Tag Archives: NAC

Medications

Medications for Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors

 

by Jon E. Grant, MD, JD, MPH, Scientific Advisory Board Chair
Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience, University of Chicago

If you are considering taking medication for BFRBs, please understand that no drug is currently approved by the Food and Drug Administration for these behaviors, that there is limited research on the use of medications for these behaviors, and that the medications often have side effects. Having said that, many individuals benefit from medications. They may find a reduction in their urges, an increased ability to resist their behaviors, and/or less obsessional thinking about their hair or skin. In most cases, medications appear most helpful when used in combination with ongoing behavior therapy.

Individuals who pull their hair or pick their skin should receive a thorough physical examination to rule out potential medical problems, such as skin disorders. In addition, individuals who eat their hair should inform their doctors of this behavior as it may lead to serious health problems.

Because no single treatment will work for everyone, a complete psychiatric assessment will aid in identifying which medication may be helpful. This assessment should include information about the BFRB (for example, does the person find the behavior pleasurable, does the individual pull or pick because they feel depressed, etc.), other mental health problems of the individual (including drug and alcohol problems), current medications and allergies, any previous trials of medication, and psychiatric problems within the family.

Women who choose to take medication either during pregnancy or during the period when they will be breast-feeding should discuss carefully the side effects of all medications (including the risks of possible birth defects) with their physician.

Clomipramine (Anafranil)
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)
Other Antidepressants
Naltrexone (Revia)
Neuroleptics
Lithium
Other Agents/ Supplements
General Considerations
Considerations for Children and Adolescents

Clomipramine (Anafranil)

The first study for trichotillomania found that clomipramine (Anafranil), a medication affecting the brain neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine, was beneficial in treating hair pulling in a small number of adults. Clomipramine has both antidepressant and anti-obsessional properties. Therefore, this may be a potentially beneficial medication for those who have trichotillomania in addition to depression or obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Clomipramine is approved for pediatric OCD and therefore could be used in children with both OCD and trichotillomania. There have been no studies examining the use of clomipramine in skin picking, but given its benefits in hair pulling, this is also considered a potentially beneficial option for picking as well.

Clomipramine, however, may result in multiple side effects such as dry mouth, constipation, blurred vision, sexual dysfunction and weight gain. In addition, clomipramine may cause fine tremor and muscle twitching. Starting at a low dose such as 25 mg at night and slowly titrating the dose over several weeks to 150 to 250 mg/day reduces the likelihood of side effects. Clomipramine should not be used if a patient has a history of cardiac conduction disturbance or a central nervous system illness that might compromise memory. At 300 mg/day, clomipramine can cause seizures in about 2% of subjects. Clomipramine should not be used with medications such as fluoxetine or paroxetine that inhibit P450 isozymes, for they inhibit clomipramine hepatic metabolism, cause elevated serum clomipramine, and desmethylated clomipramine levels. If it becomes necessary to use these medications in combination, clomipramine levels should be monitored frequently by blood tests and by performing periodic EKGs on the person.

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)

Several studies have examined SSRIs in treating trichotillomania and skin picking. The SSRIs include: fluoxetine (Prozac), fluvoxamine (Luvox), sertraline (Zoloft), citalopram (Celexa), escitalopram (Lexapro), and paroxetine (Paxil). These medications are FDA-approved for the treatment of depression or OCD or both.

Only fluoxetine (Prozac) has been rigorously studied in hair pulling and skin picking. Although the results have looked somewhat promising for using fluoxetine in skin picking, the results for trichotillomania have been largely no better than for a placebo. The other SSRIs have been used in smaller, less controlled studied and have demonstrated some limited benefits in some studies and no benefits in other studies. Individuals may report a range of improvement from dramatic reduction in behavior to no change. In general, the improvement is modest but may only last several months. These medications may be helpful in individuals with pulling or picking who also suffer from anxiety, depression or OCD.

Although the SSRIs are generally well tolerated, they may produce gastrointestinal distress, sedation, mild anxiety, headache, constipation, increased urinary frequency, weight gain, and sexual dysfunction. Fluvoxamine (Luvox) is a potent P450 1A2 inhibitor, and drug-drug interactions should be considered before it is prescribed. Given paroxetine’s (Paxil’s) relatively short half-life, the potential for flu-like SSRI discontinuation symptoms exist, particularly with abrupt cessation of high dosages of the drug. As with other anti-depressants, warnings exist for the potential association between SSRIs and suicidal thoughts and behaviors.

