Ultimate Tic Disorder Guide

Ultimate Guide to Tic Disorders

What are tics?

I get it…you are tired, frustrated, and confused! You have a tic diagnosis but no idea what it really means for you or your child. You have searched the internet and tried Magnesium and B6. You have looked for natural treatments for tics, making tics stop, facial twitches, facial tics, eye blinking, or even natural remedies for tics, but you still feel like you are shooting in the dark.

 What are tics? 

Tics are brief, sudden movements or sounds. They may happen at random times and many times each day. A tic is hard to stop, but you are awake and aware during a tic. Tics do not cause you to lose consciousness and usually do not happen in your sleep. 

Tourette’s includes both vocal and motor tics that last for more than one year.

Many people will tell you that their child’s tics come and go (wax and wane). That was true for us, but we didn’t realize that particular triggers caused the tics to come and go. 

What are the Different Types of Tics?

There are two categories of a tic:

Vocal Tics

Vocal tics involve making some kind of sound with your mouth or vocal cords. Symptoms can include:

  • Coughing
  • Throat clearing
  • Barking
  • Grunting
  • Sniffing

Motor Tics

Motor tics involve the movement of some part of your body. For example, you notice your child do some of the following: 

  • Nose wrinkling
  • Shoulder shrugging
  • Eye blinking
  • Rubbing their hands or feet together
  • Repetitive or obsessive touching
  • Head twitching/jerking
  •  Kicking
  •  Jumping

Both kinds of tics can be either simple or complex, which means they may only do one or many of these actions. We experienced the complex tics, and my son dealt with many vocal and motor tics.

Tics can also be transient or chronic. For example, many children diagnosed with tics have transient tics, which means that the tics last for a few days to months and then never come back. 

Tics that last for more than a year are called chronic tics. People with chronic tics have what is referred to as chronic tic disorder. Chronic tics can be either motor or vocal and can change over time.

Although our tics were diagnosed as transient, they feel more in line with a chronic diagnosis. For example, people with chronic tics can experience a motor tic such as head/neck twitches for a period of time, and it morphs into something like eye blinking or throat clearing.

Symptoms can be far removed from what is causing the dysfunction in someone’s body.

What is a transient or provisional tic?

Many children diagnosed with tics have transient or provisional tics, which means that the tics last for a few days to months and then never come back. 

Tics that last for more than a year are called chronic tics. People with chronic tics have what is referred to as chronic tic disorder. Chronic tics can be either motor or vocal and can change over time.

Although our tics were diagnosed as transient, they feel more in line with a chronic diagnosis. For example, people with chronic tics can experience a motor tic such as head/neck twitches for a period of time, and it morphs into something like eye blinking or throat clearing. 

What is the difference between tics and Tourette’s? 

A tic is a common type of movement disorder. It describes the occurrence of sudden, repetitive, non-rhythmic motor movements (i.e., movements involving discrete muscle groups) or vocalizations (i.e., abrupt sounds). However, tics can resemble voluntary movements. They are typically considered “involuntary” because they cannot be suppressed by an act of will and generally represent a compulsion to move or make noise that otherwise does not reflect an individual’s typical behavioral repertoire. A tic disorder is defined as the presence of either motor tics, vocal tics, both types of tics, or tics that do not fall into any other category. Tic disorders are basically diagnosed in the short term of less than a year.

Tourette’s syndrome is diagnosed when multiple motor and vocal tics present for more than a year. Both tic symptoms of Tourette’s Syndrome vary widely in their severity, frequency, and location.

There seems to be a misconception that children will grow out of a tic disorder. Instead, many of them go on to be diagnosed with Tourette syndrome and therefore no longer fit the tic disorder diagnosis.

The Symptom Iceberg 

Many other symptoms accompany tics, and usually, tics are the last thing to appear. 

For many of us, our kids struggle with a long list of diagnoses or symptoms. But unfortunately, a diagnosis is just a label we give those symptoms.

For many of us, we have been told JUST to IGNORE IT! They will grow out of it!! Which is mind-blowing and frustrating! Believe me; I know how you feel. Symptoms are your body’s check engine light! When your car’s check engine light is on you, let the mechanic walk around the car and tell us to just ignore it! You make him dig deeper; why is my check engine light on, and what can we do about it?
My son struggled with rage, anxiety, SPD, impulsiveness, handwriting issues, and behavioral issues. Plus, the tics were both motor and vocal. So we have ridden this iceberg!

