May is National Mental Health Awareness Month, and that topic brings back vivid memories about my father from my childhood.
You see, in addition to dying of a massive heart attack at age 58 (when I was 15), my Dad was also an alcoholic.
I didn’t understand as a kid what may have been the driving force behind his drinking—all I knew was that I couldn’t have friends over because I was too embarrassed, and I would do literally anything to avoid making him angry.
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 during WWII, and I can’t even imagine the horrors he experienced as his ship was hit in the South Pacific and his friends instantly perished around him.
Unfortunately like many other vets in that time era, my Dad chose alcohol as his coping mechanism.
May is National Mental Health Awareness Month
Like I mentioned above, May is National Mental Health Awareness Month, and while I’m not the biggest fan of most “awareness” efforts that do little to solve the problem at hand (and instead create a lot of hoopla), 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.
That includes people who have experienced a natural disaster, abuse or assault, an accident, serious illness or the death of a loved one.
It’s more common than most people realize too.
Experts estimate that 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.
And most recently, cases of PTSD and depression have been skyrocketing due to the COVID lockdowns, quarantines and economic losses!
During 2020, one in six Americans started mental health therapy for the first time, and one study showed that a whopping 88 percent of the respondents reported at least one symptom of mental health trauma or PTSD.
More than flashbacks
A lot has been discovered about PTSD in the last several decades, and there is a whole lot 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.
There are also 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.
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 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 with 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 and nutritional support
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 helpful 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.
Plus taking care of your microbiome is a MUST! Nothing beats probiotic supplementation to help pave way for a healthy gut, and a full-spectrum therapeutic formula like Super Shield Plus is the perfect way to achieve this important, possibly life-saving goal.
Super Shield Plus’s complete blend of 15 well-studied, potent probiotic strains can help repopulate the friendly bacteria in your microbiome that may have taken a bit hit due to stress or poor eating habits and help keep their numbers strong and effective.
Reach out to others
People with PTSD have also found it helpful to join PTSD or other mental health support groups or taking 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,