Other Antidepressants

Other antidepressants have been tried in the treatment of trichotillomania and skin picking. Although the data are sparse, case reports discuss the possible benefits from a range of antidepressants – amitriptyline (Elavil), imipramine (Tofranil), venlafaxine (Effexor), and doxepin (Sinequan). These medications have shown benefit for the treatment of depression and anxiety, but given the limited data for their use in trichotillomania and skin picking, these medications should not be considered first-line treatment.

Naltrexone (Revia)

Naltrexone, an opioid antagonist, is approved by the FDA for the treatment of alcohol dependence and opiate dependence. Naltrexone has been examined in two controlled studies of trichotillomania and demonstrated some potential benefit in one and none in the other. Because naltrexone reduces urges to engage in pleasurable behaviors, it may be best for those individuals who pull or pick due to strong urges and find the behavior pleasurable. It should also be considered in individuals with trichotillomania or skin picking who suffer from alcoholism, and possibly in individuals with a family history of alcohol use disorders.

Although generally well tolerated, naltrexone may cause nausea, insomnia, muscle aches, and headaches. Liver enzyme elevations are possible, especially in patients taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and therefore liver enzymes should be frequently monitored.

Neuroleptics

Dopamine-blocking neuroleptics have also been examined in the treatment of trichotillomania and skin picking. The rationale for their use is due to a possible link between repetitive behaviors and tic disorders such as Tourette’s disorder. A controlled study of olanzapine (Zyprexa) found that the medication was significantly more effective than a placebo in reducing hair pulling. Other neuroleptics – risperidone (Risperdal), quetiapine (Seroquel), ziprasidone (Geodon), and aripiprazole (Abilify) – may also be beneficial but there have been no controlled studies of these medications.

Neuroleptics may result in a range of side effects: extrapyramidal side effects (Parkinson-like tremor, rigidity, bradykinesia), akathesia, dysphoria, sedation, tardive dyskinesia, weight gain, and development of diabetes and high cholesterol.

Lithium

Lithium, a medication approved for the treatment of bipolar disorder, has shown some benefit in individuals with trichotillomania in uncontrolled studies. Lithium may be beneficial to those who are generally impulsive or have considerable emotional instability. Lithium may be an attractive medication option for individuals with trichotillomania or skin picking who also suffer from bipolar disorder.

Lithium can produce significant side effects. Common side effects of lithium include nausea, loss of appetite, mild diarrhea, dizziness, hand tremors, weight gain, hypothyroidism (low levels of thyroid hormone), increased white blood cell count, acne, and skin rashes. Individuals should tell their doctor immediately if they develop lack of coordination, muscle weakness, slurred speech, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, confusion, or an increase in tremors or shaking. These symptoms may be a sign of having too much lithium in the body, which requires medical attention. With long-term use of lithium, kidney damage may also occur, but it is rare. In order to minimize risk, your healthcare provider will periodically measure kidney function and lithium levels with a simple blood test.

Other Agents

A variety of other medications have shown early promise in the treatment of trichotillomania and skin picking.

Medications that affect the neurotransmitter, glutamate, may be beneficial. Glutamate appears to have a role in the area of the brain involved in compulsive, repetitive behaviors. These medications include lamotrigine (lamictal) (FDA-approved for bipolar disorder), riluzole (Rilutek) (FDA-approved for ALS), and the amino acid N-Acetyl Cysteine. These medications, however, are not all alike and the studies suggest there may be important differences. One study of lamotrigine in skin picking found that it was not more beneficial than placebo. Although studies of riluzole have not been performed in trichotillomania or skin picking, a study in OCD found that it was no different from placebo. N-actetyle cysteine, however, was studied in trichotillomania and in adults appeared to be very promising although the study in children was no productive. N-acetyl cysteine may be beneficial alone or in combination with an SSRI (link to NAC article).

Inositol, a B-vitamin and an isomer of glucose, has also been used in the treatment of trichotillomania and skin picking. A controlled study has demonstrated improvement in OCD using inositol, but controlled studies are lacking for hair pulling and picking (link to inositol article)

General Considerations

A reasonable medication strategy is to employ a systematic trial of a specific medication while monitoring side effects. The choice of which agent to use can be based on known side effects, co-occurring disorders such as depression or OCD or alcoholism, or what has possibly worked for family members. Rating scales can be used to assess the degree of hair pulling or skin picking as well as global measure of improvement. The dose of the medication should be built up over time until complete benefit is obtained or to the maximum or best-tolerated dose. An appropriate period of time should be allowed (8-12 weeks or longer) before deciding whether a benefit has been achieved. If the benefit is only partial, the medication can either be changed or another medication can be added. Always consult your physician before abruptly stopping a medication. Also, individuals should be informed that medications appear most helpful when used in combination with ongoing behavior therapy.

