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.
When I got started on my recovery, OCD had been dominant in my life for 16 years and I was at a point where I was struggling to leave my house. I had a myriad of health issues, from constant rumination, insomnia, skin issues and PMS, to obsessions and compulsions that dominated daily life and held me back.
This article is the second in The OCD series and will discuss another key nutritional change that helped me recover. My first article discussed the role of protein in supporting nervous / mental health and how eating more protein foods supported my recovery. In this article, I'll discuss the types of fats that nourish our nervous systems and mental health. And I'll share how mega-dosing supported my recovery.
Parts of our bodies are literally made of fat. Our brains contain the omega 3 fat DHA and many of our nerves have a fatty, insulating coating called myelin sheathing. Our cell membranes are partially structurally made from saturated fats. Dietary omega 3 fats reduce inflammation and support healing processes in the body and saturated fats provide us with energy. We really do need nourishing fats for good mental and physical health, for the structure of our bodies, and for processes of life.
Unfortunately, for a long time we’ve been taught ‘fat is bad’. Furthermore, the types of fats found in abundance in our food supply nowadays don’t tend to be the nourishing kind. If we’re not careful consumers, we end up eating too much inflammatory, health-depleting omega 6 fat – like soy (oil, beans, milk), canola oil, sunflower oil, rice bran oils and margarine. When what we need are the anti-inflammatory fats that support our brains, nerves, and cells. Like the saturated fat found in butter, coconut oil, eggs and meats, and the omega 3 fat found in oily fish like sardines, mackerel, anchovies and wild salmon (or in fish oil supplements) and in flax seeds and oil and chia seeds.
Taking salmon oil capsules and flaxseed oil (both rich sources of the three different types of omega 3) long-term did wonders for reducing my OCD symptoms and other health issues. Some very early (first few weeks to months) benefits I experienced from taking fish oil and flaxseed oil were:
-While I still experienced obsessive thoughts and compulsions, I no longer felt hysterical around these. I was noticeably calmer to myself and those close to me. It was like becoming able to observe the obsessions and compulsions but no longer being fully consumed by them. The anxiety dragon was still there....but I was no longer being thrashed around in its jaws.
-I was no longer bloated and looked and felt slimmer - I hadn't realised how bloated I had been until this change occurred! And my bowel motions became regular (daily), helping my body detoxify.
-Acne cleared up and my skin looked so much healthier / more glowy.
-I felt happier. I laughed more and more.
Just how might taking omega 3 supplements long term (and eating more omega 3 foods) have helped support my recovery from OCD? While it can't be said for certain what the mechanism was, there are two discoveries documented in the scientific literature (i.e., published research) that stand out for me and offer possible explanation.
-One discovery is that when people who have OCD have had their brains scanned using PET, abnormalities in the white matter (myelin) of the brain have been found.
-The other discovery is that dietary omega 3 seems to have beneficial effects on myelination / white matter integrity. So it may be that omega 3 improves mental health by improving white matter / myelin integrity.
To clarify, when I say I took omega 3 supplements long term, I mean that I took omega 3 supplements almost every day for two years. I may have missed a day here and there if I ran out. I was taking a few grams of omega 3 every day for most of this period, and for a short period I took even higher amounts than this. Please note, I do not advise doing this without the guidance and supervision of a qualified nutritionist, so talk to me if you are looking for holistic support with OCD recovery. Additionally, if you take omega 3 supplements and experience a worsening of your symptoms, talk to me. You may have a metabolic condition that needs addressing for you to reach your optimal health.
To this day, I still take salmon oil on and off. It makes my skin glow and I feel calmer. I eat wild sardines or wild salmon at least once a week (even if tinned and not fresh caught). I also eat flax seeds, butter and free range eggs every day, which all contain omega 3. And I eat plenty of coconut oil (I cook with it and add it to smoothies) and animal foods, to get saturated fats for healthy cellular function. And despite eating all this fat, weight management is not a problem for me. Because I’m eating nourishing fats my brain and body need, recognize and use.
I prudently avoid packaged foods that contain soy, canola, rice bran and sunflower oils – which means I avoid eating the majority of packaged foods most of the time (though I will very occasionally have packaged aioli or mayonnaise and desserts that contain these plants oils).
Omega 6 fat not only causes systemic inflammation in the body, it also reduces the body’s uptake of brain-building omega 3 fat. The prevalence of omega 6 and reduction of omega 3 in our food supply over the last several decades has surely played a role in the rise of mental health problems.
So eating more nourishing omega 3 and saturated fats (found especially in animal foods and coconut oil) greatly helped me recover from the ravages of OCD and helped resolved other health problems. But it’s not just about eating more nourishing fats - we also need to be able to digest them well, to get the full benefits. More on this in my next article.
As a Nutritionist specializing in helping people with OCD, I guide you through OCD recovery, tailoring nutritional advice and tools to Your personal health and life 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.