June is National Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Awareness Month, and that brings back a painful story from my past.
You may recall me mentioning in my writings that my Dad died of a heart attack at age 58 when I was 15. But in addition to his poor cardiovascular health, he was also an alcoholic.
I didn’t know what was going on with him—I was just angry and resentful because I couldn’t have friends over and run the risk of having them see my Dad staggering through the house and slurring his words. As a teenage girl, that was incredibly embarrassing for me.
What I didn’t know then (but do now as an adult in the health field) was my Dad was suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
He was a Navy gunner aboard a destroyer in WWII, and I can’t even comprehend the horrors he witnessed as his ship was hit in the South Pacific and many of his friends instantly perished around him. And even after he returned home, he suffered survivor’s guilt on top of everything else.
Unfortunately like many other vets in that time era, my Dad chose alcohol as his coping mechanism.
June is National PTSD Awareness Month
As I mentioned above, June is National PTSD Awareness Month, and while I’m not the biggest fan of most “awareness” efforts that do little to solve the problem at hand, I think we all could use a reminder that PTSD is very real.
And it doesn’t just apply to people in the military! ANYONE who has witnessed or suffered a severe, shocking, or life-threatening event may develop PTSD.
People who have experienced a natural disaster, abuse or assault, an accident, serious illness or the death of a loved one can all incur PTSD symptoms.
That includes me, by the way! I had nightmares for MONTHS following my father’s death and all I could hear was my mother’s screams waking me up when she discovered him during the night.
PTSD is more common than most people realize too.
Currently about 7 out of 10 US adults will experience a traumatic event at some point in their lives, and about 20 percent of those will go on to develop PTSD.
So much more than flashbacks
A lot has been discovered about PTSD in the last several decades, and there are much more than flashbacks going on.
PTSD may also include severe anxiety, depression, angry outbursts, nightmares, insomnia, refusal to discuss the event, being tense and on edge, suicidal ideation and having frightening thoughts that come out of nowhere.
PTSD symptoms usually begin shortly after the traumatic event takes place. Typically symptoms start within three months and last for up to a year.
PTSD symptoms have been divided into these four phases:
- The impact phase (initial reactions of shock)
- The rescue phase (coming to terms with what happened)
- The intermediate recovery phase (adjusting to life following trauma)
- The long-term reconstruction phase (rebuilding and continuing to deal with the aftermath)
There is also the possibility of PTSD-related physical issues too. Researchers have found that people with PTSD have abnormally high levels of certain stress hormones, especially adrenaline.
Chronically elevated levels of stress hormones can wreak havoc in the gut microbiome, ruin digestion and weaken immune function, which in turn opens up a Pandora’s box of other potential health issues.
The go-to treatment for PTSD is usually medication—antidepressants or anti-anxiety meds. While these may be helpful in getting relief in some instances, in others they do absolutely no good at all!
Plus let’s not forget the potential side effects of psychotropic drugs that can include anger, suicidal or homicidal behavior, and even worsening anxiety or depression.
Help beyond medication
Thankfully, there are other, safer ways to help with PTSD, the most obvious of which is psychotherapy with a skilled therapist.
Many therapists have expressed that cognitive behavioral therapy (examining thoughts to determine how they affect behaviors and self-perception) is very effective for PTSD sufferers.
In addition, here are some other ways to help bring about relief and healing:
Acupuncture can help balance the energy flows in the body and induce relaxation, both of which can help reduce anxiety and stress levels.
These include deep breathing, meditation, stretching, prayer and yoga.
Yoga in particular has an impact on the physical workings behind PTSD because it affects the vagus nerve—a large bundle of fibers that connects your brain and many internal organs, sending chemical messages and signals between the two.
Studies have shown that you can directly influence the type of hormonal and chemical signals sent from the body to the brain…so if the body is encouraged to relax, similar messages will also be sent to the brain!
Regular exercise is a natural antidepressant. While it may seem difficult for someone suffering from PTSD and other mental health issues to feel the motivation to exercise, the end result is definitely positive.
Stress harms your gut, which in turn impacts your immune function, digestion and absorption of nutrients, so it’s essential to give your body the support it needs to overcome those harmful effects.
Plus most of your body’s serotonin (your natural antidepressant) is manufactured in your gut, so a healthy gut is vital when battling depression!
The best place to start is with a nutritious diet of wholesome real foods, including meats, fish and poultry, eggs, healthy fats, fresh vegetables and fruits. These are the foods that will give your body (and mind!) the nutrients they need to work properly.
At the same time, it’s crucial to avoid sugar, refined carbs and processed foods. They do not provide any measurable levels of nutrients, they create inflammation (which can affect your gut and mental health) and they pack the pounds on you to boot.
Also crucial for mental health are Omega-3 fatty acids. Since our diets typically don’t provide nearly what we need (since most of us don’t eat fish 7 days a week), a top-notch fish oil formula like VitalMega-3 can provide health-supporting levels of these crucial fats, including the all-important EPA and DHA.
Long used as a staple of Indian Ayurvedic medicine for over 2,500 years, ashwagandha is an example of an adaptogenic herb, or adaptogen. Adaptogens are a unique class of healing plants that naturally help balance, restore and protect your body.
Ashwagandha has been shown to be very helpful with encouraging restful sleep, combatting the effects of stress and anxiety, and improving depression—all good news for PTSD sufferers!
If you’d like to put the power of ashwagandha to work in your health, our very own Ashwa Blend Gummies are your ticket!
Ashwa Blend Gummies is a vegan, non-GMO supplement that combines the incredible power of ashwagandha with vitamin D and zinc—two of the best immune-enhancing nutrients in existence—to create a super-charged formula that supports optimal health.
Reach out to others
People with PTSD have also found it helpful to join PTSD or other mental health support groups or take advantage of volunteer opportunities in the community.
If you or someone you love has PTSD, you are not beyond hope!
Take comfort in the fact that there are several ways to bring about healing and relief and do whatever you need to do to make that happen.
To your health,