This article will introduce a key nutritional tool that has helped me recover from OCD and start LIVING. I want to help people with OCD. Because it nearly killed me. I understand the hell this illness can be and how hard it can be to find help for it.
This is the first of a series of articles I’m writing about OCD. I’m going to start by explaining the importance of a vital nutrient that nourishes the structure and function of your nervous system (brain, brain stem and nerves) and in turn, your mental health. Getting more of this nutrient helped me recover when I was at the point where OCD had been dominating my life for 16 years, and I was struggling to leave my house.
A side note….I don't believe nutrition alone is the answer for OCD but I know it is a powerful tool that provides a foundation to then keep building on to enhance our health. Because when your anxiety:
-brings you to the point of hysteria
-you can’t sleep
-you’re struggling to leave your house
-your brain perceives danger everywhere and won’t be quiet
-just the thought of ERP therapy is terrifying (let alone actually doing it)
-and you have all kinds of other health issues going on like PMS, migraines, and bladder weakness (at age 29, for me)
nutrition is an excellent tool for helping you reclaim and sustain the foundations of your mental and physical health. I’m going to share with you one way I changed the way I ate to do just that.
Some of you may know from my Facebook live a few months ago that I was vegetarian for 15 years, from age 15 to age 30. And this way of living really did not work for me or support my health. While I did eat fairly nutritiously – fruit and veges every day, home grown herbs, home cooked meals, olive oil, whole grains, free range eggs a couple of times a week, no fast food – the reality is that toast/bread, pasta and veges were the foundation of many of my meals. There was very, very, very little protein (and fat) in my way of living. And the biological reality is, humans need protein every day.
When I first began working with my naturopath on recovering from OCD in 2010, one of the first things I learned from her was the importance of dietary protein for building neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers our bodies make to help us sleep, feel calm and relaxed. In particular, the neurotransmitter GABA is important for calm and without sufficient GABA we are going to feel anxious and solid sleep will be difficult.
If we’re not getting enough dietary protein, our bodies will struggle to build neurotransmitters. And interestingly, protein rich foods such as chicken, beef and eggs also contain B vitamins and zinc – other nutrients needed for building neurotransmitters and supporting the normal structure and function of our nervous system.
Since I stopped being vegetarian 7 years ago, I have experienced benefits so great to my physical and mental health that I will never go back. Protein helps me feel noticeably calmer and happier. And being honest, during the last few years I was vegetarian, I had been craving meat. And feeling guilty about it – I was good at being really hard on myself back then. When I started eating meat and started feeling better, I realized my intuition had been trying to tell me something. My body knew what I needed and was giving me signals.
It is common for vegetarians to say they can get all their protein from nuts, seeds, beans and lentils. However, a large handful of nuts only provides about 2-3 g of protein and one cup of lentils or beans will give you about 12g of protein. Given we need .8g of protein per kilo of our body weight each day – so most of us need to be eating more than 50g of protein daily - you would need to be eating a lot of nuts and lentils every day to meet your daily requirements.
Let me be clear – I’m not saying don’t be vegetarian, I'm saying be an informed vegetarian. If you’re vegetarian and you’re suffering from OCD and want to feel better, doing a 7-day audit of how many grams of protein you’re getting each day would be a good first step to take.
Protein is also important for structural repair in the body (think wound healing, cellular repair, recovery after exercise, surgical healing) and for maintaining stable blood glucose levels and stable mood and energy. Think about how you feel when you eat scrambled eggs for breakfast compared with a bowl of cereal or toast and jam. Does one of these scenarios leave you feeling famished and irritable an hour later? Refined carbs give us a rapid hit of fuel that quickly wears off and leaves our body thinking it is starving and in danger, thus increasing anxiety. Whereas protein helps us feel fuller for longer and more grounded emotionally because it delivers a steady supply of fuel to our body and brain.
The amino acids in protein are also necessary for our liver to carry out detoxification processes. Without adequate protein, these detoxification processes won’t be optimal, which can lead to health conditions like PMS, migraines and acne – all of which I experienced. And a toxic, malnourished liver may struggle with its many other jobs, such as producing the bile needed to break down fats, which are also vital for our mental health. Which fats nourish support our nervous system and mental health and which fats harm will be the subject of my next article.
I am confident that increasing the amount of good quality protein being eaten would support most people seeking to recover from OCD. Because protein supports nervous system function, and nourishing the nervous system is key in recovery from a mental health problem.
As a Nutritionist specializing in helping people with OCD, I guide you through OCD recovery, tailoring nutritional advice and tools to Your personal health history and symptoms. This takes out the guess work for you, getting you results faster. And working with me means you have a support person who will listen, answer your questions, and celebrate your progress – a support person who knows just how hellish OCD can be.
Let me help you learn how to move from surviving to thriving with OCD.
Book your free 15 minute call with me here.