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The gamer's tic

Updated: Oct 9, 2023

The time had come to enroll the twins in kindergarten. Tula was discharged from ALL therapies and her ABA therapist told us to start kindergarten without telling her teacher about her previous autism diagnosis. He affirmed that Tula was ready for school and said he had no worries about her functioning in a classroom. She passed the school’s pre-kindergarten early childhood screening with flying colors—such a change from all of her previous testing! She was really excited to start school.

One health challenge for Tula was her seasonal allergies. After she started the diet, the next couple of years in the fall, she would regress. The first year she regressed quite a bit, again repeating herself and becoming so anxious that she was unable to leave a room without me or go to the bathroom by herself. I was worried. I had no idea what was going on, and immediately called Dr. Compain. The runny nose and the black circles under her eyes combined with the old recurring behaviors were alarming. He assured me that these symptoms were just allergies, and because her immune system was dealing with the allergies, some yeast was able to return. I had to trust that these behaviors would go away when the allergies did and that she wouldn’t stay in this anxious state forever. But the doctor was absolutely correct and the behaviors ceased after the autumn season. The following fall, she regressed again, but not as bad, only a bit of increased anxiety. The year after that we barely noticed any regression. It was evident that each year she was getting stronger by staying on the diet and healing her gut.

Tula also developed a tic when playing fast-moving video games, and this symptom continued even after she surrendered the device to us. The tic manifested as nodding and touching her chin to her neck over and over again. After observing this for a while, we made the decision to take all computer games away for a time—and the tics never returned. When I researched tics, I found a connection to gut health. Tics can be dopamine related and computer games increase dopamine. After about a year, we allowed gaming again, this time with no symptoms. It seemed her gut was healed enough that she could handle these types of stimulation, but still, we limited them.

There appears to be strong evidence of a connection between psychological disorders and the brain chemical dopamine. In a literature review titled Psychopharmacology of Tic Disorders published in The Journal of Canadian Academy of Adolescent Child Psychology, authors Srour, M., et. al. state, “At the neurochemical level, TS [Tourette’s Syndrome] may be associated with dysfunction of dopaminergic modulation of striatal and/or frontal activity.” To treat tics and TS, researchers are suggesting a focus on dopamine may be the place to put one’s efforts. say, “Tic disorders frequently do not require pharmacological treatment, but if required, first line treatment options include dopamine modulators…” If dopamine plays such a critical role in the manifestation of tics and TS, it stands to reason that any action that is proven to affect dopamine levels in a person would also be capable of causing a positive or negative effect on these behaviors. Changes in diet can affect dopamine levels, so it is reasonable to believe dietary changes can affect these behaviors in people. Dr. Nicole Beurkens states, “The few case studies and papers that have been published show the potential for food and nutrients to positively impact symptoms [of tics and Tourette’s Syndrome]. Dietary strategies hold significant promise for addressing not only tics but the other symptoms these children often exhibit.”

Doctors are now beginning to look at diet as a natural “no-side-effects” approach to treating tics and other psychological disorders. In her Psychology Today article titled “Got Tics? Environmental Adjustments Can Help,” Victoria Dunckley, MD,, recommends avoiding gluten, dairy, sugar, caffeine, preservatives, dyes, artificial sweeteners, and flavors. This study discusses the role of the gut microbiota in children with tourette’s syndrome.

One way to make a change to the microbiome is from diet and probiotics, but another way is to undergo a fecal transplant. Here is a study that discusses a 9-year-old boy with tourette’s syndrome who improved after a fecal microbiota transplant!

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