make sure levels are appropriate.
L-theanine is a constituent of tea, known for its relaxing and calming affects. Specifically, L-theanine stimulates alpha brain wave activity, which is responsible for deep relaxation. L-theanine can be used to help reduce stress induced obsessive behaviors.
NAC works as an anti-oxidant in the brain, preventing oxidation. Oxidation creates damage to the nervous system cells, which reduce their ability to communicate with one another.
Heavy metal testing- We are exposed to heavy metals through environmental exposures including paint fumes, exhausts and contaminated food products. Heavy metals are known for their detrimental effects on the nervous system, as they deposit in the nervous system and block the normal cellular communication. Mental disorders have shown improvement with heavy metal detoxification. Testing for what specific heavy metals through can be helpful in the treatment of obsessive compulsive disorder.
Nutrient testing- Testing for specific nutrients including B12, folic acid and amino acids can help to pinpoint supplements that could be warranted in the treatment of OCD. It is also helpful to have a baseline nutrient status so when supplementation is implemented, retesting after a period of time can indicate if nutrients are being absorbed.
Neurotransmitter testing- Specifically looking at levels of neurotransmitters, the chemical communicators in the brain, can be helpful in pinpointing treatment for OCD. Balance between positive mood supportive neurotransmitters and inhibitory neurotransmitters is the key.
If obsessive compulsive disorder is suspected, a thorough evaluation needs to be pursued. While the severity of OCD symptoms can vary, individuals with OCD are at a high risk of alcohol and drug abuse and suicide. Finding the appropriate treatment protocol for symptom management can greatly improve the quality of life for those suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder.