Having just published nutrition recommendations for our intensive clients attending the January Intensive Course, I thought others would be interested in hearing about these too. Below are our recommendations exactly as we make them to clients. We make these suggestions two weeks before our clients embark upon the Intensive Course. In all cases, these are recommendations and should not be followed without consulting your own health care practitioner.
Food: Our most helpful advice regarding food is to base your regular diet on the Glycemic Index. Have a read about this here. Essentially you want to be cutting down on highly refined carbohydrates (sugar, white flour, etc) and concentrating on smaller, more frequent meals that don’t send your sugar levels rocketing. It’s not a fashion diet, it’s common sense, scientific advice based upon your body’s chemistry and also, a foundation for anyone who is a diabetic. Please note that we need to be informed if your BMI (body mass index) is lower than 17. This is due to the fact that this is generally accepted as the cut off rate for the point at which it is difficult for your brain to make the cognitive changes required. We may need to liaise with your doctor regarding your suitability for the course.
Drink: Please try to steer away from caffeine in coffee and tea. Be aware of hidden caffeine in soda and energy drinks. Getting any alcoholic intake down to a minimum is also ideal. Sugary drinks fall into the previous category of high glycemic foods and hence milkshakes, coca cola, ribena, etc. are all culprits.
Supplements: Although this area is gaining momentum, it is still an under-researched area whereby the best advice seems to be word of mouth. The pharmaceutical companies aren’t too happy about natural supplements, for obviously commercial reasons, so it’s pretty much up to people like us to forge the way ahead. Please do seek advice if you are concerned in any way or currently taking medication for OCD or another condition. Also we encourage you to do your own research on the internet etc. so that you can form your own opinions regarding risks and efficacy. However, in our experience and based upon client feedback, we have found the following supplements to be helpful with OCD.
1. Omega 3 and 6 oils. No surprise here. I think the best form for these is Flax Seed Oil which bypasses the fishy aftertaste from fish oil derivatives. Benefits of flax can be read here. The best flax oils are the ones found in a fridge in your health food store. This means they are fresh. Failing this, freshly ground flax seeds are just as good and can be mixed into joghurt, smoothies or food. At the moment I’m using Chia Seeds in everything and they have similar properties and great fibre.
2. Vitamins B12 and B6. Following the amazing findings regarding B12 and 6 and Alzheimers, there is no doubt that these are crucial supplements for the brain. High levels seem to be free of side effects. I tend to prefer the B12 Sublingual drops which you put under the tongue. These offer a very high dose of both crucial B vits.
3. Evening Primrose or Star Flower Oil. This is great for our female clients. Seems to have a very calming, regulating effect. There seem to be great sources of these in most UK heath food shops.
4. Phosphetidyl Serine/Holy Basil. These work in a slightly different way to help anxiety. They carry out the same function of basically lowering your levels of cortisol which may have reached toxic levels if you have been anxious for a period of time. Cortisol can have a nasty impact on your mood and mental health in general. It has gained press due to weigh loss products since it directly targets the “executive stomach” that middle aged executives tend to get in response to stress, i.e., when we are stressed, cortisol encourages a particular stomach weight gain. But we aren’t interested in these properties, we are more interested in its benefits for anxiety in general. Most cognition focused mixed supplements now include PS. Some yoga retreats insist that their stressed attendees take Holy Basil for at least two weeks prior to the retreat since they say that it brings balance back to your focus and attention.
5. Passiflora. A nice, traditional and time tested antidote to anxiety without drowsiness. It does seem to work for most people. Available as NatraCalm in Boots.
6. Nootropics. Also known as Smart Drugs. This is really state of the art stuff!! An area which is very new in nutritional terms but seems very promising as an alternative to SSRI’s. They are difficult to obtain here in the US so I imagine they are near impossible to find in the UK. Nevertheless, have a look at the research. I have tried Centrophenoxine and Picamillon since I prefer to be a guinea pig, rather than my clients. I have to say that I did feel more alert and focused but then again, as a subject, I don’t tend to be as anxious or depressed (these days) as my poor clients who may feel an altogether more dramatic response. It’s a very interesting area for the future however. Some online suppliers do seem to ship to the UK.
7. Minerals. Don’t also discount the role of minerals in mental health. Magnesium is often cited as important, as is iron and selenium. There is a good article regarding minerals and other supplements here.
On a final note, I had a conversation with a carer who was concerned about the inability their OCD family member to digest food right now given high levels of anxiety. We came to the conclusion that a morning smoothie might be the answer. It is a great option and can take care of the day’s nutritional needs in one delicious serving which is easy to digest and palatable. I suggested a base of cold or iced soya milk or low fat diary milk with berries, preferably blueberries, but raspberries and strawberries work well too (frozen or fresh). Then add a tablespoon of flax oil or some freshly ground flax seeds (or Chia seeds) and either walnuts or almonds for brain benefits. I’m imagining that any of the above supplements could be added without problems.
Good luck and any comments or suggestions are greatly appreciated.