We had ALL of these issues and no clear path to change them, and no one was talking about them.

That is why it is essential to look deeper at the root of your tics. When families work with me, we will work from the ground up and investigate WHY your child’s check engine light is on. 

Are there other conditions that accompany tics? 

Yes! Most people who have been diagnosed with a tic disorder also have other conditions or comorbidities.

A 2015 article in The Lancet included the most common comorbidities in Tics and Tourette’s as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obsessive-compulsive disorder or behaviors (OCD/B), and autism spectrum disorder (ASD). In contrast, some common coexistent problems include anxiety, depression, substance abuse, childhood conduct disorder, and adult personality disorder. 

As parents, we know that all tics and the accompanying conditions take a toll on our children’s lives, affecting family, friends, school, and social lives. The impact of any diagnosis can be hard to handle, and many of us spend a lot of time feeling lost. Most of us feel like we are shooting in the dark for solutions. 

There doesn’t seem to be a lot of answers out there, especially when it comes to natural approaches to tics and Tourette’s. That’s because no one will fund a study where they will make money prescribing medications.

Many children with tics also have many diagnoses, and it is estimated that 20% of the kids with ADHD also have tics. 
ADHD is most commonly diagnosed in childhood and can include:
-Disorganization and problems prioritizing
-Poor time management skills
-Problems focusing on a task
-Trouble multitasking
-Excessive activity or restlessness
-Poor planning
-Low frustration tolerance

We often see an increase in tics when our children experience some or all of the things listed above. This stress can be a trigger for tics. 
Managing ADHD symptoms can be extremely important for tics, and many of the triggers for tics can trigger ADHD symptoms. Therefore, tics and ADHD can go hand in hand. 
Diet and lifestyle can significantly impact the symptoms our children are struggling with. Here, you can also read more about other diagnoses like ADHD, SPD, and OCD.

Why do tics come and go?


I know what you are thinking. But, what does this have to do with tics?

I want to know why tics come and go? I always wondered why my son had good days and bad days. Out of thousands of doctor visits, we never discussed how tics are associated with stress (all types), leading to systemic inflammation that can change today. Tic symptoms seem to be the highest when there is higher inflammation in the body. Therefore, Tic symptoms may increase drastically if you have days with high levels of inflammation or if your diet contains foods that cause inflammation like sugar, gluten, caffeine, or alcohol. Many factors contribute to inflammatory response, for example, food choices, constipation (stool pathogens), IBS (microbiome imbalance), underlying infection, stress (physical, mental, or hidden stress), nutrient deficiencies, toxins, and heavy metals, to name a few!

It’s confusing and frustrating when your child experiences tics that seem to come and go. It’s like riding on a roller coaster; there are ups and downs. Some days are excellent with very little or no symptoms and some days are off the charts. Next time you are experiencing the tic toller coaster, consider underlying stress.

What the heck are triggers?

When you go to the doctor, there is never any mention of triggers, and for some of you, this may be the first time you are learning about them. Of course, we have all heard about waxing and waning, but could it be a trigger causing this reaction? 

What is a tic trigger? A trigger is anything that might set off a tic or make it worse. It’s not usually your diagnosis at the root of the symptom but something else that sets off a tic. A trigger includes hidden stressors, certain exposure factors, or something that might be irritating a tic. 

-strong smells
-certain foods
-food additives
-loud noises
-even screen time can be a trigger.

Triggers can be hard to identify, and there is most likely more than trigger involved. Your surroundings, environment, diet, and lifestyle all impact your tics. 

How do I track triggers?

Write it ALL down, trust me! It can be a lot to remember, and because many people have more than one trigger, it can be challenging to identify. This will involve some work on your part, but you can do this! You will start with a chart every day, your Trigger Tracker.

In this journal, you are going to start with:

-Symptoms upon waking: what is your child experiencing when they wake up. Are their symptoms worse? Are they better? 
-Next, you will track breakfast: what did you eat. You are going to do this for all three meals of the day
-Mood: After breakfast, how was the mood? Any increase in symptoms? Or change in mood? Any meltdowns, anxiety, sadness? 
-Bedtime: what are symptoms like at the end of the day? 

You will also track what chemicals or allergens your child may have been exposed to throughout the day. For example, did they play in the grass? Did you wash the laundry with scented laundry detergent? Did you go on a play date where they used plug-ins or air fresheners in the home?

