What is Tourettes? I was on the train going to London and there was a young man in the seat in front. To my surprise he started twitching and swearing. This was my first encounter with someone with Tourettes. People were looking round and scowling and I must admit I was a little appauled at the profanities coming from him. I thought at one time, he was swearing at me! Tourette syndrome (TS) is an unfortunate and debilitating condition but, it is not generally the only condition that the sufferer has to contend with…
The name comes from…
TS was named after Georges Albert Édouard Brutus Gilles de la Tourette (1857–1904), a French physician and neurologist, who published an account of nine patients with Tourette’s in 1885. The condition was known of before that time. The famous musician Mozart suffered from TS way back in his day (1756-1791).
A neurological disorder
Tourette syndrome is a neurological disorder which often exhibits itself in childhood. It is initially characterized by motor tics often accompanied by at least one vocal tic. Often excessive blinking is first noticed by the parent and then other tics such as coughing, sniffing and throat clearing appear with other facial movements. The urges and sensations appear to be uncontrollable and causes distress to the parent and child alike.
Rarer in adults
The different tics, vocal or motor, can come and go or be replaced by other combinations of twitching movements and vocalisations. Some cases are quite mild and often missed as there are no specific tests for diagnosing TS. It often disappears as the child grows through adolescence. It is more rare in adults as are the vocal tics involving swearing and blaspheming. In fact a very small percentage appear to be afflicted with blurting out of obscenities and derogatory remarks known as ‘coprolalia’. Often, a person with TS is unnoticed by others.
Is it hereditory, habit…
So is tourette syndrome hereditory? Studies of family groups including twins and siblings would infer that indeed the condition is hereditory but it is something that could be as a result of family paradigms and habits. For example, if the mother and father eat and do certain things, then the children will eat and do similarly. The parent will prepare meals for the whole family, so if there are deficiencies in those meals, then all the family will have similar nutrient imbalances. Could this be misconstrued as hereditory?
or a deficiency?
As the reason for TS could be associated with nutrient deficiencies and as nutrient deficiencies are now rife within the population because of junk foods and poor soils, these deficiencies could be due to eating habits imprinted on the child from the parent. If parents are prone to TS and other like conditions because of diet and lifestyle, then the offspring will likely be similarly inflicted.
Despite studies indicating that TS is hereditory, no research has come up with positive proof that a specific gene or genes could be responsible. There are many possibles and maybes but nothing definite and without question. Until is is proven, I will sit on the fence but be much more inclined towards a nutrient deficiency, especially as so many parents and children have had success with magnesium and vitamin B6.
Other neurological conditions
The other compelling evidence for a dietary problem is the incidences of other conditions being suffered alongside TS. Conditions such as ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). 70% of children with TS have ADHD. OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) of which more than one third of people with TS also have. 26% of children with TS also have ODD (oppositional defiant disorder or CD (conduct disorder). These all point to symptoms due to a nutritional deficiency.
Dr Sharna Olfman, a professor of clinical and developmental psychology warned in her book published in 2006 ‘No Child Left Different’
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) estimates that today, one in ten children and adolescents in the United States “suffers from mental illness severe enough to result in significant functional impairment.” During this same time period, psychotropic drugs have become the treatment of first choice rather than the treatment of last resort. Over 10 million children and adolescents are currently on antidepressants and about 5 million children are taking stimulant medications such as ‘Ritalin’.
We are now a decade on, coming to the year 2017. How much worse do you think things have got since the above statement? The Guardian stated recently that “Ritalin and other ADHD drug prescriptions for children have doubled over the last decade!” If this is true then 20 million youngsters are on antidepressants and 10 million children are taking stimulant medications such as ‘Ritalin’!
Can TS be cured?
For those parents who are stressed out because their child is exhibiting TS and other neurological symptoms, take heart and just have a look at some of these comments from various forums and websites. Before your doctor prescribes drugs, try natural remedies first. Drugs should be a last resort:
- I find it odd that kids with tics, twitches and other signs related to Tourette Syndrome do not seem to be regularly checked for magnesium deficiency. A web page on magnesium in diet from the U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health’s web site clearly notes that muscle twitching is a sign of magnesium deficiency. Yet based on my experience with my son and the experiences of parents who write to me, children with symptoms of tics and muscle twitching who are taken to the doctor are unfortunately not usually asked about their diets or checked for low magnesium levels.
