Diet for essential tremor

Essential tremor is a non-life-threatening movement disorder that can affect specific areas of the body. You can get more in-depth information about this condition here and about treating it here.  This article is about nutrition for essential tremor.

Detox

Prior to discussing any diet programme for essential tremor I recommend to my clients to start with a detox or elimination diet.  The purpose of it is to try and isolate any nutritional causes which may be underlying the symptoms. 

The main objective behind this diet is that these dietary modifications enable your body’s detoxification mechanism, which may be overburdened or compromised, to recover and re-function efficiently. The dietary variations help the body eliminate or “clear-out” different toxins that may have accumulated due to environmental exposure, foods, beverages, drugs, alcohol or smoking. It also helps decrease inflammation throughout the body.

It is called an “Elimination Diet” due to the fact that certain foods and food categories are removed from your diet. During a period of two to three weeks, you will eliminate those foods from your diet that are the most likely responsible for your sensitivity symptoms. If your symptoms improve during the three-week period, you’ll carefully reintroduce foods back into your diet one at a time to see which foods may be triggering any symptoms.

First and foremost it is important to eliminate tremor ‘triggers’ such as caffeine and other stimulants from the diet.  Caffeine is found in coffee (reduced amount in decaffeinated coffee), tea, cocoa, soft drinks (especially those containing cola), alcoholic energy drinks, and some brands of root beer and energy drinks. It may also be found in chocolate bars, coffee and chocolate flavoured ice-cream, energy bars, certain brands of instant breakfast oatmeal and meat jerky, and some over-the-counter medications, such as cough syrup, pain relievers, breath fresheners, and slimming tablets.  An interesting point to make concerning chocolate is that there are some experts that claim that a little chocolate may be helpful for patients as well, as it influences mood and increases the presence of endorphins which elevate the feeling of wellbeing and happiness. As far as I personally am concerned, the ‘jury is still out’ on this issue. 

Word of warning: It is important to always consult a nutritionist about an elimination diet, especially because there are some potential risk factors.

For one, there is some evidence to indicate that a prolonged elimination diet can cause more acute reactions in some people.  A nutritionist can also help you plan around eliminated foods to ensure you are still getting the proper nutrition while on the diet. Sometimes we outgrow our conditions and sometimes we develop new ones as we get older, but with the proper nutritional guidance and careful attention to our diets, we can identify and manage our specific food and enjoy it without worry.

Alcohol

Adult patients with essential tremor often notice that drinking alcohol reduces tremor for one to two hours. When you use alcohol responsibly, it can be very effective in temporarily reducing tremor. It may even be helpful to have one or two drinks during social events to suppress tremor.

 

There are, however, important issues to consider in using alcohol for essential tremor. Rebound tremor may occur after excessive alcohol use, making tremor temporarily more severe the following day. If you use alcohol to reduce tremor, be sure to talk with your doctor about it. You should avoid excessive use of alcohol, and never consume alcohol if you plan to drive.

 

The limitations of the use of alcohol as a treatment for essential tremor include the short duration of response, development of tolerance to the anti-tremor effect, increased tremor as alcohol is metabolised, and the risk of alcohol dependency or problems relating to blood sugar. It is not advisable to drink more than the normal recommended amount of alcohol.

Mediterranean diet 

Mediterranean diet includes fresh, unprocessed whole foods and lots of olive oil, fish, nuts and a little wine.  In a study done through the National Institutes of Health in the USA, the Mediterranean diet was found to actually help people with essential tremor.  The Mediterranean diet is situated on the food pyramid in this way:

meats and sweets at the top in the smallest triangle, then poultry, eggs and yogurt, then fish and seafood, then in the largest category is fruits, vegetables, grains, olive oil, beans, nuts, legumes, seeds, herbs and spices. This type of diet is not only good for a normal, healthy person, it is also noted by MayoClinic that it may lower the incidence of Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer's disease. If it really does this, then it is likely that it would also be very helpful for someone with benign essential tremor.

