The research on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is growing as the number of cases are being reported. PTSD is presented with symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, irritability, startle reflex, brain fog, nightmares, sleep disturbances, flashbacks, and intrusive thoughts.
Interestingly, some of these same symptoms are also seen in fibromyalgia, dementia, and adrenal fatigue. One common factor is that fibromyalgia, PTSD, dementia, and adrenal fatigue all can be very hard to diagnose at the beginning of symptoms and therefore can be dismissed as ‘just stress’ and given the prescription of ‘ take a vacation’, or worse, ‘take this antidepressant and see a counselor’.
Doug Piller, 36, CrossFit Go Time owner, views the system in place as “an assembly line with cookie cutter advice”. Piller is also a Captain in the Marine Corps Reserves who has deployed six times to combat zones in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Horn of Africa. After 13 years and counting in the Marine Corps, he knows firsthand about the difficulties that affect many of our service members. “How they’re feeling does not make them less of a man, nor less of a Marine. Many service members are experiencing the same difficulties returning from a deployment and acclimating themselves to everyday life. Their own best friends could be suffering from the same symptoms but may be better at hiding them. I commend these men for reaching out for help when so many others don’t,” says Piller.
The problem in diagnosing PTSD is due to the number of symptoms present that can be caused by a variety of problems. Not knowing what is happening to your mind and body will cause an additional stress that taxes the body of it’s resources, leading to more severe symptoms and possibly damage that cannot be reversed.
Cortisol and adrenaline are both released when the body senses a threat, part of the ‘fight or flight’ response. The cortisol causes the release of glucose in the blood stream for the brain to use for energy and in the body for tissue repair. Adrenaline increases your heart rate, energy, and blood pressure. When the cortisol triggers the release of glucose, an insulin response is then triggered. The insulin level may crash the blood sugar level, which will trigger the brain to signal the adrenal glands to send more adrenaline, making the whole process repeat.
When threats, or stress, is constant, the body has no time to recover and taxes the adrenals. Compare this to when you start your car, press the gas pedal to the floor, while the car is in park. Eventually parts of the car will wear out, the car will run out of fuel, and eventually blow up.
Giving the brain another fuel when the glucose levels drop, such as a medium chain triglycerides like the ones found in coconut oil, could help ease some of the symptoms. This is a brain fuel that can work when glucose is not being processed correctly or when insulin has crashed the blood sugar level.
For the best results, cleaning up one’s diet will be of great benefit in the process of healing. The mental fog, confusion, irritability, and sleep problems seen with PTSD can all be remarkably lower just by starting the Paleo lifestyle of eating real foods and eliminating processed foods, sugars, gluten and dairy. It’s a step in the right direction that will help a PTSD sufferer have more energy to get the necessary help they need.
Piller feels that when people dedicate themselves to being physically fit, they will take the time to have a deeper understanding of their bodies , which is beneficial for those with stress symptoms. There is evidence that shows that exercise effectively reduces PTSD symptoms. Due to these findings, The Veterans Group Exercise Project (a combined effort between UCSF Osher Center for Integrative Medicine and the San Francisco Veterans Administration Medical Center) is looking to develop a new integrative medicine protocol to reduce symptoms.
Intense physical exercises, such as lifting weights or running long distance, can be therapeutic mostly due to endorphins releasing and counteracting the stress hormones.
“Take CrossFit for example,” says Piller. “CrossFit is a program where you show up to class and there’s a workout written on the board. You are lead through the hour by an instructor and train alongside other gym members. In that one hour, you feel the sense of community and for some, brother and sisterhood. Each day is a new opportunity to accomplish a new goal. It’s your time of the day to put your higher thinking brain aside and just live in that moment. This intense exercise is a way to learn more about ourselves through our strength and weaknesses.
Intense exercise serves as a sounding board, a welcoming distraction, a way to lose yourself in that moment … or for others, to find yourself.”
For many individuals suffering from stress, this may be just what the doctor ordered.