Considerations for Children and Adolescents

In the case of adolescents, the general recommendation is first to use behavioral therapies before considering medication and then only use medication in severe cases. Many medications may cause suicidal thoughts in children and adolescents and therefore medications must be used very cautiously in this population and suicidal thinking should be monitored frequently.

Inositol

Studies show that Inositol helps many Trichotillomania suffers. I find that it reduces the urge to pull, which helps with my focused pulling. The Inositol also increases my awareness, which decreases my unfocused pulling.

Leading Trichotillomania specialist Dr. Penzel’s wrote, Inositol and OCD. He recommends the following regimen to begin Inositol: 

(1 teaspoon=2 grams, and be sure to use a measuring spoon) for an adult:

Week 1 – 1 teaspoon/2x per day
Week 2 – 1 teaspoon/3x per day
Week 3 – 1.5 teaspoons/3x per day
Week 4 – 2 teaspoons/3x per day
Week 5 – 2.5 teaspoons/3x per day
Week 6 – 3 teaspoons/3x per day

Following this regimen, I worked my way up and now take 18g each day. I do this by mixing 3 teaspoons (1 tablespoon) of inositol in water 3 times a day. I have found the Jarrow brand powder (shown above) to dissolve well. It is available on amazon for reasonable price. I mix it with warm water as it dissolves better that way. You can add it to fruit juice or other sweetened drink. I simply mix the powder with ~3oz of warm water and drink plain as it has a mild sweet taste that I actually like. In addition to Inositol, l I take 1800mg of  NAC, which I started several months before the Inositol. I did not see much progress with that alone, therefore I added the Inositol. If you are considering both supplements, choose one to start with, otherwise you will not know which is helping and or causing side effects.

I have taken Inositol on and off for 2 years. When I first started the recommended regimen over 6 weeks, I noticed many GI side effects. When I unexpectedly became pregnant a couple months later, I had to lower my dose because it increased my nausea. That did not help so I discontinued the Inositol until my morning sickness passed. Reassured by my OB that Inositol is safe while pregnant and breastfeeding, I slowly reintroduced the Inositol. I only took 1-2 because it aggravated epigastric pain I had while pregnant. The lower dose helped a bit, but not nearly as well as the recommended 3 TBSP. Now that I am back to 3 TBSP per day (which I take in one large dose at night to help my insomnia), I am definitely feeling the benefits. It decreases my urges and makes me more aware of pulling.

Here’s more details information I copied from the article about Inositol use for trich sufferers, written by trich specialist Fred Penzel:

“Obviously, before you run out and try anything new, you should always consult your physician. If your physician recommends trying this, you might also want to mention the following information to him or her:

  1. It cannot be taken together with Lithium, as it seems to block its action.
  2. The chief side effects of inositol are gas and diarrhea. Some people get this for the first few days and then it clears up. Many of those taking it never have this side effect, and some only get it when they take more than a particular amount.
  3. I have heard reports that caffeine lowers inositol levels in the body, so if you are a heavy coffee drinker, you might consider cutting down or eliminating this from your diet. Actually, stimulants such as caffeine can sometimes contribute to anxiety, jitteriness, etc.
  4. It should be purchased in powdered form, and taken dissolved in water or fruit juice. It has a sweet taste, and is chemically related to sugar. If it is allowed to stand for about 10 minutes after mixing it, it seems to dissolve better. Vigorous mixing for a few minutes also helps. If it still doesn’t dissolve well (not all brands do), stir it up and drink it quickly before it settles. The use of powder is recommended, as the larger doses required could require taking as many as 36, 500 mg. capsules per day.
  5. Inositol is a water-soluble vitamin, so although the doses appear to be large, it will not build up to toxic levels in the body. Whatever the body doesn’t use is excreted. The average person normally takes in about 1 gram of inositol each day via the food they eat. There are no reports of any harm associated with the long-term use of inositol. Some of our patients have been taking it as long as eight years now, with no problems.6. It can be built up according to the following schedule (1 teaspoon=2 grams, and be

sure to use a measuring spoon) for an adult:

  • Week 1 – 1 teaspoon/2x per day
  • Week 2 – 1 teaspoon/3x per day
  • Week 3 – 1.5 teaspoons/3x per day
  • Week 4 – 2 teaspoons/3x per day
  • Week 5 – 2.5 teaspoons/3x per day
  • Week 6 – 3 teaspoons/3x per day

A child can be built up to 3 teaspoons per day over the same six-week period. Dosages for adolescents can be adjusted according to weight. In either case, it is best to allow side effects to be the guide. If they begin to occur, it is not considered wise to increase the dosage unless they subside.