Correlation has been shown between a Mediterranean diet pattern and a lower incidence of essential tremor[1]. Reduced body mass is a common problem with essential tremor, likely because of the energy spent in non-productive muscle movement. One research group recommended that doctors pay more attention to this and encourage suitable nutritional intake in persons with essential tremor. There may be an interesting conflict in this observation, in that individuals who are normally trying to gain weight tend to eat more protein...and red meat intake was recently associated with a greater degree of tremor severity in men (not women).  Even though there is research suggesting that the blood components associated with essential tremor and red meat consumption don't consistently explain the origin of tremors, it is only common sense that eating more fish and less red meat, more fruits and vegetables and healthy fats cannot hurt!  The conclusions of a study carried out in 2007[2] are as follows:

“… our results indicate that the recently reported beneficial effects of MeDi for Alzheimer’s disease may extend to ET, a very common neurological disease without known prevention or effective treatment. It has been argued that it is easier to prescribe drugs than to change the dietary habit of subjects. However, the Lyon Diet Heart study indicated that most subjects were still following the MeDi several years after randomization. The American Heart Association has issued a scientific advisory stating that a Mediterranean-style diet demonstrates impressive effects on cardiovascular disease. However, it is very premature to recommend the MeDi for prevention of ET based on our observational study, which is only the first report of such an association and should be replicated.”

Download The Mediterranean Diet Mediterranean diet for beginners

[1] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3030195/

 [2] https://www.karger.com/Article/Pdf/111579

Gluten-Free diet

It is a well-established medical fact that gluten can cause inflammatory nerve damage as well as incite neurological autoimmune disease.  Multiple studies have made this connection recently.  Common neurological diseases caused by gluten include – neuropathy, multiple sclerosis, vertigo, ataxia, autism, schizophrenia, depression, epilepsy and tremor. It appears that gluten related tremor problems are much greater in children and teenagers than in adults. However, these patients’ tremors tend to resolve after several months on a gluten free diet.

Nutritional deficiency

Although a gluten free diet can often diminish or resolve this condition, sometimes getting rid of gluten is not enough.  There are a number of gluten induced nutritional deficiencies that may persist in patients and lead to continued symptoms.  The most common are:

  • Vitamin B12

  • Vitamin B6

  • Vitamin B1

  • Vitamin E

  • Omega 3 fatty acids – These fatty acids coat the myelin of the nerves. Omega-3s help keep the neurons healthy and reduce inflammation.  Inflammation may cause symptoms to be worse as it does with most conditions in our body. The modern western diet has too much omega-6 compared to omega-3. Take a good quality cod liver, fish oil or krill oil. If you are vegan, you can take flaxseed oil but it does not work as well as fish or krill oil. 

  • Magnesium - like many minerals, is low in our diet due to poor soil conditions. Magnesium is so calming that too much of it works as a laxative (like Milk of Magnesia).  Foods high in magnesium include sesame seeds, beans, nuts, and leafy greens.

In my experience, vitamin B12 and vitamin B6 Deficiency are by far the main two culprits.  Vitamin B12 is necessary to help the body form the insulation around nerves (also referred to as myelin).  Without this insulation, nerves can misfire and trigger tremors, neuropathy, and neuritis (nerve pain).  If the deficiency persists, it can lead to permanent nerve damage.

Vitamin B-6 is needed by your body to produce neurotransmitters.  When this process fails, neurological symptoms of fatigue, depression, anxiety, and irritability are common issues.

I recommend taking a balanced B-complex. Be sure to get a good quality balanced B-complex in a whole food form if you can afford it.  A dose of 50mg-100mg is a good place to start.  You can also start with a lower dose such as 25mg but you may not see results as quickly. B vitamins are nerve vitamins. If you are a Vegan (not a good diet for someone with tremors), then take extra B12. B vitamins are found in whole grains, egg yolks, peas, beans, leafy green vegetables, dairy (organic milk and cheeses), and poultry.

If you suffer from tremor and you’ve not yet done so, I would also recommend that you have vitamin B-vitamin levels measured. 

Supplements

TREMANOL – Some people swear by it.  This tremor relief supplement combines Vitamin B2, Vitamin B12, as well as a proprietary blend including Skullcap herb, Passion Flower herb, and other herbs which studies have shown to reduce tremors.

TREMORAID - An herbal supplement which has been available for a while now. Many people claim it reduces their tremors.

TREMORTIN - Newly released; relatively little information is available on this product.

Conclusion

Although science based evidence that supports nutritional solutions for essential tremor is scant at best, my own experience with tremor patients who followed my professional support has been quite successful in the majority of cases where clients followed a sustainable programme which included stress management, physical exercise and most importantly a customised diet.

Remember for a faster elimination of foods you  might be intolerant to, you can do a food intolerance test. This test can be shipped worldwide and can easily be taken at home. For more info click here

If you have any questions or require my support please don’t hesitate to contact me 

More information

Essential tremor- general information 

Treating essential tremor

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