-Finally, you are going to track poop! Our Digestion is essential, and it can influence your mood, symptoms, immune system, and overall health. Was there constipation, diarrhea, gas, bloating, undigested food

Get detailed and write down anything that might be important in your tracking journey. 

Does diet matter?

Many of you have probably been told diet doesn’t matter. That’s what we were told too!
For us! The gut-brain connection and the tics we experience go hand in hand. 

WHAT IS LEAKY GUT? Leaky gut, also known as increased intestinal permeability, is a digestive condition in which bacteria and toxins can “leak” through the intestinal wall.

You may have heard new research about the gut-brain connection, and this has great potential to help us use foods and supplements for optimal brain health.
As discussed in previous posts, studies also reduce some symptoms of ADHD, ADD, other spectrum disorders, and multiple sclerosis after balancing the gut microbiome.

For kids on the spectrum, balancing their gut is ultra-important, and I think parents should understand the connection between what is going on in the gut and how it affects the brain. We didn’t know how much our gut and brain interacted until recently. Some people thought that our brains controlled everything we did, consciously and subconsciously.

What we were told was wrong! What we out in our mouths and our nutritional status affects our brains on every level!

You can read more on a diet here

Do Artificial Colors Impact Tics?

Basically, food coloring is poison.

As if you needed another reason to avoid food coloring… Do you have a little one that struggles with tics, ADHD, anxiety, mood, weight, behavior, or even sleep? It may be time to take a look at food coloring? Look at it and then cut it out!
Artificial food colorings have been shown to bind to proteins and prevent their breakdown.

Why does that matter?
Yes, protein is essential for building muscle, but protein breakdown is vital for every function in your body. For example, protein is broken down into amino acids used to create neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine (they make you feel good). Without the proper breakdown of amino acids, your mood can suffer.

Studies show that many patients with OCD and tics also have reduced serotonin. Could it be caused by what you are eating?

Studies repeatedly show that food colorings impact behavior, ADHD, and even tic disorders.  You can read more here.

Nutritional Deficiencies 

Nutrient deficiency can play a role in tic disorders, but it isn’t usually the only cause. For example, zinc and Magnesium can be beneficial for tics, but you also want to investigate other nutrients your child may need. There are 13 essential vitamins and minerals, and as a parent, you must consider that nutrient deficiency may go above and beyond just the two nutrients I address here. 


A 2019 study showed that children with tics & TS have a lower than normal zinc level in the blood. A recent ADHD study also showed that treatment with zinc sulfate as a supplement showed beneficial effects of zinc supplementation.

Zinc is a necessary element for the immune system to function. It is essential for the division and growth of cells and the formation and migration of neurons.

During breastfeeding and childhood, the body needs zinc to develop and grow properly. For this reason, zinc supplements are usually given to children and neonates lacking this element to improve mental development.

Zinc deficiency in the body could hinder the formation of neuronal pathways and neurotransmission, affecting the development and behavior of the child.

Zinc deficiency can present itself in many ways
Included but not limited to:
-behavioral changes
-neurologic disturbances
-failure to thrive
-hair loss
-sensory processing issues
-Noise sensitivity
-repeated infections

Foods rich in zinc include pumpkin seeds, meat, shellfish, mushrooms, salmon, dark chocolate, yogurt, and chicken.


The internet mentions Magnesium for tics about a billion times, but is it the magic bullet? If you are searching Dr. Google for natural approaches and you roll up on the wonders of Magnesium, here is what you need to know. Magnesium is not a cure for tics. Magnesium is necessary for several things related to health, but if you are looking at natural remedies and Magnesium is your first port of call, I have some terrible news Magnesium may not do squat when it comes to a tic disorder.

So why is Magnesium recommended in the first place? A very small study in 2008 showed some positive results. However, the sample size was so small. Magnesium is one of those things that the internet loves. Magnesium is a very safe supplement and can be found inexpensively. Magnesium will help sleep quality if tic disorders cause you to struggle with insomnia. Magnesium does support healthy brain function and helps to regulate muscle contractions. Magnesium is excellent for muscle cramps also. Magnesium may also reduce anxiety and physical symptoms such as fatigue and headaches in children. Magnesium has been shown to reduce ADHD symptoms, and 95% of the children in the study were Magnesium deficient. Magnesium is safe enough to try out, and on most things, some research supports its use. Magnesium, however, does not seem to have any magical powers.