Once a person has reached either the maximum dosage, or the greatest amount they are able to tolerate, it is best to try staying six weeks at that level to see if there is any noticeable improvement. If there is none by the end of that time, it should probably be discontinued. As with any treatment, those who are absolutely positive that it will help are only setting themselves up, and may wind up more than disappointed. Everything works for someone, but nothing works for everyone.”

NAC for Trichotillomania

Research shows that nutritional supplements may help mental health including trichotillomania. Lately I have focused on inositol and NAC as I have heard about these supplements in many trichotillomania communities with varied success.

*Updated 3/17/18

I started taking NAC (N-acetylcysteine) about five years ago and have noticed a decrease in my urge to pull when I take it 5-6 days per week. I have gone though periods where I did not take it or did not take enough that I notice any benefit.

Currently, I take 2-600mg capsules in the morning and 2-600mg capsules in the evening, giving me a total of 2400mg of NAC. Doses between 1200-3600mg may be helpful according to this article,  N-Acetylcysteine, a Glutamate Modulator, in the Treatment of Trichotillomania

I recently added inositol to increase the benefits of NAC.  It is generally agreed that a large dose is needed for inositol to be effective with trich. I worked my way up to 18g per day. I do this by mixing 3 teaspoons or 1 tablespoon of inositol in water 3 times a day. I have found the Jarrow brand powder dissolves best. It is available on amazon for a reasonable price. I mix it with warm water as it dissolves better that way. You can add it to fruit juice or other sweetened drinks.  I simply mix the powder with ~3 oz. of warm water and drink it plain as it has a mild sweet taste that I actually like.

 

NAC and Trichotillomania

By Fred Penzel, Ph.D.

**Please note the following: This advice is purely informational, and not in any way meant to be a substitute for treatment by a licensed physician. Do not try this, or anything else, without first consulting your physician. If your M.D. has not heard about it, refer them to the following article and let them decide:

Jon E. Grant, JD, MD, MPH; Brian L. Odlaug, BA; Suck Won Kim, MD, N-Acetylcysteine, a Glutamate Modulator, in the Treatment of Trichotillomania: A Double-blind, Placebo-Controlled Study. Arch Gen Psychiatry/ VOL 66 (NO. 7), JULY 2009.

 

Over the years, it has become apparent that prescription medications, as remedies for trichotillomania (TTM), have proved to be somewhat of a disappointment. These meds have been employed since the early 1990’s, and although they may be seen to work occasionally for some individuals, research indicates that their overall effectiveness is not great for the majority of sufferers. When they do appear to work, it is most likely that they are actually helping with coexisting problems such as depression and anxiety that are impacting the pulling, but not directly causing it. The discovery of a new compound with a greater level of direct effectiveness would be considered a blessing to sufferers. If this compound were also an over-the-counter remedy, it would be even better.

This very thing was confirmed in 2009 with the publication of an article by Grant, Odlaug, and Kim in The Archives of General Psychiatry, titled “N-acetylcysteine, A Glutamate Modulator, In the Treatment of Trichotillomania.”This study, which lasted 12 weeks, investigated the use of the amino acid N-acetylcysteine (NAC) in 50 patients with TTM, and found that 56% of them were rated as improved or very much improved. A much smaller previous pilot study had also found positive results.

So what is this compound? NAC is a both a pharmaceutical drug and a nutritional supplement used primarily to treat Cystic Fibrosis, and also to treat individuals suffering from acetaminophen overdoses. In the former case, it thins mucus, making it easier for patients to cough it up, and in the latter case, has liver detoxifying effects. It has also been said to aid in the treatment of cocaine addiction. Some practitioners out there are also exploring the use of NAC in the treatment of OCD, although whether it is effective or not, is still unproven.

What exactly is NAC? NAC is a natural sulfur-containing amino acid that is a breakdown product of the amino acid L-cysteine, and is in turn broken down by the body and converted to a powerful antioxidant known as glutathione.Antioxidants can repair oxidative stress in the body. Oxidative stress occurs when cell metabolism produces an increased level of oxidants known as free radicals that tip the balance between themselves and antioxidants in the body.These free radicals can cause the breakdown of cells, damaging proteins, genes, and cell membranes. Substances known as antioxidants act by neutralizing free radicals, and some are produced naturally by the body. Some have theorized that hair-pulling may be the result of the effects of oxidative stress within the brain, and that NAC can help reverse this.

NAC is also what is known as a chelating agent. That is, it hastens the excretion of heavy metals such as lead, mercury and arsenic from the body by binding to them. While this is of course, a positive benefit of taking it, it also causes the body to excrete copper, zinc and other essential minerals when used over time. Some research says this effect may be minimal, but others have suggested that it is necessary to take supplements containing copper, zinc, and other vital minerals when using NAC. Until this is settled, it is advisable to take a daily multivitamin plus minerals along with the NAC. It is often recommended to take extra vitamin C, itself an antioxidant, along with NAC, as it can also assist in raising glutathione levels. The amount of vitamin C one should take has been said to be in the range of 500 mg. per day.

