Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a disorder that afflicts 2.3 percent of the US population. While most people associate the disorder with OCD cleaning, the uncontrollable and recurring obsessions people feel the urge to repeat over and over also include thoughts and other compulsive behaviors It is a mental health issue that can affect someone for their lifetime and benefits from a form of psychotherapy that combines cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) and exposure therapy called Exposure Response and Prevention Therapy (E/RP). OCD can also be severe with high nonresponse and relapse rates, as well as poor response to pharmacological interventions. Promising research into complementary and alternative medicine indicates these 5 supplements for OCD should be considered to reduce symptoms.
NAC is an amino acid derivative of cysteine that has antioxidant effects and supports brain function, as well as has anti-inflammatory properties. NAC helps the body synthesize glutathione, an important antioxidant necessary for detoxification of the liver. Moreover, because of the organic compounds of the sulfhydryl groups, NAC protects the body from different toxins as it can bind and inactivate toxic heavy metals, drugs like acetaminophen, environmental pollutants, herbicides, mercury, cadmium, lead, microbes, etc. High toxin loads create an inflammatory response in the brain and body and can lead to a variety of mental health issues, including OCD.
NAC modulates the expression of genes that affect the inflammatory process. WiIth OCD, inflammation and excess neurotransmitter activity has been implicated in the occurrence of OCD. Research supports that NAC is an effective dietary supplement for those with OCD, as NAC reduces inflammation and inhibits the release of excitatory neurotransmitters. It inhibits the expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines and, suppresses pro-inflammatory signaling pathway NF-kappa B, and regulates the gene for cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), which promotes carcinogenesis, thereby preventing inflammation and pain.
NAC also targets the glutamatergic system. Research suggests that the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate is dysregulated in OCD patients and that this dysregulation may contribute to the behaviors. NAC stimulates inhibitory metabotropic glutamate receptors, which then reduces the synaptic release of glutamate. The restoration of the extracellular glutamate concentration in the nucleus accumbens seems to block reinstitution of compulsive behaviors.
Glycine is a naturally occurring amino acid that supports nerve and neurotransmitter functions. It helps support the detoxification process, assists with cellular energy, and supports intestinal and brain health, all important factors in OCD. It is made in small amounts by the human body but is also acquired through food and supplements. The highest sources of glycine are found in collagen, gelatin, and high protein meats, as well as can also be found in bone broth.
This amino acid is important for different muscle, cognitive, and metabolic functions. Strong gut health is important for brain health. Glycine inhibits oxidative stress, which can interfere with intestinal health. Glycine enables the production of collagen, a protein that is an essential component of muscles, tendon, skin, and bones. It also facilitates the production of creatine, a nutrient stored in and used by the brain for energy. Glycine helps break down and transport nutrients like glycogen and fat to be used by cells for energy thus supporting the brain and in the process, it supports a strong immune, digestive, and nervous system.
We know from research that bacteria can be a source of obsessive-compulsive behaviors, which results in a disorder called PANDAS when from a streptococcus infection and is called PANS when from other infectious sources. With the detoxification process, Glycine is necessary for the synthesis of bile salts, which is needed for the excretion of toxins from the body and inhibiting pathogenic bacterial overgrowth.
Glycine is involved in the transmission of chemical signals in the brain with both inhibitory and excitatory functions within the central nervous system (CNS). Glycine works with other amino acids, including taurine and gamma-aminobutyric acid GABA, as an inhibitory neurotransmitter. Also, it binds to the NMDA receptor, which is an excitatory receptor site for glutamate, thus inducing a sedative or inhibitory effect, while also being capable of improving mood and cognition. Moreover, research indicates that it may be effective as one of the supplements for OCD patients.
