Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) interferes with day to day life of the patient, if left untreated. Treatment depends on the severity of disorder. Cognitive behavioural therapy and medications like anti-depressants are usually prescribed. However, diet also plays an important role in helping overcome OCD, since it supports other treatments effectively.
Below are some of the nutrients and respective foods that help manage OCD.
1. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids which have to be obtained from dietary supplements, since the body cannot produce them. A deficiency of it causes anxiety, sleep disorders, irritability, mood swings, and confusion. Since anxiety is one of the major traits of OCD, a good dose of omega-3 can help manage OCD to a considerable extent.
Walnuts, flaxseeds, chia seeds, spinach, soybeans, cold water fish like salmon, halibut, herring, and mackerel are the abundant sources of omega-3.
2. Beta Carotene And Vitamin-C
Oxidative stress levels are high in the fat cells of the people with OCD, which cause oxidative damage. Antioxidants fight oxidative damage actively. Beta carotene and vitamin-C are the two most important antioxidants present in berries, citrus fruits, broccoli, carrots, sweet potato, bell peppers, tomatoes, leafy greens, squash, etc.
Apart from reducing oxidative damage, the fruits and vegetables laden with these nutrients keep you full for a long time, reducing binge eating. They also improve immunity.
Tryptophan is an amino acid which manages blood sugar level and promotes calmness, thereby easing the obsessive thoughts in OCD. It also supports the synthesis of serotonin – a feel good hormone, responsible for good moods, and respective behaviors. Foods like low-fat milk, yogurt, cheese, tofu, soybeans, chicken, turkey, tuna, beans, eggs, and lentils are high on tryptophan.
Whole grains like barley, wheat, brown rice, popcorn, millets, oats, and quinoa are packed with nutrients, and do not shoot up the blood sugar level after digestion. These also play a vital role in the production of serotonin. A combination of serotonin and healthy blood sugar level promotes controlled levels of OCD.
It is best to avoid refined grains, flours and sugars, which have adverse effects on OCD. While buying bread or pasta, make sure the label reads ‘whole grain’.
Studies show that the amino acid – GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) acts like a neurotransmitter which helps reduce stress. People who show anxiety as one of the major symptoms of OCD have considerably low levels of GABA. The lower levels can be replenished from food sources like Kefir, miso, kimchi, tempeh, sauerkraut, and yogurt.
Flavonoids enhance the functioning of GABA, therefore eating flavonoid rich foods also contributes to managing OCD. Some of the flavonoid rich foods are citrus fruits, berries, cherries, tea, cocoa, wine, etc.
6. Vitamin B-12
A deficiency of vitamin-B12 (Cobalamin) can cause OCD, since it inhibits the functioning of serotonin. Abysmally low levels of B-12 require either sublingual or liquid supplements. But, if the levels are manageable, a diet containing any of these foods should be consumed – shellfish, liver, fortified soy products, red meat, cheese, eggs, and low fat dairy.
Folate is a form of vitamin-B which boosts the effectiveness of antidepressants in the body. It plays an important role in serotonin production as well. A deficiency of folate can do more than just impacting moods and behaviours, and so, it is necessary to have a diet rich in folate. Dark green leafy vegetables, broccoli, asparagus, avocados, beets, cauliflower, carrots, squash, seeds and nuts are some of the foods having folate in abundance.
It is necessary to know that nutrients like tryptophan and GABA could interfere with the normal functioning of the medications prescribed for OCD. Therefore, it is best to discuss your diet plan with the doctor. OCD can be managed effectively, provided you follow a balanced diet, cut down on – alcohol, smoking, caffeine, and follow an active lifestyle.