Tourette's Syndrome (TS)

Georges Gilles de la Tourette
In 1885 Dr. Georges Gilles de la Tourette first described nine patients with the syndrome of multiple motor and vocal tics, a movement disorder that now bears his name.

Tourette syndrome (TS) is defined by multiple motor and vocal tics beginning before age 18 and lasting for more than one year. The first symptoms usually are involuntary movements (tics) of the face, arms, limbs or trunk. They may also involve the entire body, such as kicking or stamping. Many persons report what are described as premonitory urges -- the urge to perform the activity before doing so. Often these movements can be delayed or suppressed for periods of time (like suppressing the need to scratch an itch or the need to sneeze). Other symptoms such as repetitive touching, intrusive thoughts, and compulsions can occur.

There are also verbal tics, which may include grunting, throat clearing, shouting or barking. Despite widespread publicity due to their dramatic nature, coprolalia (the involuntary use of obscene words or socially inappropriate words and phrases) and copropraxia (obscene gestures) are uncommon in TS.

Echo phenomena are sometimes reported, and may include repeating words of others (echolalia), repeating ones own words (palilalia), and repeating the movements of others.

There is a waxing and waning phenomenon - the tics seem to get better and then worse, and individual tics may change over time, being replaced by others.

Associated conditions can include ADHD, impulsiveness, ODD (oppositional defiant disorder), OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), and learning disabilities. Males are affected 3 to 4 times as often than females.

Diet Connection

Natural Treatments for
Tics and Tourette's:
A Patient and Family Guide,
by Sheila Rogers
Many parents report that the Feingold diet consistently improves or controls Tourette Syndrome. We are still waiting for the research to show WHY this happens.

Sheila Rogers of the Association for Comprehensive NeuroTherapy has collected an enormous amount of information about triggers for TS and how to deal with them in her book, Natural Treatments for Tics and Tourette's: A Patient and Family Guide.

As for research in the MedLine, there have been some intriguing studies ... Zeisel in 1986, said "Diet clearly influences neurotransmission" in his discussion of tryptophan, tyrosine, choline, and food additives. There have been numerous studies "around the edges" without actually studying the effect of diet on TS. Thus, studies have been done on neurotransmitter levels and TS, and Tryptophan levels and TS. Studies have been done showing that salicylates affect both tryptophan levels and neurotransmitter changes. We know that TS and ADHD are connected, and TS and autism are connected - and diet affects both of them. Both TS and ADHD have been related to low serotonin levels in the family, and salicylate has been shown to have an effect on serotonin.

Many doctors believe that TS is the inability to screen out random firing of neurons (nerve cells). We know from research that some food dyes increase random neuron firing and cause nerve cell membrane changes. Dr. Lau (2006) showed that when a food dye is combined with another additive (MSG or aspartame) the nerve cells suffer much more damage than when they are subjected to just one additive. We believe that any chemical that has been found to damage nerve cells should be avoided by people with TS.

Most of these studies, however, have not been intentionally connected to the problem of TS, and nobody has yet pulled them together to see what all that might mean for TS treatment. This brings us back to the first sentence - parents consistently report that the Feingold diet helps improve symptoms, sometimes quickly and sometimes slowly, but we certainly believe that avoiding the additives (and possibly the salicylates) can be an important piece of the puzzle.

Links:      - Studies on TS and diet
- Latitudes, of the Association for Comprehensive NeuroTherapy
- Hayden's story

Updated: 2/16/2010