PTSD, Depression, and Good Nutrition
Like many veterans following our military careers, I had a difficult time integrating back into civilian life. I never felt like I fit in with people who had not lived the same life as I had been living. For many of us, the transition from being a high speed, low drag member of the armed forces to being just another dull cog in the wheel of life is an overwhelming anti-climatic end to the the lives we had truly excelled in. Going from a life fueled by adrenaline to one fueled by morning coffee, donuts and alcohol causes you to feel as if a heavy anchor has been connected to your butt and you begin to not even care anymore. The more you quit caring, the more isolated you begin to feel, and this can be despite the fact you still have your family and friends surrounding you. Still, in your mind, they cannot relate to who and what you are nowadays compared to who you were when you were still in uniform. You see people professing to care about veterans and veterans issues, yet do not feel as if they give a damn about connecting with you as a veteran, and still you think you just don’t give a damn.
Chronic insomnia set in for me a few decades ago, and I suffered in silence.
Nightmares came in the middle of most nights, yet I suffered in silence.
The only one who knew about them was my dear wife Loraine who had to deal with my terrified screams during the night until my trucking co-driver began hearing me scream out too after I had retired to our trucks sleeper berth.
The details of my story are somewhat irrelevant as everyone can have different triggers for PTSD and Depression. Any time you get into details, people will tell you to just shrug that crap off, because they have been through worse than you. These statements may be true, or they may not be. The one saying this to you might be quietly suffering too, and like I was, just too damn ashamed to ever admit it to anyone, including those we have served with.
I finally let go of my pride and sought out help from my local VA where I underwent group therapy and individual Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. I also allowed myself to begin a couple of prescription medications, one to help settle my constantly racing mind and to lower my state of constant hyper-vigilance. I was diagnosed as having severe PTSD coupled with a major depressive disorder, you cannot just shake this crap off your shoe as some would like to think. Too many with this mentality become the part of the national tragedy and statistic of being one of the 22 Veterans per day on average who take their own lives.
Healthy Nutrition for a Healthy Mind!
Let’s be real now, if you are sincere about doing something beneficial for yourself, then you have to be all in.
If you believe that therapy alone should be enough to fix your mind, you are wrong.
If you believe that medications alone are going to be your cure, you are wrong.
If you believe that you can continue an otherwise unhealthy lifestyle of eating junk foods, living a sedentary lifestyle of drinking and possibly doing dope too, you are wrong!
If you go to therapy and follow that with a trip to your tavern to wash down your psychotropics, you are wasting your time and that of those trying to help you. If you want to fix your mental status then by God, you have to be proactive in your overall health and not just depend on others to be the ones who fix you. And you can do this by beginning with adopting healthy nutritional habits which will bring you great benefit overall.
Too few among us ever consider nutrition for a healthier and fitter brain despite the fact that the brain is the most important organ in the human body. If you fuel your car with bad fuel it runs like crap, the same is true of your brain. And, the most critical nutrient you can fuel yourself with for a healthy mind is glucose. Our brains use glucose as its primary source of fuel, more so than other tissues in the body. Glucose is the preferred source of fuel for the brain in any state except for starvation, when it is forced to burn fat for fuel.
And what is the healthiest source of glucose?
Your healthiest choice for complex carbohydrates are found in unprocessed foods that come from plants. When you eat these types of foods, your body breaks down the carbohydrates into glucose. Bear in mind, the closer a carbohydrate is to its natural form, the better. So that means a wide variety of veggies and fruit and beans and nuts and seeds and whole grain products and skip the damn added sugars.
For optimal brain function, appetite and mood regulation the brain doesn’t just need a good supply of glucose, it requires a steady and balanced supply. Without enough glucose, the brain’s ability to produce neurotransmitters is hampered and that can lead to mood swings, which is why people often get very irritable when they are hungry. Conversely, rapid spikes of glucose to the brain also lead to mood swings. When we suffer from PTSD and or depression, the last thing we want or need in our lives is irritability and moods swings. Eating healthy is a major component to my mental health and wellness as my blood sugar and hormones are always in balance. This is because I am proactive in maintaining my wellness!
Foods that contain fiber, or complex carbohydrates, stabilize blood sugar which helps to balance your mood. When your blood sugar spikes and drops, your mood is going to do the same. However, if keep your blood sugar balanced by having meals spaced fairly evenly, and eating every three to four hours, choosing unrefined carbs and balancing those meals with protein and fat which help delay the absorption of the glucose into the bloodstream, then you can more efficiently keep your blood sugar on an even keel for both mood stability and appetite control.
Bleached grains and refined sugar contribute to blood sugar spikes and drops because for all practical purposes much of the digestion has already occurred during their manufacturing. When you eat this garbage, all that is left for your body to do is the final breakdown where the glucose is too rapidly absorbed and your blood sugar spikes quickly. When this occurs in your body, you will find yourself once off on that roller coaster pattern with the blood sugar, your mood will soon follow into the dark abyss.
As we have written quite extensively about here at David’s Way to Health and Fitness, healthy nutrition also helps to balance inflammation, which is also linked to depression. Our wondrous brains are such active organs, there is glucose and a lot of oxygen flowing within. Our brains are a hard working tissue and just like any other tissue in the body, the brain can be potentially inflamed. Inflammation in the body in itself is actually a good thing as it is what helps our body to defend itself from injury and illness, but we also need to keep this inflammation in a healthy balance . This becomes almost impossible when you factor in western diets lean heavily towards foods that are pro-inflammatory. To create a balance, you can shift towards more anti-inflammatory foods, such as omega 3-rich fish three times a week, flax seed, sour cherries and berries, apples, pear, pomegranate, use extra-virgin olive oil for salads and cooking and anti-inflammatory spices such as ginger, rosemary, turmeric, oregano, curry, cinnamon, and eat probiotics, which are found in yogurt, kefir and sauerkraut, as well as supplements.
Again, this requires you to be proactive about your health and mental wellbeing!
You are the one who puts the foods you consume into your body, no one else is feeding you.
Healthy nutrition is that which is rich in wholesome, natural and varied foods combined with regular exercise and good rest that leads to a fitter body and mind. It’s all about enjoying life more fully with a clear and energized mind.
A Parting Thought
Often, well intentioned family and friends will try and coax a loved one in having a slice of birthday cake, or other sweet treat on special occasions.
If this would be you, please stop it.
It is not that your loved one or friend is being anti-social, it could be that momentary enjoyment that comes from that sugary concoction might be all it takes to ruin the rest of their day.
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