Several weeks ago, I wrote an article on the connection between bipolar disorder and thyroid issues. The article spurred one reader to ask about another "mental illness" - obsessive compulsive disorder.
In his note, he wrote: "Hello, thank you Dr. K. for the information on bipolar disorder. I have obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), which includes depression (can be very debilitating), but no manic aspect. As you may know, OCD is characterized as an 'anxiety' disorder with problems contained in the neurotransmitter system.
"I have taken an SSRI (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor) for over 40 years (Lexapro for the past 15 years). This gives me about a 50% relief with OCD and, though the FDA classifies SSRIs as depression medicine, they do not seem to have that ability. I must take Wellbutrin daily to keep depression in check.
"As far as I know, nothing new has been done in this area since I first contracted the disorder at age 25. Do you have any thoughts and suggestions in dealing with OCD?" - Wayne O.
I put the words mental illness in quotes earlier because I'm not a big fan of the label "mental illness." This seems to be a politically correct catch-all for anyone who doesn't fit certain social norms. In this, there don't seem to be any real causes or treatments. In my way of seeing things, there's always a cause and there's always a treatment - though we may not know what they are in all cases. People with any "mental illness" either aren't thinking correctly (which can cause severe problems) or they have physical issues causing their brain to function improperly (which can be just as severe, even deadly). Of course, it could be a combination of the two.
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To figure out the cause of OCD, I would normally start with a detailed history of when the problems started. I would have to know about any nutritional factors, toxins, stressors, and trauma the patient sustained. The stressors and trauma could be emotional or they could be physical. If there are emotional or thinking issues involved, solid counseling would be necessary. Emotions like hatred and fear can have a powerful impact on our thinking and our actions. I know a man who has spent his entire life in mental institutions because he utterly hates his father and it has driven him to places few of us ever experience (thankfully). Sad, but true. But for this article, let's focus on the physical issues that can cause OCD. Obviously, I can't cover them all here. So let's just look at some nutritional treatments that might be able to help.
Nutritional deficiencies can manifest in just about any type of symptom. Some are more specific than others, so OCD patients need to get a full lab report on any potential deficiencies. I told Wayne that since the SSRI was giving him some relief, he might want to consider talking to a doctor who can help with natural neurotransmitter therapy. These doctors can be found at acam.org.
As far as nutrients are concerned, many physicians find the following protocol from Dr. Charles Gant to be helpful:
GABA 500-3,000 mg a day
Magnesium taurate - 3,000 mg a day
P5P (activated B6) - 50 mg twice a day
Purified soy lecithin - 3,000 mg a day
5HTP - 300 mg a day
Theanine - 500-3,000 mg
I strongly recommend taking many of these under the supervision of a doctor. Taking 3,000 mg of magnesium per day can cause toxicity. So you need to know when to back off on the dose. A doctor can make sure these doses will work for you and what doses you can tolerate. What's more, many of these nutrients will help with depression too.
Another nutrient to discuss with your doctor is inositol. This can help in many cases. But don't try it without their direction, as it can make some cases of OCD worse. You also should discuss your hormones with the doctor, as these can play a role.
Your insider for better health,
Steve Kroening, ND.