Milk thistle is a plant whose fruit and seeds have been used for more than 2,000 years to support the liver. One of the active ingredients in milk thistle is silymarin, which is extracted from the plant’s seeds and fruits. Silymarin is a complex mixture of flavonolignans that have antioxidant properties. Research demonstrates that silymarin stabilizes cellular membranes and regulates permeability to stimulate detoxification pathways
Using milk thistle, OCD patients enable detoxification which promotes better mental health. Milk Thistle is a strong liver detoxifier. As we learn more about mental health, we know that poor detoxification can lead to issues. When toxins build up in the brain or body, these toxins can create or contribute to significant psychiatric symptoms like OCD. Specifically, it supports phase 2 liver detoxification, which is needed to remove toxins from the body.
Milk Thistle increases serotonin and those with OCD may have abnormalities in their serotonin (5-HT) system. Research studies indicate that Milk Thistle lowers obsessions and compulsions in as little as four weeks.
L-Theanine is an amino acid found in green tea and is widely used in Asian countries. It is known for its calming and relaxing properties and used to treat both anxiety and depression. L-Theanine supports neurocognitive functioning in several ways, supporting both neurotransmitter functioning and brainwave activity and in the case of OCD, helping to calm the brain. L-theanine modulates aspects of brain function in humans by increasing Alpha brainwave activity, which calms the brain. L-theanine increases levels of the brain neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine, and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) (an important inhibitory neurotransmitter). L-theanine produces its anti-anxiety effects by increasing GABA without producing sleepiness or impairing motor behavior common to prescription anti-anxiety drugs. L-Theanine reduces anxiety by blocking the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate. By inhibiting the overstimulating glutamate, the brain learns to calm and one feels more relaxed, which helps to reduce symptoms associated with OCD.
For those chronic stress, studies demonstrate that L-theanine can specifically reduce the molecular impacts of acute stress, and the resulting excitotoxicity, on brain cells, which can result in cognitive decline. It has been found to support healthy neurotransmitter activity to reduce behaviors associated with OCD. It can be directly taken in capsule or powder form. L-Theanine is considered safe and no negative effects have been found in research making green tea one of the primary herbs for OCD patients.
Inositol is a naturally occurring substance that is also called Vitamin B8 but isn’t categorized as a B vitamin. The B vitamin-like substance can be found naturally in plants and animals or can be man-made. It can be found in fruits like oranges, cantaloupe, and bananas, as well as in wheat germ, brewer’s yeast, liver, brown rice, oat flakes, nuts, unrefined molasses, raisins, and vegetables. It is necessary for proper cell formation, nerve transmission and transportation of fats in the body. Inositol may affect the action of the neurotransmitters serotonin and GABA metabolism and therefore has a role in many psychiatric disorders.
Inositol is a nutrient used to promote brain wellness, relaxation, and restful sleep. Research has found positive effects in reducing anxiety, depression, and obsessions and compulsions. In a 1996 study researching Inositol for OCD patients, the subjects had significantly lower scores on the Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale when taking inositol.
There have been no documented cases of drug interactions in studies. Some gastrointestinal bloating may be a side effect for some people but inositol is generally well tolerated and reportedly safe.
As patients seek OCD treatment without medication, they seek complementary and alternative treatments. Coupled with Exposure and Response Therapy (E/RP), supplements can be an effective treatment. Patients should begin asking their providers for additional resources to support their therapies.
*Disclaimer: This article is not intended to give health advice and it is recommended to consult with a physician before beginning any new supplement regime and on specific dosages or possible drug interactions.
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Dr. Roseann is a Psychologist and Therapist and our center provides expert-level care for children, adults, and families from all over the US, supporting them with research-based and holistic therapies that are bridged with neuroscience. She is a Dr. Roseann is a Board Certified Neurofeedback (BCN) Practitioner, a Board Member of the Northeast Region Biofeedback Society (NRBS) and Epidemic Answers, Certified Integrative Medicine Mental Health Provider (CMHIMP) and an Amen Clinic Certified Brain Health Coach. She is also a member of the American Psychological Association (APA), National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), Connecticut Counseling Association (CCA), International OCD Foundation (IOCDF) International Society for Neurofeedback and Research (ISNR) and The Association of Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback (AAPB).
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