It is important to note that up to 80% of Americans are Magnesium deficient. Magnesium is poorly absorbed through the GI tract, especially when taken with calcium. Magnesium glycinate or taurine are great forms of Magnesium better absorbed; chelated makes it easier to absorb. Like I said before, Magnesium will NOT result in some fantastic magic bullet cure for tics; however, if you think your child could use a little boost in magnesium supplementation, that is not out of the question. When focusing on magnesium-rich foods, consider that many of our food sources and soils have depleted this essential nutrient, and you may need a lot more. Good foods include pumpkin seeds (also high in zinc), nuts (almonds contain high amounts), spinach, oatmeal, and avocado.

Magnesium also helps with blood pressure Magnesium does have a positive effect on some people living with Tourette’s syndrome; however, for every person, Magnesium works for, some men experience no change. Magnesium is often proposed as being “The magic bullet” when it comes to tic disorders Magnesium, however, falls short of the mark.

What about MTHFR


MTHFR stands for Methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase, and it’s estimated that 50% or more of the population appear to have genetic weaknesses of the MTHFR enzyme, but not everyone has tics. So we need to look beyond MTHFR.

MTHFR is only ONE SNP (Typo in your genes) made by cells that make mistakes when they copy themselves. If you have MTHFR SNP’s, it does not mean you have or will have a disease. It just means you have a predisposition.

MTHFR is one of the last genes in the methylation chain, and it is essential to look at other genes and your environment to know how to support your body. For example, you cannot base your health, detoxification status, and nutrient need on one single SNP.

For example, if you have MTHFR, you would:
➡️avoid smoking, drinking, & toxic chemicals
➡️support your genes with the proper diet, nutritional supplements, & a healthy lifestyle
➡️this will help keep your genes from leaning in the wrong direction
➡️MTHFR can impact your detox pathways

Nutrigenomics is a critical piece of the puzzle when it comes to tics! When we know our genes, we know what to reinforce and remove. When you provide the right environment for your basic building blocks of life, your cells can start to flourish.


The symptom cascade happens when underlying imbalances go unaddressed.

If these symptoms go unresolved, they start to cascade into other body areas.

Chaos ensues, and we see a snowball effect that causes more stress and dysfunction.

Like a boiling pot, a tic is what has boiled over due to a chronic imbalance in the body.

You can’t see the water boiling in the pot unless you are standing right over it, but when it boils over, you can see it spill out from across the kitchen.

Tics are the boil-over we see. They are the outward sign that something is wrong.

Medications for Tic Disorders

Cincinnati children’s hospital says that medications prescribed for tic disorders rarely reduce tics by more than 50 %. The two main medications used for tic disorders are for high blood pressure.

When meds are prescribed off-label, no specific study links that particular disease/illness to the drug they are using. Therefore, the FDA calls it an unapproved use for an approved drug.

Cincinnati children’s also goes into explaining the medications will not cure tics. Medications are a band-aid designed to cover up symptoms, NOT get the root of why your child is experiencing tics in the first place.

We have prescribed six meds at once (none ever studied on tics) and were told, “it’s okay, I wouldn’t hesitate to put my kids on all of this at once.”

Once you start a medication, it changes your biochemistry, altering your body’s natural signals. No one ever bothers to tell you how hard it will be to come off those meds or what the side effects might be.

Time and time again, studies on natural approaches for tic disorders show far more promise than medications.

Toxins and Tics 


Detoxification is how chemicals and harmful substances are removed from the body.

Kids have four ways that they remove these substances 
➡️Digestive Tract
➡️ Skin 
Lungs, Digestive Tract, and Kidneys are the top 3, and Skin is the last resort. If your child struggles with skin issues, it’s a sign that there are detox issues inside.

When we experience inflammation in our gut, we have a more challenging time removing toxins. When this happens, the Skin comes into play, and we see a higher number of rashes, eczema, acne, hives, and other skin-related problems. 

Because children with tics often have altered immune responses when overloaded with toxins, their immune systems can also become overwhelmed. 
The strong smells and scents of certain products can also trigger many children.

How to Stop Tics

This can be a loaded question since tics are multi-layered. I have found that no one magic bullet stops tics. However, a combination of diet, rest, exercise, stress, reduction, and supplementation can be magical. You just need a step-by-step plan to get you there. 

