Guest Post: OCD & Nutrition by David Novak

I screen all guest post proposals, selecting only those that I think will be of high value for my readers.  When Healthline contacted me with this article by David Novak, I was totally won over.  I think you guys– especially those of you with hesitations about medications– will be very intrigued by what he has to say below.  Always make sure to run ideas by your doctor before implementing them!

OCD and Nutrition by David Novak 

ocd and nutrition picOCD or obsessive-compulsive disorder is a type of anxiety disorder, which affects 2.3% of the American population between the ages of 18 and 54. This condition is characterized by irrational or unwanted thoughts, obsessions, urge for repetitive rituals and compulsions. Symptoms usually start during early childhood or adolescence and the exact cause is still unknown. Theories to this condition suggest that OCD manifests due to personality defects and bad parenting, but this is not widely accepted.

OCD impacts the communication systems in the brain and according to the National Alliance of Mental Illness, it produces a chemical imbalance in the brain where low levels of serotonin have been recorded. Serotonin plays a crucial role in mood regulation, learning, calmness and sleep. Several medications can help in behavioral therapy for OCD, since it is known to be incurable. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, help in raising serotonin levels in the brain leading to reduced OCD symptoms.

Nutritional Therapy

Nutritious diet may not prevent an onset of OCD, but it can assist in managing the symptoms with the help of medications, supplements and mental health therapy.  Here are some nutrition sources documented as effective for reducing the symptoms:

  •  Tryptophan – This amino acid promotes the formation of serotonin, which is essential in mood regulation. It has been shown to be successful in treating OCD, and it’s also effective for other anxiety disorders. Tryptophan is formed from precursor coenzymes found in B-vitamins.  Example of foods with high tryptophan level include elk meat, goat, seaweed, soy, spinach, crabs, halibut and shrimps.
  • Inositol – Inositol is a nutrient related to vitamin B complex, which is needed for the cell membranes’ proper formation. It has an ability to affect nerve transmission as well as transporting fats within the body. Inositol also plays an important role in reproduction and prevention of neural tube defects. It can be found in certain foods such as oranges, cantaloupe, beans and whole wheat grain.
  • L-theanine – L-theanine is known to have a calming effect, which is found to be effective in subduing OCD behavior. It also helps in stimulating alpha brainwave production that promotes deep relaxation. IL-theanine also has properties that can protect against environmental neurotoxins. This amino acid can be found in green tea, black tea and boy bolete mushroom.
  • St John’s wort – This herb has been widely used in treating depression and other psychological disorders. It also has hypericum, which is a chemical that has been found effective in modulating serotonin levels.


Natural supplements have a distinct advantage over drugs and medications. They provide larger amounts of raw materials to the brain for the development of serotonin. However, they may become ineffective if the person has deficiency in one or more critical nutrients needed in producing serotonin. It is best to consult your doctor on how you can address and relieve OCD symptoms, and whether these supplements are right for you.  Here are some well-known supplements that have helped many OCD patients:

  •  N-acetylcysteine – N-acetylcysteine is a nutritional supplement used in treating compulsive disorders such as OCD. It has been found to be very effective in hard-to-treat disorders like hair-pulling (trichotillomania).
  • Flax seed oil – Several studies show that taking flaxseed oil can help manage OCD behavior. It is rich in essential fatty acids, which enrich the brain cells’ communication and development.
  • Vitamin B complex – These B vitamins have been found helpful for those suffering panic disorders, depression and OCD. Vitamin B1 plays an important role in controlling blood sugar, which has a major impact on anxiety. Vitamin B3 is involved in several enzymatic processes, especially in serotonin synthesis. Vitamin B5 is also important for the adrenals when it comes to modulating stress. Vitamin B12 and folic acid support against heart stress, especially if you’re suffering from anxiety and depression.
  • Spirulina – This dietary supplement is known to have RNA. which has been found advantageous for the nervous system. It helps in nourishing myelin sheaths and nerves, which are helpful in reducing OCD symptoms.
  • Magnesium – Magnesium is a calming mineral that helps in minimizing the release of stress hormones in the body. There is still limited scientific evidence of magnesium’s effectiveness, but several research shows that herbal supplements containing magnesium may be effective in relieving stress and depression.
  • Lactium – Lactium is a supplement derived from the casein protein in milk. It assists in reducing stress-related symptoms, including anxiety and panic attacks.

David Novak picDavid Novak is a syndicated columnist, appearing in newspapers, magazines, radio and TV.  His byline has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Readers Digest and GQ. David is a specialist at health, wellness, exercise and diet, and he is a regular contributing editor for Healthline. For more information, visit