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  • Is Vitamin Therapy the Answer to Tourette’s Syndrome?

  • Tourette’s syndrome (TS) is a neurological condition consisting of chronic motor and verbal tics. TS also has a high degree of comorbid, or concurrent, behavioral and emotional problems. The presence of tics is considered uncommon, and the disorder usually makes itself known during childhood. Though medical treatments are available, they usually only partially alleviate the condition and can cause unwanted side effects. As such, new research is examining the role of vitamins in the treatment of TS.

    History

    Though tic disorders have been widely recognized for centuries, it wasn’t until the 1800s that a formal diagnosis was created. In 1885, French neurologist Gilles de la Tourette identified a cluster of specific tic behaviors that later became known as the disorder that bears his name. Though Tourette believed the disorder to be genetic, there were few known biological treatments for neurological disorders at that time, thus many physicians were turning to psychoanalysis to try and manage illness with a behavioral component. Given the rising field of psychology at that time, psychoanalysis became the common treatment for TS, with unfortunately little success. The psychological view of the disorder remained firmly in place until brain and biological research in the 1960s. However, though medications are available to treat TS, they often have negative side effects.

    Vitamins as a Treatment Option

    In 2009, researchers in Spain decided to investigate the role of magnesium and vitamin B-6 in the treatment of TS. A group of children with exacerbated tics, both motor and vocal, between the ages of 7 and 14 years old, participated in the trial. The study was small and although researchers intended it to be a starting place for larger research, the treatment group did show a decrease in tics. Using various scales and observational methods, researchers determined that the total tics’ score decreased from 26.7 to 12.9 per day, which is statistically significant. This small study suggests that vitamins may help in the treatment of TS, but larger-scale studies are needed.

    Alternative Treatments in TS

    Since the research on vitamin use in TS remains open and the question relatively unanswered, scientists are interested in how alternative treatments are being used by patients. Doctors at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago conducted a meta analysis study to better understand alternative methods of care. Their aim was to describe the use of complementary and alternative medicine in TS and find out more about the outcomes. They discovered that many patients employed prayer, vitamins, massage, dietary supplements, chiropractic care, meditation, changes in diet and/or relaxation techniques. Furthermore, 56 percent of patients using at least one such treatment method reported improvement. Surprisingly, many of the patients noted that they chose the alternative treatment without input from their neurologist. This study shows that vitamins may be included in the treatment of TS, but the nature and outcomes are still in question.

    Ongoing Care

    TS is a complex neurological disorder with a high level of associated psychological and behavioral issues. Vitamins are still considered part of an alternative care plan that may include relaxation techniques such as biofeedback, as well as psychotherapeutic care. However, it is important for individuals with TS to maintain contact with their neurologist and to inform the doctor about any additions to the prescribed treatment plan.

    References

    • “Medication Hypotheses”; An Open Study Evaluating the Efficacy and Security of Magnesium and Vitamin B-6 as a Treatment of Tourette Syndrome in Children; R. García-López, et al.; 2009
    • “Movement Disorders”; Complementary and Alternative Medicine Use in Gilles de la Tourette Syndrome; Kompoliti, et al.; June 2009
    • “Treating Tourette Syndrome and Tic Disorders: A Guide for Practitioners”; Douglas Woods, et al.; 2007