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Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): A Disease of Body and Mind

By Jurriaan Plesman, BA(Psych) Post Grad Dip Clin Nutr


Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is usually treated by a combination of medication and psychotherapy. However, drug-therapy generally only mask symptoms without doing much to “cure” the underlying biochemical disorder that is responsible for the symptoms. Some experts believe that PTSD is even incurable. (Sharon Cohen MA,Psych)
One of the forces working against modern treatment of PTSD is the legal system, that uses PTSD patients to claim financial compensation for people who have been damaged by a ‘permanent’ injury. It would be in their interest to assert that PTSD is a chronic disease. There may be many other vested interests actively promoting treatment modalities that brook no competition with more holistic therapies.

It is generally accepted that PTSD disorder is brought on by a traumatic event in the past, that triggers a cascade of stress hormones meant to enable a person to deal with the stress situation. The question is why does a person continue to produce stress hormones a long time after the event? I believe it is because the person is suffering from an ongoing endogenous and possibly pre-existing metabolic disorder persisting into the here-and-now, and continuing to produce stress hormones regardless of present circumstances. It appears to be due to a inner biochemical imbalance that has as one of its symptoms excess production of stress hormones, especially adrenaline – our fight/flight hormone.

When you look at the biochemical function of adrenaline it is a hormone that covert energy stores in the body (glycogen stores mainly in muscles and liver) into glucose. (See image) Glucose is an essential source of energy to energize the brain. The brain is highly dependent on glucose as its only source of energy (Werner W.K. Hoeger et al page 92).

The brain although 2 per cent of the body requires about 60-70 percent of all available energy, whether we are asleep or awake. A normal healthy cell requires about 2 million molecules of energy (ATP) per second to fuel biochemical reactions inside the cell. (WG Hale et als Page 66). This is all derived from glucose in our food. Glucose is converted to biological energy called ATP, which powers the biochemical machinery in the production of feel good neurotransmitters and hormones. If there is brain starvation, energy is lacking in the production of feel good neurotransmitters and people may become anxious and depressed. The hypothalamus will stimulate the adrenal gland to pour adrenaline into the system to feed the brain again with essential glucose or energy.

So now the question becomes why should the brain suddenly be starved of energy, out of the blue? The answer is not difficult to find. If the person is hypoglycemic, (failure to respond to insulin) which may be seen as a pre-diabetic condition and fairly prevalent in society, the person will have wildly fluctuating blood sugar levels ranging from high to low (see diagram here). This will deprive the brain of a steady supply of its energy sources – glucose. When we have insulin resistance blood sugar levels tend to rise, triggering more insulin secretion. This may lead to hyperinsulinism, causing a sudden descent in blood sugar levels. This will trigger adrenaline secretion. See also here.

Thus here we see a case where a person is going to suffer from panic attacks out of the blue and quite unrelated to what is or was going on in the environment. It is natural for the person to believe that the panic attack is caused by the memory of the trauma, which originally triggered that very same fear response.

Lack of biological energy as a result of hypoglycemia, also interferes with the production of feel good neurotransmitters such as serotonin. Serotonin is also the precursor to melatonin – the sleeping hormone – hence the association between depression and insomnia. The Visual MD

You need biological energy (derived mainly from carbohydrates and sugars) to covert food substances like tryptophan into serotonin and melatonin.

A simple non-drug treatment of PTSD is the adoption of the Hypoglycemic Diet, as an essential component in overall therapy, which will help you overcome not only PTSD, but anxiety attacks as well.

Another factor playing a role in the development of PTSD is Pyroluria. In fact, there may be a host of other illnesses, apart from or in addition to hypoglycemia, that may play a role in mood disorders.

If self-help therapy does not work it is important to get a referral to a Nutritional Doctor, Clinical Nutritionist or Nutritional Psychotherapist for further diagnosis and treatment. Nutritional therapy can not always be reduced to treating hypoglycemia alone, as their are many other silent diseases and nutritional illnesses that can cause mood disorders.

When people have suffered from a mood disorder over a long period of time, sometimes dating back to childhood, it may be necessary to relearn a whole set of social skills. In that case, it is suggested that therapy be followed up with a course of psychotherapy with a counsellor.  We have a self-help psychotherapy course available at this web site that will help people to regain their self-esteem, learn social skills, being appropriately assertive, develop communication skills, and learn about values clarification. See: Summary of Self-help Psychotherapy.

Please discuss this article with your health care worker, doctor or nutritional doctor or therapist.


WG Hale, JP Margham & VA Saunders (1995), Collins Dictionary of Biology, HarperCollins Publishers Page 66

See also research at:

Index to Specific Topics and Research

Other articles:

Conquering Anxiety, Depression and Fatigue Without Drugs – the Role of Hypoglycemia
Other treatments for Depressions here
Last updated 19 December 2009

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