Tag Archives: ptsd

Your gut bacteria can play a role in anxiety and PTSD

gut bacteria and anxiety copy

New research has found a link between gut bacteria and anxiety — the diversity and quantity of your gut bacteria can affect your anxiety levels. Scientists believe this could play a role in treating PTSD, or post-traumatic stress syndrome.

In the study, researchers subjected mice to stressful conditions until they showed signs of anxiety and stress: shaking, diminished appetite, and reduced social interaction. Fecal samples showed the stressed mice had less diversity of gut bacteria than calmer mice who had not been subjected to stress.

When they fed the stressed mice the same live bacteria found in the guts of the calm mice, the stressed mice immediately began to calm down. Their stress levels continued to drop in the following weeks.

Brain scans also showed the improved gut flora produced changes in brain chemistry that promotes relaxation.

These biomarkers, according to researchers, can indicate whether someone is suffering from PTSD or is at a higher risk of developing it. Improving gut microflora diversity may play a role in treatment and prevention.

The role of healthy gut bacteria in the military

Because about 20 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans suffer from PTSD, the military is interested in the potential of influencing gut bacteria to manage and predict the risk of PTSD, anxiety, and depression. Enhancing gut microflora may also help submarine crews who go for long periods in confined spaces and with no daylight.

How to improve the health of your gut bacteria for anxiety, PTSD, depression, obesity, eating disorders

The quality and diversity of gut bacteria, or the “gut microbiome,” has been linked to not only anxiety, but also depression, obesity, eating disorders, autism, irritable bowel syndrome, and many other common disorders.

In other words, if you want to improve your health, you need to tend to your inner garden and make it richly diverse and bountiful. Although we’re still a ways off from a magic-bullet approach, there are many ways you can enrich the environment of your gut microbiome:

Cut out foods that kill good bacteria and promote harmful bacteria: Sugars, processed foods, processed carbohydrates, alcohol and energy drinks, fast foods, food additives, and other unhealthy staples of the standard American diet.

Eat tons of fiber-rich plants, which good bacteria love: All vegetables but especially artichokes, peas, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, as well as fruits. Either way, eat a large diversity of veggies on a regular basis instead of the same thing every day.

Use probiotics: Live, “friendly” bacteria that bolster your gut’s population of healthy microbes. Read the label to make sure they are high in live bacteria. Dietary fiber nourish these friendly probiotic bacteria. This combination of pre- and probiotic support is vital for healthy gut bacteria.

Eat fermented foods: Sauerkraut, kimchee, kombucha, and yogurt contain live microbes, and can also help boost the probiotic content of your digestive tract. Not all fermented foods have live cultures so make sure to read the labels.

Protect your existing gut flora: Medications, age, health status, and stress influence your gut microbiome. Eating a fiber-strong, gut-friendly diet and supplementing with probiotics and fermented foods is one of your best strategies for supporting gut health, a healthy mood, and stress resiliency.

Is undiagnosed PTSD causing your chronic stress or fatigue?

PTSD high and low cortisol

Are you chronically stressed out, chronically fatigued, or both? Are you careful about your diet and lifestyle but nothing works? You may want to consider whether post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) plays a role in your poor stress-handling ability.

Studies show PTSD alters the body’s ability to regulate cortisol, our primary stress hormone produced by the adrenal glands. People with poor adrenal function suffer from usually either low cortisol or high cortisol.

Altered cortisol levels increase the risk for developing chronic conditions, such as autoimmune disease, chronic pain, or chronic inflammation.

More women suffer from PTSD than men

Not just war veterans suffer from PTSD. In fact, more women than men suffer from PTSD.

Why? For one, more girls than boys suffer sexual abuse as children, predisposing women to more severe reactions to traumas later in life. Researchers also found that sexual trauma causes more emotional suffering and is more likely to contribute to a PTSD than other types of trauma.

Women are also biologically more prone to PTSD than men.

Are your stress hormones to high or too low?

Low cortisol causes low blood sugar, blacking out when standing up, weakness and fatigue, waking up at 3 or 4 a.m., depression, hypersensitivity, and an inability to cope with stress.

High cortisol causes symptoms of insomnia, not feeling rested after sleep, weight gain around the abdomen, anxiety, chronic stress, and hormonal imbalances.

Supporting adrenal function is fundamental to good health. The first place to start is with diet, as many cases of =low or high cortisol are simply a matter of too much sugar and too many processed carbohydrates.

Undiagnosed immune reactions to foods, such as gluten, dairy, egg, and soy can trigger adrenal issues.

An undiagnosed and chronic parasitic, viral, or bacterial infection can take their toll on the body’s stress handling abilities and cause low or high cortisol.

And, of course, lifestyle factors affect adrenal function. Over exercising, over working, not getting enough sleep, or being in a stressful job or relationship can certainly tax your adrenals and lead to altered cortisol.

But if you have been addressed all those and low or high cortisol persists, it’s time to investigate whether PTSD is a contributing factor.

Past traumas and even your parents’ traumas can cause poor adrenal function

Studies have shown that PTSD can cause low or high cortisol. An interesting finding is that people tend to have low cortisol if both parents suffer from PTSD. This is likely due to both the biological effects of PTSD as well as the child’s environment growing up.

Research has also found that low cortisol is more often associated with the PTSD symptoms of avoidance, withdrawal, and isolation, while high cortisol is associated with hyper arousal and re-experiencing traumatic events.

Cortisol plays a significant role in your physical and mental well-being and if you suspect you may have PTSD, it’s important to seek non-pharmaceutical treatments. Fortunately, PTSD is much studied these days and many treatment options exist.