Obsessive Compulsive Disorder – General Recommendations
Coping with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) at any age can be tough not only for the sufferer, but for the family as well. To be fair to medication, often the Serotonin Uptake Inhibitor class of anti-depressants do help with obsessive compulsive behavior, but they sometimes do not and suicidal thoughts can be a very unfortunate side effect.
From a nutritional perspective, perhaps the single most important food substance in my experience for problems such as OCD, depression and even bipolar illness, are the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil, initialed DHA and EPA. Studies out of Harvard report that high dose fish oil intake, in the range of 10 grams daily, significantly helped patients with bipolar illness, a particular severe mood disorder. Other studies have reported fish oil helps depression and OCD.
The omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA are essential for normal neurological development, normal visual development in babies and normal nerve function in adults. The membranes of our neurons function best with significant proportions of both EPA and DHA.
Unfortunately, in the U.S. our common diets emphasize the omega-6 fatty acids to the near exclusion of the omega-3’s, so deficiency and borderline deficiencies are common. Fortunately, fish oil is readily available in health food stores, both in capsule form and as liquid. I recommend for my patients the Nordic Naturals variety, which is potent and free of contaminants such as mercury.
Often when patients begin consuming significant amounts of the omega-3’s, sleep improves, mood improves, anger lessens, behavior becomes more normalized. Of course, I never prescribe only fish oil, but recommend a full nutritional program including individualized diet and other supplements as well, depending on the patient’s specific metabolic need.
I find another factor of OCD to be the overexposure to synthetic light at night. Keep in mind our bodies were designed to slip into sleep when the sun goes down, but we have outsmarted nature with our synthetic lights, TV’s, cell phones, computers, etc. All light, be it synthetic or natural, contains within it a blue wave component, though it doesn’t appear blue. This blue light is fine during the day, but at night it disrupts the brain, affects sleep, overstimulates our alert centers, creates insomnia, depression, bipolar illness and OCD.
You can purchase bulbs that lack blue light, and do not over stimulate the brain at night. They are also special eyeglasses with a yellow-tinted lens that blocks blue light. When these are worn at night, we can still watch TV, text, read, etc. but the chaotic effect of blue light is blocked. I have repeatedly seen patients with chronic insomnia and mood disturbances improve with this simple change in their life.
In terms of diet, I usually find patients with OCD tend to do best if they consume a fair amount of red meat, beef, lamb, or pork, organic of course, with lots of root vegetables, but little fruit.
Grain sensitivity can sometimes be a problem for any patient with a psychiatric problem – Dr. Dohan at the University of Pennsylvania suggested 40 years ago that schizophrenia is associated with grain intolerance, and such sensitivity is always important to keep in mind.
By Nicholas Gonzalez, M.D.