How Nutritional Therapy Can Help the Treatment of PTSD, Anxiety and Depression

How Does the Body Manifest Trauma?

Understanding the different ways that the body manifests trauma involves looking at different systems within the body that are associated with our autonomic nervous system. In the DSM-V, there are two different disorders that are now being categorized as actual stress disorders versus anxiety disorders: PTSD and complex-PTSD. Researchers at Columbia have conducted studies that have connected our gut microbiome to different environmental factors like trauma.

According to the study, “The role of trauma in increasing vulnerability to both gastrointestinal and mental health symptoms is well established in adults but rarely studied in childhood,” said study lead author Bridget Callaghan, a post-doctoral research fellow in Columbia’s psychology department. In fact, research also points to the roles our guts play in different co-occurring disorders like depression as well. According to the WHO reports, around 350 million people suffer from depression.

When looking at the neurobiology of different mental health disorders like PTSD, anxiety and depression the psychological precursors such as childhood trauma are closely linked to the manifestations of these disorders. Childhood trauma not only has distinctive and impairable social effects but can result in lifelong physiological illness as well.

Trauma is Stored in Our Cellular Biology

Early microbial colonization is linked to our adrenal glands known as the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal and impacts our second nervous system known as the enteric nervous system. When this nervous system is disrupted it results in what is known as the microbiota deficiency hypothesis, which is insufficiency to produce or develop the appropriate amount of microbiome in our guts to sustain healthy digestion and intestinal functioning. Many functional medicine practitioners have espoused the conceptualization of different kinds of epigenetic and environmental reasonings like the ‘leaky gut hypothesis,’ which involves a condition where the lining of the small intestine becomes damaged, causing undigested food particles and toxins to enter the blood system and cause damage to our intestinal walls. However, the validity of this medical phenomenon is not quite sound when you look at co-occurring variables that could be truly causing the damage.

While, environmental factors like toxins, pollution and chemicals may be impacting our digestive tracts the connection that trauma and stress play to our physical and mental bodies in relation to our autonomic nervous system may provide more answers to the co-development of these disorders – for instance, the vagus nerve in the autonomic nervous system is in charge of controlling different evolutionary responses like digestion. Trauma theorists like Stephen Porges have devoted their entire careers to understanding the psychophysiological connection between trauma and the mammalian autonomic nervous system.

Therefore, the treatment of trauma not only begins with dysregulating the hyper-physiological state of the autonomic nervous system but also considering how different stress disorders and childhood trauma are correlated with low levels of gut bacteria and have resulted in the development of heightened inflammation and immune disorders.

Considering how depression, anxiety, and trauma manifest through different epigenetic environmental factors in our lifetime. It is important to look at nutritional therapy and exercise as an integrative treatment option for helping clients who are experiencing trauma and anxiety.

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