Tardive dyskinesia (TD) is an involuntary movement disorder. It’s characterized by abnormal and sometimes repetitive movements of the face, such as grimacing, sticking out your tongue, or lip smacking. It can also involve involuntary movements of the limbs and trunk.
TD develops in some people as a side effect of taking certain medications for a long period of time. The most frequent cause is the use of antipsychotic medications, such as those prescribed to treat schizophrenia.
TD can be treated in several ways, including two approved medications. You might also wonder if there are any vitamins or other dietary supplements that can help TD.
Here’s what the research says and why it’s important to discuss this with your doctor before trying any vitamins or supplements for TD.
Can vitamins or supplements treat tardive dyskinesia?
While some small studies are encouraging, there’s limited evidence that certain vitamins or supplements might improve TD symptoms when compared with placebo. Here’s what the research says.
Some research suggests that long-term use of antipsychotic medication may lead to an overproduction of free radicals that can damage brain cells. Vitamin E is an antioxidant, and it’s known to help protect cells from damage caused by free radicals
It has long been suggested that vitamin E supplements might ease symptoms of TD, but additional studies are needed.
A 2019 systematic review of treatment recommendations found that vitamin E won’t reverse TD but may help prevent symptoms from worsening.
A 2018 review came to a similar conclusion, but also noted that trials on vitamin E for TD were small and low quality. The researchers wrote that more research on vitamin E for this condition is needed.
An earlier 2017 systematic review found low quality evidence that vitamin E could prevent worsening TD symptoms in people who continue to take antipsychotic medication.
Regardless of its potential benefits on TD, too much vitamin E can cause health problems, such as increased risk of serious bleeding.
The Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) recommends that adults take no more than 1,000 milligrams of vitamin E per day, but it notes that some studies have shown that lower quantities of this vitamin could also cause harm.
Vitamin E supplements can also interact with medications and other dietary supplements. Talk with a healthcare professional before starting vitamin E supplements to make sure they’re safe for you.
Ginkgo biloba is one of the world’s oldest living tree species. It’s long been used in traditional Chinese medicine. Extract from Ginkgo biloba leaves is also available in dietary supplements promoted for various conditions.
One randomized controlled trial found that extract of Ginkgo biloba may be effective in relieving TD symptoms, according to a 2018 review of various interventions for TD.
However, this was the result of only one randomized controlled trial, which is not enough to apply the findings to a larger population. More high quality studies are needed to confirm these results.
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) says there’s no proof that ginkgo is helpful for any health condition. The leaf extract appears to be safe in moderate amounts but may cause side effects, such as stomachaches and constipation. It can also interact with some conventional medications.
Vitamin B6 and pyridoxal 5 phosphate
Vitamin B6 helps the body process neurotransmitters and plays a role in cognitive development. It is sometimes listed on supplements as pyridoxal 5 phosphate, which is the active form of vitamin B6.
Some research suggests that it may be able to reduce symptoms of dyskinesia, but trials have been limited. There’s little research on its long-term safety and effectiveness for TD.
Adults should avoid taking more than 100 milligrams of B6 per day, according to the ODS. It warns that taking high levels of B6 supplements for a year or longer could lead to serious nerve damage and loss of control of bodily movements.
Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone that the brain produces in response to darkness. It helps with your circadian rhythm and the promotion of sleep.
A 2018 review found no evidence that melatonin worked better than a placebo or no treatment at all at improving TD or preventing symptoms from worsening.
According to the NCCIH, short-term use of melatonin supplements appears to be safe for most people. There’s a lack of information on long-term safety, though.
And melatonin supplements can interact with some other medications, so check in with a healthcare professional before taking them.
Branched chain amino acids
Branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) are essential amino acids found in protein- rich foods. They’re often found in supplements that promote muscle growth and athletic performance.
BCAAs include the following essential acids:
- leucine leucine
That same 2018 review found some evidence that BCAAs may reduce TD symptoms, but the studies on this were low quality and had small sample sizes. It concluded that the results on BCAAs for TD are uncertain and more research is needed.
The ODS says that taking up to 20 grams of BCAAs a day in divided doses appears to be safe for people. BCAAs can interact with some medications, though.
Treatments for tardive dyskinesia
While vitamins and supplements may not be proven to help TD, there are several treatment options available. Treatment for TD is personalized depending on what’s causing the condition and your symptoms.
Your doctor may recommend adjusting the dosage of the medication that’s causing TD, or switching to a new medication altogether. Lowering the dose of certain medications can sometimes offer relief from TD symptoms, but it may take time before you notice improvements.
In some cases, that may be enough to resolve TD or prevent it from getting worse.
Depending on your condition and health, changing the medication responsible for TD isn’t always an option. But there are two oral medications approved for the treatment of TD. They are:
- deutetrabenazine (Austedo)
- valbenazine (Ingrezza)
These medications affect dopamine in areas of the brain that involve motor control.
If these medications don’t work, your doctor may prescribe another drug for “off-label” use as a TD treatment. These medications include:
Everyone reacts to these treatments differently. Your doctor can adjust the treatment based on how you’re doing. Be sure to report any new or worsening TD symptoms right away.
TD is a movement disorder that occurs as a side effect of certain antipsychotic medications. These medications work by modifying neurotransmitter activity in the brain, which is believed to cause the involuntary movements of TD in some individuals.
There’s some research that suggests certain vitamins and supplements may improve symptoms of TD. However, many studies on this have been low quality and included small sample sizes, so more research is needed.
Vitamin supplementation may be able to counteract this effect and explain why participants with TD in some research studies experienced an improvement in their symptoms.
However, there’s not yet enough evidence make firm conclusions about correct dosages, safety, and effectiveness of vitamins and supplements for TD over the long term. And vitamins, natural herbs, and dietary supplements can interact with other medications. If you would like to give supplements a try, speak with your doctor first.
It’s important to make sure you’re taking a safe dose and that it won’t interfere with other drugs you’re taking.
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