The worst foods to eat with Tourette Syndrome

Certain foods can make tics worse. Many people have noticed specific foods being a trigger.

Processed foods, foods with sugar, dairy, gluten and products with caffeine have all been linked to an increase in tics for some people. Many have seen a reduction of tics after eliminating certain foods.

Tourette syndrome is a condition that waxes and wanes over a persons lifetime. Some days, months and even years can be better than others.

For many of us with Tourette, finding what works and what doesn’t can be a gruelling trial-and-error process. What works for some will not work for others, and for that reason this post cannot be used as professional advice.

But let’s get straight into the list of foods that many have regarded as a trigger.

Processed (junk) foods

It is well know that processed foods aren’t particularly healthy. The NHS has a page dedicated to processed foods and states that:

Buying processed foods can lead to people eating more than the recommended amounts of sugar, salt and fat as they may not be aware of how much has been added to the food they are buying and eating.’

It is easy- and I know from experience- to consume much more than the daily recommended limits of some of these not so heathy ingredients. Not to mention the addictive nature of some of these.

Tourette’s Action has the following to say on having a healthy lifestyle with the condition:

Although there is no medical evidence to suggest that a particular diet is better suited to people with TS, many people notice that their tics worsen when they eat foods that contain additives, artificial colourings and high levels of sugar.

If processed food must be eaten, try to keep it to a minimum. Parents should know about the health risks associated with junk foods, and the effects it can have on tics.

Sugary foods, chocolate and sweets

As mentioned a couple of times already, sugar can negatively affect tics.

Sugars are found in many foods, some natural, some refined. Refined sugars are the heavily processed ones and can be found in many junk foods.

Many people with Tourette Syndrome believe sugars make their tics worse, and studies have demonstrated this.

Main article: Does sugar make tics worse?

Products with caffeine

Caffeine can give us a boost of energy similar to sugar. It is more commonly associated with coffee, but can also be found in chocolate and even chewing gum.

Anxiety can be a by product of caffeine, and anxiety is often co-occurring with Tourette.

Caffeine is known to increase tics for some people, and again studies reflect this.

It is no surprise that some people with TS feel restless, on edge, and experience an increase in tics after caffeine.

Main article: Caffeine and Tourette Syndrome

Dairy may be a trigger

I first came across a link between dairy and tics visiting Tourette Canada‘s article on foods with tics. They compile a list of foods, with milk included. Cheese isn’t on the list, just milk.

I haven’t really seen many articles on this, but given that a national organization has specified it as a potential trigger, there must have been some data.

For those with Tourette and an allergy or intolerance, increased tics could well be another side effect.

Many are opting for a dairy free diet, and this could help with tic reduction for some people. I will need to look into the link more to provide a more definitive analysis, but it is something to consider.

Products with gluten

Gluten is in many foods and for those that are gluten intolerant or celiac, requires big changes in diet.

For those that need to eliminate gluten for health reasons, it is obvious that a change in diet is needed. But others are choosing to eliminate gluten out of choice, and some people with Tourette are seeing a reduction in tics.

Again, a study reflected an improvement on tics and OCD after cutting out gluten in some of those those taking part in the study.

Main article: Gluten and tics

It takes time and effort to know what works best for you

Tourette varies for everyone. It can be co-occurring with other conditions, allergies and intolerances, and it takes time to really understand what ingredients are the main culprits.

Saying that, this does make such an effort worthwhile.

Eliminating foods that negatively affect our lives with Tourette Syndrome can be a frustrating process, but the rewards can be amazing.

We are constantly learning how diet can affect our health and wellbeing, and changes can do so much more than simply affect our weight and energy levels.


Your support helps immeasurably. By subscribing via Patreon, you become an essential part of our mission to spread understanding and support for those of us living with Tourette syndrome and OCD.

The newsletter is completely free, with monthly updates on recent articles and videos.