Several studies and research point to diet and lifestyle changes as an effective way to reduce and even stop tics.

Here are a few simple suggestions to get you started

-Try an anti-inflammatory diet for at least 60 days
-Ditch sugar
-Get rid of caffeine
-take out the toxins in your home

Keep in mind that these are just a few things that can be helpful to your child. In the next section, I will cover why functional lab testing changed our lives and put an end to my son’s tics. 

Test, don’t guess

Why? Because symptoms can be so far removed from what’s going on in the body

With Testing, we want to know…

What’s going on inside the body?
What’s going on in the environment?
How does that affect all of the body systems?

A tic diagnosis can be no more objective than a teacher’s observation. Your child’s behaviors are being observed, not investigated. No parents are ever shown a blood test, brain scan, or any scientific proof of their child’s supposed chemical imbalance of the brain.

Why? Because those tests don’t exist

When I work with clients, I want to help them get to the root cause of their problems. We investigate what is going on deep in the body using functional lab testing. Instead of looking for chemical imbalances, I’m looking for imbalances in key body systems (which are all connected, by the way)
✅ Hormone
✅ Digestion

Testing is an integral part of the healing process, and when we have results, we can correlate that with how your child is feeling. Functional ranges are more fine tunes than what you will find with your doctor. I also use nutritional interpretation, which is a whole new way of digging into your results.

When your check engine light comes on, do you ignore it? No, most of us take our car to the mechanic.

How mad would you be if the mechanic walked around your car, watched it for 20 minutes, and said it’s okay to go home?

I don’t know about you, but I would be furious! How come he didn’t take it back and hook it up to all his diagnostic machines?

How come this seems to be an acceptable approach when it comes to our health?

Most of my clients have never had any testing, and most don’t even know it exists. Instead, they think that a diagnosis is a gold standard for their child’s health.

 Sadly, it isn’t…

When my son was diagnosed with a neurological tic, we felt alone, scared, and frustrated. We wanted answers that one seemed to have. But instead, we were told to ignore it and move on.

We could have reversed his symptoms years ago had we known about functional lab testing.

Our story isn’t one of a kind; I hear this same story from clients. They are told to ignore, take this med, and go home.

I am here to tell you that good health doesn’t come in a pill. Pills are like band-aids, they may cover up the scratch, but the scratch is still there. Prescriptions don’t heal the body; they just put a damper on the symptoms, and over time the body continues to break down because we never took the time to address the root cause. 

The symptoms our children are experiencing are not normal; they are a check engine light telling you it’s time to look under the hood.

 Your child did not just wake up one day like this; it has been building over time as their little bodies were breaking down on the inside. I always thought that my son just woke up with a tic, but I can see the subtle warnings showing up more and more frequently. 

If you are looking to put the puzzle pieces together, you’ll want to run functional lab tests to see how the whole-body functions.

 The functional lab testing we used is not found in your typical doctor’s office. In fact, I now teach doctors how to use and interpret these tests.

  • Stool test pathogen testing to assess Digestion, internal inflammation, and toxicity
  • Food sensitivity test to assess food reactions impacting Digestion and increasing inflammation
  • Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis to know if toxic elements deplete the body and if adequate minerals are available for bodily functions.
  • Comprehensive Organic Acid Testing to have a snapshot of overall health and accurately evaluate intestinal yeast and bacteria. We know that abnormally high levels of these microorganisms can cause or worsen behavior disorders, hyperactivity, movement disorders, fatigue, and immune function.
  • Nutrigenomic Testing can help us predict with increasing precision, which is more likely to develop specific diseases, respond positively or react negatively to a particular drug or supplement therapy, and finally, which nutrients are optimal for a specific individual’s health and well-being. Knowing where the cracks are in our foundation can tell us where we may need the most support. You can dramatically increase your child’s quality of life by supporting the gaps with the proper diet, nutritional supplements, and lifestyle strategies.

The body is a complex set of systems, and your child’s symptoms will never be isolated in one area or system; they are all intertwined!

This is why it’s so essential to run a couple of tests at once to look at the Hormone, Immune, Digestion, detoxification, energy, and nervous system all at the same time so you can see how they are or aren’t working together and honestly know what your healing opportunities are.

I want you to know that other test options help you uncover the missing pieces of your child’s health puzzle.


If you are ready to dig deeper and want to know more about your child’s tic diagnosis, book an Initial Consultation HERE

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