As far as taking NAC itself for a BFRB, we have been using the following approach:

1. Start by taking one, 600 mg. capsule of NAC daily for the first two weeks along with a daily multivitamin plus minerals, in addition to 500 mg. of vitamin C. You will most likely not see any changes on this dosage.

2. If the NAC appears to be well tolerated, increase it to 1, 600 mg. capsule, 2x per day. Again, wait two to three weeks to see if there is any reduction in pulling activity.

3. If there are no changes, or only minimal changes in pulling, increase to 1 capsule, 3x per day, and again wait two to three weeks to see if there is any noticeable result.

4. If there is only little or no change, you can then increase to 4, 600 mg. capsules per day, and wait another two to three weeks. Take 2 capsules for one of the three daily doses, to make a daily total of four.

5. If there is still little or no change, you can increase up to what is the maximum of 5, 600 mg. capsules per day. A total of 3,000 mg. is the maximum you should take as a daily dose. Take 2 capsules for two of the three daily doses, to make a daily total of five.

6. If after 4 weeks at the maximum dosage there is still no result, then it is likely that it is not working, and can then be discontinued.

As with all medications and supplements, there are no sure things. It is ultimately all trial-and-error. We hope that NAC will help, but just keep in mind that it will not necessarily work for everyone. Remember that it was shown to be effective for about 56 percent of the subjects in the original research study.

NOTE: There are some very important precautions that should be observed when taking NAC.

1. It should be noted that there are some individuals who suffer from cystinuria, a genetic disorder that causes cysteine to build up in their urine. If levels of cysteine molecules become high enough, they clump together to form kidney stones. It is therefore recommended that those with this problem not take NAC.

 

2. In addition, NAC supplementation might increase the side effects associated with nitroglycerin and isosorbide, two medications commonly used to treat angina.

 

3. Using NAC at the same time as the hypertension drugs ACE-inhibitors might cause blood pressure to drop too low. It might also excessively strengthen the actions of immunosuppressant drugs.

 

How N-Acetylcysteine (N-A-C) Cured My Depression and Anxiety

The maternal side of my family contains a history of severe mental illness. My maternal grandmother suffered from schizophrenia and died in a mental ward. My mother has been institutionalized repeatedly, suffering from a decades long battle with bipolar disorder.

My younger brother is a legitimate sociopath. He is not merely “dark triad.” He has actual antisocial personality disorder. He has no feelings of empathy or kindness or decency. Lacking the vision to rob banks or become a drug kingpin, he is currently free after spending 10 years in prison for shooting his one-armed drug dealer.

In other words, there’s some funny business in my DNA.

I used to get depressed and feel anxious. I never had full-on panic attacks, but I would have severe anxiety that would leave my brain spinning. My skin would break out in rashes.

I conquered this anxiety through two means, as anxiety and other mental illnesses have two components – physical and psychological.

The psychological components of anxiety come from society and the brain washing. That is where state controlreframing techniques, and other Mindset Training comes into play.

The physical components of anxiety and depression come from a variety of sources – poor nutrition, lack of sunlight, excessive oxidative stress, high cortisol, and heavy metal poisoning.

glutathione

N-Acetylcysteine (N-A-C) has been clinically proven to help treat symptoms of anxiety and depression.

N-Acetylcysteine is a powerful nootropic with still many unstudied benefits. N-A-C has been used by visionary doctors to help treat intractable depression and anxiety.

Why haven’t you heard about the magical effects of N-A-C? Simple. Go on Amazon and see how much a bottle of N-A-C costs.

My mom was on a $1,500 a month cocktail of drugs. No one would listen when I suggested they buy a $15 bottle of N-A-C. But the science is there.

See, N-acetyl cysteine for depressive symptoms in bipolar disorder–a double-blind randomized placebo-controlled trial(“NAC appears a safe and effective augmentation strategy for depressive symptoms in bipolar disorder.”) (PubMed.)

See also, N-acetyl cysteine as a glutathione precursor for schizophrenia–a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial. (“These data suggest that adjunctive NAC has potential as a safe and moderately effective augmentation strategy for chronic schizophrenia.”) (PubMed.)

N-A-C depression anxiety

Why does N-A-C help treat depression?

Acetylcysteine is a glutathione precursor. That is, acetylcysteine is converted into glutathione.

Glutathione is an antioxidant that used by your liver to detox your body. Emergency rooms give high doses of NAC to patients that have overdosed with Tylenol.