- I think it is so true that Mg supplements reduce tics. It helped our son for sure. I can’t believe why the so called experts still don’t seem to have a clue…
- My son has had tics since he was 8 yrs old and he’s now 13. I’ve tried various things to help but his tics have got steadily worse, especially the vocal tics, everything from sniffing every few seconds to throat clearing and hissing noises. As you can imagine he has been getting very frustrated with this and embarrassed at school. I recently read about the benefits of magnesium and B-complex vitamins so thought I would give them a try and the results have been amazing! He’s only been taking them for a week and already the vocal tics have stopped and has just the ocassional eye twitch, I feel so relieved for him and he seems so much more relaxed. I just thought that I would share my experience with you and hope that it helps other parents.
- One of my sons had the beginnings of Tourette Syndrome when he was little – eye blinking, facial twitching, eye tics, etc. Our regular doctor didn’t have any advice for us, so I researched my son’s condition using the book library at the local health food store. The indications were that he was low in magnesium, so we changed his diet to get more magnesium rich foods and give him magnesium supplements for a few days crushed in yogurt. It worked great. The tics, twitches and eye blinking all stopped within a few days. We made the diet changes permanent, and for years I never gave the tics another thought. The only other time my son developed tics and twitches was when he was older and went on vacation with friends (without mom around to remind him to eat his vegetables!) and ate junk food for a few days, but the tics and twitches cleared up after he got home and ate healthier foods, including vegetables and nuts, for a few days.
- One parent emailed me that her child’s vocal tics improved with increased magnesium. Many of these kids had been seeing a variety of medical specialists. Some were on prescription medications, yet no one was asking about their diets, which were often described by the parents as very low in healthy foods, especially nuts, beans and vegetables, and foods high in magnesium.
Why is magnesium working?
Have a look at these symptoms (and causes in bold) of Mg deficiency. The list is manyfold, but here are a few common ones suffered by children, in alphabetical order:
Anger, anxiety, apathy, asthma, constipation, IBS, brain fog, unable to concentrate, confusion, convulsions, depression, drinking alcohol, fatigue, food cravings, gagging or choking on food, headaches, high blood pressure, hyperactivity, hyperventilation, insomnia, irritability, junk food, memory impairment, muscle cramps and spasms, muscle twitching and tics, muscle weakness, numb hands or feet, paranoia, pharmaceutical drugs, PMS, recreational drugs, restlessness, smoking, sensitivity to noise, sodas, stress, sugar, tremor in hands, wheezing.
What you can do now
As you can see from this list, there is something you can do starting today.
- Cut out the junk food, kick sodas to the kerb.
- Try and find time to cook meals at home so you know what’s in the food.
- If you can afford it, use organic produce and avoid GM foods.
- Radically decrease sugar intake.
- Limit pharmaceutical drugs unless absolutely necessary.
- Try to discourage your adolescent child from smoking or drinking alcohol.
- Get your doctor on your side. He/she will likely not recognise the value of nutrition, it’s not taught in medical school. Ask if you can leave off the drugs and try Mg and B6 (pyridoxine, a coenzyme which aids Mg absorption)
- Make sure no junk foods are kept in your fridge or cupboards. This is hard I know, but kids help themselves to what’s in the house and crisps, sodas, cheap chocolate bars and sugary snacks will exacerbate the condition. Instead have fresh fruit and nuts for them to snack on. Good quality chocolate of over 70% cocao is OK in moderation. This new regime will do you good too as parents! Lead by example!!
- Finally, get yourself and your family a Mg supplement
Your doctor may offer your child a Mg deficiency test, which is always a ‘Total Serum Magnesium Test’. Unbeknownst to most medics, this test is nigh-on useless. It generally gives a false positive result. Because this test is widespread, results from it give a false sense of security with many doctors saying Mg deficiency is rare!! Educate your doctor and take some evidence with you to let him know that a RBC test is better, although not ideal. The best test is a buccal cell smear test (EXATest) but they are rarely done, probably because of the cost.
If your child is exhibiting TS, start him/her on a good quality Mg supplement and see the change in them overnight! Mg Chloride is the best absorbed but it has a bitter salty taste that may need masking for kids. I put 10ml of my Mg Chloride solution in a glass jug of a litre of water daily. This gives me 600mg of elemental Mg, which is 100% bioavailable. I then drink it throughout the day. Hubbie puts a little cordial in his water of either lime or blackcurrent (no aspartame), as he has delicate tastebuds! You can find all the best supplements on the side bar of this site. Mg Citrate powder is tasteless and easily put into soups and other thicker foods and is reasonably well absorbed. It is common for kids to get constipated and this will relieve that condition gently. It is also very easy to regulate to just the right dose for your child.
Don’t forget, Mg is a completely safe and vital mineral. Your body needs it for all processes including relaxation, energy production and quality sleep. It will calm your tight muscles, relax your anxious mind, help you sleep and at the same time produce your energy needs. It is a truly magical and amazing nutrient which 80% of us are deficient in. Make sure you and your children get yours!! Ches