PTSD, A System Based Approach


Post traumatic stress disorder is triggered by a terrifying, dangerous, shocking, or extremely scary experience. The “fight or flight” response is normal as is “fear”; but those suffering from PTSD will get triggered when no danger is around. It can be debilitating, frightening, paralyzing, and quite frankly, can rule someone’s world. Many suffer in silence and it often goes completely unnoticed.


When we think of veterans, two things come to mind: PTSD and Chronic Pain. For this post, I will concentrate on PTSD but please make note that PTSD isn't isolated only to veterans. This can impact anyone and requires a community of people to help them through.


Breaking down the chemistry:


When we have chronic or acute stress, this stimulates cortisol among other chemical messengers. In cases such as what a veteran might have experienced, you could imagine how high the cortisol might have been in a given moment. The cortisol easily crosses the BBB (Blood Brain Barrier), a protective barrier that only allows certain things to pass through to protect our brain. Once the cortisol enters the brain tissue, it can cause a lot of “not-so-nice things” to happen. One of those “not-so nice” things is damaging the part of our brain that regulates emotion, memory, learning, and even motivation. This is called the Hippocampus. Those with PTSD have smaller or atrophied hippcampi. To help heal this part of our brain, we might consider DHA fish oil and Phosphatidyl Serine to help heal and repair this area. Of course as ND’s, we’ll take a multi system approach because often times, an inflamed brain will trigger inflammation down stream. PTSD is most certainly supported through counseling and psychotherapy, but intentional supplementation can help to calm the neuro-inflammatory storm.


1. DHA Fish Oil


DHA is an omega 3 Fatty acid that is anti-inflammatory and has an affinity to nervous tissue.


2. Phosphatidyl Serine


Phospholipids are healthy fats that line and create all our cells "membranes" or walls. Phosphatidyl serine directly feeds the hippocampal tissue, thus working to lay down new and healthy brain tissue.


3. Genetic Mutations that predispose someone to PTSD?


One mutation is in the methylation pathway where someone can't activate their Folic Acid or B12. Consider getting an "activated" B complex as the brain absolutely loves vitamin B6 and Folate. You'll look for "methyl" next to Folic Acid and B12 in your ingredient list. *Some cases will see an aggravation in symptoms when they take an active B complex. That's most likely because they are all of a sudden opening up pathways in the body that aren't used to functioning properly. Best advice is to discontinue the B Complex and seek a specialist in Naturopathic, Integrative, or Functional Medicine to help you navigate this.


4. Curcumin and Resveratrol


There is a synergistic affect when you combine both Curcuminoids and Resveratrol together and they work to calm the inflammatory storm, which consists of chemical messengers that get turned on after a trauma or chronic exposure of "something."


5. Catechins


This is a polyphenol, a rich and potent antioxidant, that you can get from green tea, 100% cocoa, and berries. Catechins can address free radicals and protect from cellular damage. Veterans are exposed to all sorts of chemicals, as are the rest of us; but couple the exposure of free radicals with an environment that triggers a whole cascade of inflammatory events in the body and you get more predisposition to cell damage.


6. Other CAM Therapies:


As mentioned above, there are so many different options and avenues one can take to tackle PTSD. There are herbs to calm the nervous system and address the adrenals. There are minerals to think about to support your body. My best advice is to take a multi system approach. Using psychotherapy, meditation, acupuncture, exercise, and a targeted supplement regimen to support the individual from multiple angles.



PTSD is real for people and can present in various levels of severity. As a loved one, have patience, compassion, empathy, and an opened mind toward the one who is suffering quietly or not so quietly. For the person with PTSD, seek help and choose what makes since for YOU. What works for YOU may not work for others and that's what makes this field so wonderful, as there are many options to choose from.


Breathe and more forward in peace, as best you can.


Dr. Lexi

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