Resources:

  • The Wahls Protocol: How I Beat Progressive MS Using Paleo Principles and Functional Medicine (Amazon).
  • Smash Chronic Fatigue: A Concise, Science-Based Guide to Help Your Body Heal, and Banish Fatigue Forever (Amazon).

Could mental illness be caused by toxins that your liver is unable to clear from your body, due to a glutathione deficiency?

That is not so far fetched, and in fact the cutting-edge of mental health research is on the role toxins and oxidative stress play in mental illness.

See, The efficacy of adjunctive N-acetylcysteine in major depressive disorder: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial (“These data implicate the pathways influenced by NAC in depression pathogenesis, principally oxidative and inflammatory stress and glutamate, although definitive confirmation remains necessary.”) (PubMed.)

See also, The Glutathione System: A New Drug Target in Neuroimmune Disorders (“Glutathione depletion and concomitant increase in oxidative and neurological stress and mitochondrial dysfunctions play a role in the pathophysiology of diverse neuroimmune disorders, including depression, myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome and Parkinson’s disease, suggesting that depleted GSH is an integral part of these diseases.” (PudMed.)

Do you know what else boosts glutathione?

Carrot orange pomegranate juice

How much N-A-C should you take?

That would be medical advice, which I don’t give. However, participants in the studies usually used between 1 and 2 grams daily.

Why take N-A-C instead of glutathione?

If N-A-C is a precursor, wouldn’t it make more sense to take glutathione directly? That seems intuitively correct. There is some evidence to suggest that N-A-C is more bioavailable than glutathione.

I personally use N-A-C because that was the compound studied. How much glutathione would one need to take to get the same benefits that one can obtain from 1 to 2 grams of N-A-C? As I don’t know, I went with N-A-C.

You are of course free to try both for yourself to see what works best.

What brand of N-A-C is best?

As the supplement industry is unregulated, I generally prefer to use use two brands of supplements – Life Extension Foundation and Jarrow.

I personally use Jarrow’s form of N-A-C Sustain, which is time released. (Amazon).

For more information on oxidative stress, nutrition, and various maladies, watch this video.

Minding Your Mitochondria

My Trich Supplements: Update

A.M. on Empty Stomach

NAC:1800mg

Methionine: 1000mg

Probiotic:10 strains, 25 billion organisms

After Breakfast (about 1-2 hours after AM dose)

B6 100 mg (5,000% daily value)

Biotin 10,000mcg

Mid-Day on Empty Stomach
C 500mg (helps absorb the minerals)

+

Magnesium 400mg of elemental magnesium

(100% daily value)

(I use Doctor’s Best Brand which is formed from 2,000mg magnesium glycinate/lysinate chelate. This is a more readily absorbed form of magnesium with less side effects than the more commonly sold magnesium oxide.)

or

Zinc 50mg (333% daily value)

(I alternate every other day, as these minerals should not be taken together as they hinder the absorption of one another as with other minerals such as iron.)

With Dinner
Multi-Vitamin

DHA 1000mg /EPA 500mg

Bedtime (With or Without Food)

Inositol Powder- 12 grams (2 tablespoons in warm water)

Epsom salt baths 2-3x /week

(magnesium is readily absorbed through the skin, by adding 1-2 cups of Epsom salts to a warm, not hot bath – about 98 degrees is best for absorption)

NAC Benefits

I am a huge fan of NAC as it has helped myself and many others with trichotillomania.  In addition, this amino acid is a powerful antioxidant that has been shown to:

  • enhance immune function
  • enhance respiratory tract function
  • assist detoxification by the liver

Research done at a university in Spain found that NAC improves immune function in postmenopausal women. The study concluded “NAC could contribute to maintenance of good health and quality of life in postmenopausal women by decreasing the probability of immune system related diseases, such as infections in aging.”

In an Italian study, researchers found that NAC 1,500 mg/day, reduced the development of flu symptoms by 75 percent and improved immunity among a group of seniors during an epidemic of H1N1 flu.

In the following article, Byron Richards further explains how NAC can help you fight the flu.

N-acetylcysteine (NAC) Improves

Immunity Against the Flu

Byron J. Richards,
Board Certified Clinical Nutritionist
N-acetylcysteine (NAC) is an important nutrient for respiratory health and immunity, including defense against the flu. The nutrient has been used longer than four decades to help break up and clear mucous from the airways. The latest research continues to show that it is a potent anti-viral compound warranting widespread use in the winter months to help ward off the common cold as well as the flu.

