Today I want to add another piece of data to start tracking for anyone with Tourette’s Syndrome, or anyone who is trying to help someone with Tourette’s. Diet. I have paid a lot of attention to the results that my eating habits seem to have on my tics. I don’t say “cause” because once in a while any hypothesis I put out there gets proven wrong. But there are certain foods and combinations of foods that I associate with an increase in tics more reliably than others.
When I have made changes that seem to help, it’s never been anything very extreme.
When I was in my early 20s, my mom and I, both desperate as my movement disorder worsened, drove over to Salt Lake to meet with a nutritional expert. He felt sure that anyone with Tourette’s was surely just not eating properly. While I agreed that I certainly could have been eating better, I was less than enthused about his recommendations.
I don’t remember much about that appointment except that he took some of my hair, presumably for a voodoo doll, and he made me spit into a cup for about an hour. We left his office and went to the grocery store, where we bought a bunch of almond butter, bread that was the consistency of crackers that had aged in the sun for a year, and some weird vegetable drink that was like knocking back a tumbler of vomit.
I honestly did not give it enough of a chance to work because it was all so disgusting, so I can’t really weigh in on the efficacy of the good doctor’s methods.
Just some observations from my own little experiments so far.
My Tics and nutrition
- Caffeine usually makes my tics worse – this seems to be common knowledge among many people with Tourette’s Syndrome
- If I eat a good breakfast (by anything good I usually mean meat or vegetables–not sugary cereal–the day’s first tics usually appear later in the day
- Sugar seems to make things worse more often than not. This is bad news as I have a serious sweet tooth
- Eating late at night seems to increase the chances that the next day’s tics will start early in the morning
- Eating foods in isolation seems to help mitigate the tics. For instance, if I’m going to eat a steak, a bunch of fruit, and a piece of bread in 90 minutes, then eating each of them one at a time, with about ten minutes in between them, generally makes me feel better than mixing everything at once
- I can’t tell a difference between when I’m eating lots of vegetables and when I’m eating zero vegetables
- I’m more likely to have tics when I feel hungry
- I have fewer tic urges when I am drinking water constantly
- Eating slowly is better for me than eating quickly
- If I stop when I am full, my tics will generally not be as severe
A lot of the things I have noticed fall in line with a lot of what is considered healthy anyways. The challenge I see in so many children with tics is that their eating habits are…well, they’re like those of most kids. They like snacks. They don’t want to eat “healthy” as I understand it, and if the parents are not on board, then kids can get into bad eating patterns through no fault of their own.
I’m not immune to this, by the way. My son thinks we need to go to the bank every day just so he can have a lollipop from the teller.
I’m not qualified to give nutritional advice, but for kids with Tourette’s, I do think that it’s worth paying attention to what they eat, when they eat, how much they eat, what speed they eat at, and then noting whether this makes the tics worse, better, or if you can’t tell at all.
Maybe you’ll spot a trend that will give you something to try. I’ll definitely have more to say about this in the future but to date, my nutrition experiments with Tourettes are in their infancy.
So, for those of you who read because you have tics, or are working with someone with tics, have you noticed anything with your nutrition patterns that we can throw into the mix here?
This is part 4 in a series. Please read: