Even though tics and twitches are normally quite common in children, there has been an upsurge of kids with tics and involuntary repetitive movements such as eye blinking, throat clearing, shoulder shrugging or blurting out unusual sounds. And, in some cases, these might have been triggered by a recent strep A infection.
Historically these involuntary movements have been described as “nervous tics” and can be a physical manifestation of underlying anxiety. However, because we have immune cells in our brain (called microglia), these tics and twitches can also be the soft signs of a misdirected immune system. This means that both viral and bacterial infections can potentially kick start inflammation that in turn affects the neurological system.
In more extreme cases, streptococcus bacteria (strep A, strep throat, tonsillitis, scarlet fever) is known to trigger an autoimmune inflammatory reaction to the brain’s basal ganglia. This can lead to the onset of tics, anxiety and OCD behaviours, disordered eating, as well as bed wetting and a decline in schoolwork, amongst other symptoms. When full blown, this is known as PANDAS (Paediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated with Streptococcus) and will usually need input from a GP, paediatrician or neurologist well versed in PANS/PANDAS.
However, often the tics and twitches come along by themselves without any other symptoms and luckily do resolve over time. I know how upsetting it can be to witness little grimaces, blinks and twitches. My son was bullied for having tics when he was younger, which was heart-breaking and was the trigger that drove my curiosity and determination to work out why his little system was so out-of-sync at the time. So, I know how tough it can be for our kids too!
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Specific nutrients can often help to reduce muscular spams, tics and twitches quickly. The ones we find most effective in our NatureDoc clinics are:
- Magnesium – this is a mighty mineral that helps over 400 metabolic reactions in the body and also supports the regulation of our inner electrical impulses that can misfire and lead to twitches and tics. Magnesium can also be helpful for restless legs.
- Theanine – this is the calming compound which naturally occurs in black and green tea. It is the theanine in tea that helps you feel more relaxed after a shock or a stressful situation. It is caffeine-free and is naturally rich in a brain hormone called GABA. GABA keeps us calm and relaxed and can help to support the nervous system. Theanine is perfect for the anxious/worrying type of child who seems to always be on edge.
- Vitamin B6 – this has been used in combination with magnesium and/or theanine in studies on people with Tourette’s and other tic disorders and has been found to help reduce symptoms quite considerably.
- Palmitoylethanolamide (PEA) – is for the kids and teens whose strep-induced tics are more entrenched and you suspect that a degree of neural-inflammation is part of the picture. It’s a supplement with no known side effects that can help to dial down inflammation of the central nervous system and is also a key supplement for pain.
What to do next
If your child is really struggling and their character has changed since having a strep infection or their symptoms flare up every time they are exposed to streptococcus, then our NatureDoc team can work alongside paediatricians, psychiatrists and neurologists to find a truly integrated approach to help reboot your child’s immune system and restore them back to their vibrant, relaxed and care-free selves again.
This involves establishing whether there is an autoimmune inflammatory response driving the changes in your child and whether raised streptococcus antibodies are part of the picture. Then, over time, we can work to rebalance their immune system, so that it does not overreact every time the child is exposed to a streptococcus infection.
Contact our reception team clin[email protected] if you feel your child needs additional help.
We know many people want to know what products we recommend but unfortunately for regulatory reasons, recommendations have to be private. However all is not lost, you can join NatureDoc Live! for monthly Zoom Q&As with Lucinda, as well as a forum for asking questions, and access to recommendations in our blogs which appear when you log in.
- National Institute of Mental Health – PANDAS
- Streptococcal Infections and Exacerbations in PANDAS
- Pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders associated with Streptococcus infections
- PANDAS—Questions and Answers
- New therapeutic approach to Tourette Syndrome in children based on a randomized placebo-controlled double-blind phase IV study of the effectiveness and safety of magnesium and vitamin B6
- The central role of magnesium deficiency in Tourette’s syndrome: causal relationships between magnesium deficiency, altered biochemical pathways and symptoms relating to Tourette’s syndrome and several reported comorbid conditions
- Use of Nutritional Supplements Based on L-Theanine and Vitamin B6 in Children with Tourette Syndrome, with Anxiety Disorders: A Pilot Study
- The acute effects of L-theanine in comparison with alprazolam on anticipatory anxiety in humans
- Palmitoylethanolamide as adjunctive therapy for autism: efficacy and safety results from a randomized controlled trial
- Palmitoylethanolamide: A Nutritional Approach to Keep Neuroinflammation within Physiological Boundaries—A Systematic Review
- Palmitoylethanolamide dampens neuroinflammation and anxiety-like behavior in obese mice
- A Phase-2 Pilot Study of a Therapeutic Combination of Δ9-Tetrahydracannabinol and Palmitoylethanolamide for Adults With Tourette’s Syndrome
- Palmitoylethanolamide and Its Biobehavioral Correlates in Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Systematic Review of Human and Animal Evidence
- Palmitoylethanolamide induces microglia changes associated with increased migration and phagocytic activity: involvement of the CB2 receptor