NAC has long been known as a flu-fighting nutrient based on a 1997 study of 262 older adults who participated in a double-blind randomized placebo-controlled study over a six-month period, some taking 600 mg of NAC twice daily or the others placebo. Individuals taking NAC were much less likely to have clinical influenza illness (29 percent of the NAC group compared to 51 percent of the placebo group. Flu that did occur in the NAC group was much less severe. Tests showed that cell-mediated immunity continually improved with NAC supplementation whereas it remained unchanged in the placebo group.

In modern times NAC has continued to impress. Those with compromised lung function are at very high risk for problems should they get a respiratory infection. In such patients NAC has been shown to reduce respiratory symptoms, reduce flu virus replication, and dramatically lower the inflammatory damage caused by viral infection. This means NAC is good nutritional support for any person who typically is susceptible to respiratory infection.

NAC was shown to be effective against the potentially pandemic H5N1 virus, demonstrating direct anti-viral properties and reduction of H5N1 replication. NAC also reduced the inflammatory signaling caused by H5N1, which is what leads to the cytokine storm that causes severe and potentially life threatening infection. The researchers concluded, “antioxidants like NAC represent a potential additional treatment option that could be considered in the case of an influenza A virus pandemic.”

As with any nutrient and an active infection, they do not replace proper medical care or treatment. Rather, they should be viewed as part of your support team to help prevent a problem or to help your body better cope should you get a bug so as to help reduce the severity as much as possible.

Clean Slate

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I’m looking at December as a clean slate.  November was a tough month as I fell back into old patterns.  It started with just 1 hair and from there increased exponentially until my pulling was almost as bad as it had been in June.  Luckily I did not do any noticeable damage.

As I mentioned in my last post, I stopped taking NAC and inositol in September due to morning sickness.  I started taking both supplements again about a week ago.  Already I feel the difference.  My urge to pull has decreased and it is easier to fight the urge.

I remember this sensation from the last time I started these supplements.  I think my initial response to them was faster this time.  I wonder if this is because I have taken them recently.  It took about 2 months for the supplements to reach their full effect last time. I am expecting to see similar result this time around.

Stopping and restarting NAC and inositol has shown me how much they were helping. This has renewed my determination and faith that I can overcome trich.  I am off to a great start this December and plan to keep at it.

Life Happens

Looking over my progress this last month, I see what I expected to see.  I waited to tally the days because I knew I did not meet my goal.  I’ve been afraid to admit this and that is in part what has kept me from posting.  After listening to a good sermon this morning, I finally talked some sense into myself.  Well, God talked some sense into me and I just listened…

When I started this war against my ttm I knew it would be hard and I knew there would be ups and downs.  I need to stay focused on progress not perfection.  Although this past month was not perfect or better than the month before (which was my goal), it was still much better than any other month in at least a year.  I have to keep that in perspective.

Now I am not a fan of excuses, so I hope that not how this next sections comes across.  There are some factors that contributed to my ‘less successful month’.  From a research standpoint, I think it is important to consider all of the variables.

I learned that I was pregnant in September.  It was a big surprise as my husband and I thought our family was complete. I had my tubes blocked using Essure in February and was assured by 3 doctors and a CT scan that I could no longer have children.

Although shocked, I quickly embraced this precious baby.  I know God allowed this pregnancy for a reason and am thankful for this blessing.  I do not understand, but I am trusting God.

After learning that I was pregnant, I stopped taking all of my prescription medications for depression.  I also lowered the amount of NAC and inositol as recommended by my OB. By the end of September I had to stop taking all of my supplements and extra vitamins I had been using to help fights my urges.  I simply couldn’t stomach them with the intensity of my morning sickness.

The urge to pull my hair returned about a week after I lowered my dose of inositol and NAC. The urge has intensified since completely stopping these supplements.

Overall, my urge is still more manageable .  I think this is in part due to the John Kender diet I am still following.  I notice a direct correlation in increased urge if I eat anything I shouldn’t.  So I am trying to stick to the diet, but its hard because there is so little I can eat without feeling sick.  Also these hormone really do cause cravings.  I should start to feel better from the morning sickness soon (if this pregnancy is like my last 3).  Once I feel well enough I am going to begin inositol again.

Amino Acid Therapy and Trichotillomania

Amino Acid Therapy and Trichotillomania

Amino acid therapy can be very effective at restoring proper neurotransmitter function and alleviating the insatiable urge to pull that some many people with trichotillomania experience. There are really two ways in which amino acids are used for people with trichotillomania. The first is to use n-acetyl cysteine, or NAC, which has been shown in clinical trials to reduce the urge to pull in about 56% of people that use NAC (see our post entitled N-acetylcysteine and Treatment of Trichotillomania for more information). NAC is thought to work by increasing the concentration of glutamate (an excitatory neurotransmitter) in a part of the brain that reduces compulsive behavior and hair pulling. Glutamate works in conjunction with GABA (an inhibitory neurotransmitter) to control many functions in the body. Thus, NAC provides a safe and moderately effective strategy to use amino acid therapy to decrease the urge to pull associated with trichotillomania.

However, we have found that a more effective way to implement amino acid therapy in regards to trichotillomania is to address the serotonin/dopamine system. By providing the brain the proper proportion of the necessary amino acid precursors and cofactors necessary to achieve optimal serotonin and dopamine function we have had an 86% success rate with eliminating the urge to pull, as opposed to just reducing the urge to pull.

This increased success rate is attributed to the fact that dopamine exhibits control over the release of glutamate and GABA in certain parts of the brain. Therefore, the imbalance between glutamate and GABA that leads to trichotillomania in most people is likely to be caused by an imbalance with dopamine and serotonin (as they are farther upstream). By optimizing serotonin and dopamine function, all the systems downstream, including glutamate and GABA normalize as well. When this happens, the urge to pull disappears.

Another key distinction between using NAC or this balanced amino acid approach is the ability to remain symptom free once the amino acid(s) have been discontinued. With NAC, the urge to pull often returns once the supplement is discontinued (this provides further evidence that NAC may not be addressing the root cause of the imbalance). However, with balanced amino acid therapy we have found that once optimized neurotransmitter function is established and maintained for a period of time, most people can reduce or eliminate the amino acids and remain symptom free utilizing dietary and lifestyle factors to maintain optimal neurotransmitter status. This means that it is very likely you won’t have to take these supplements forever and you can remain trichotillomania-free. This occurs because we are addressing the underlying root imbalance that seems to lead to the urge to pull for most people with trichotillomania. By correctly the underlying neurotransmitter imbalance with balanced amino acid therapy you effectively eliminate the problem, which allows you to stop pulling your hair out.

Source:

http://stoppullinghairout.com/blog/2011/12/15/amino-acid-therapy-and-trichotillomania/

Trich and NAC

A 2009 study shows an amino acid NAC (N-acetylcysteine) is affective at treating Trichotillomania. NAC is a food supplement naturally occurring in foods such as Brussels sprouts, broccoli, chicken, eggs. It has very few reported side effects and can be taken in larger doses (consult your doctor if you’re unsure). You can buy NAC from Health Food shops and online at Amazon and other websites.

Voluntary Psychologist for Trichotillomania Support Online, Pippa Wright Bsc (Hons) says “This is an exciting development, but there is still a long way to go and we hope some of you will help gather data now that the research can be revealed”.

The affect of NAC is restorative in the area of the brain we have known for a while is affected by glutamate and trichotillomania.

NAC is a relatively harmless supplement as long as you are not pregnant or breast-feeding and don’t have any heart, kidney or lung problems including asthma. If you have any concerns, please consult your doctor.

You should not expect any momentous improvement in urges before 10 weeks.

Trials were undertaken with volunteers not knowing whether they were given placebos, or the NAC supplement, the NAC group showed significant reduction in hair pulling.

Trials have so far only lasted for three months but we suggest supplementing for a full year as it could take that long to redress any deficiencies within your body.

*I have been taking 2400mg of NAC per day for about 2 months and have noticed a slight decrease in my urge. I will keep you posted about my progress with the combination of NAC and inositol.

My Inositol Trial

I am participating in an inositol trial with some members of my trich support group.  It is very informal and we are sharing our methods and results.  The conversation relating to this trial is on the daily strength trichotillomania support group.  This is a great support group that I recommend joining.  Being able to talk with others who understand what I am going through has been so helpful.

After doing a lot of research I found that it was generally agreed that a large dose was needed in order for it to be effective with trich. I worked my way up and now take 18g each day. I do this by mixing 3 teaspoons or 1 tablespoon of inositol in water 3 times a day. I have found the Jarrow brand powder (shown above) to dissolve well. It is available on amazon for reasonable price. I mix it with warm water as it dissolves better that way. You can add it to fruit juice or other sweetened drink. I simply mix the powder with ~3oz of warm water and drink plain as it has a mild sweet taste that I actually like. The first few days it did give me gas, but that went away. In addition to inositiol I take 2400mg of NAC which I started several months ago and did not see much progress with that alone, therefore I added the inositol.

(1 teaspoon=2 grams, and be sure to use a measuring spoon) for an adult:

Week 1 – 1 teaspoon/2x per day
Week 2 – 1 teaspoon/3x per day
Week 3 – 1.5 teaspoons/3x per day
Week 4 – 2 teaspoons/3x per day
Week 5 – 2.5 teaspoons/3x per day
Week 6 – 3 teaspoons/3x per day "