Tag: depression

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 ass, 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 now days 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 shit 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 shit 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 like shit, 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.

Stopping Self Sabotage

It seems at this time of year which is supposed to be full of joy,  we can see self sabotage rising among those with body fat and fitness problems. Even some of us who are quite fit and lean can fall prey to overeating and lack of exercise at this festive time of year. After all, we can be constantly surrounded by well meaning family and friends who tempt us by pushing their fresh baked goods upon us at holiday social gatherings. Goodness, we just know that the holidays are just meant for that special cake that Aunt Gladys bakes once a damn year.

You know the one.

It’s that awful cake where Aunt Gladys is the only family member who has ever put in the work to recreate. She always insists it was Great Grandma’s personal recipe that was only handed down to her. Aunt Gladys is the  lone family cook who has mastered the special frosting that can only be crafted by use of a double boiler on low heat while she hums her favorite church hymn over it.  Just ask her, she will be sure to tell you all about it, and heaven forbid you refuse a huge slice…

And that is but one of many ways in which your weight loss journey can begin to unfold.

A myriad of people who have actually done quite well with their weight loss journey will all of a sudden begin rapidly losing ground with their battle of the bulge. This turn of events usually begins as early as Labor Day week end or as late as Halloween and ends in utter and complete destruction of their success by New Years Day. You can find these stories any day of the week no matter which weight loss app social media sight you might visit. Maybe this topic is one you can directly relate to.

For many reasons, this time of year can be horrible for some of us when it comes to our mental health and wellness. But no matter how compelling, you cannot allow a real or perceived reason to turn into an excuse for quitting your war against too much body fat. I can tell you that as one who suffers a major depressive disorder coupled with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, I can battle those evil demons that want me to simply give in and quit my healthy diet and fitness regimen. Yes, I can fight those little bastards each and every day at this time of year, the same as many others will on a daily basis. As tough as the fight may get I will not waver or give in for any reason, as I know and fully understand,  the effects of an unhealthy diet will certainly overlap with the effects of chronic stress that are known to play a hand in causing depression. It is known that people who are more prone to binge eat are also more prone to depression. At this time of year, depressive people who overeat compulsively will eat more than they need to while never quite feeling satisfied. This is especially true when eating for emotional relief, as opposed to eating because they’re hungry.

To help with depression and overeating, you can also make a few lifestyle changes. Please ensure your therapist or doctor goes over these with you. They include:

  • Reducing stress: Stress can trigger overeating and depression, so it can make both conditions worse. Learn to make your world small. Only concern yourself with what you truly need to worry about and let the other stuff simply go. Turn off the 24/7 news channel which only serves to tell you bad news all day every day, and learn to do something positive with the time you might have spent worrying and stewing over what is happening Capital Hill. Learn the Serenity Prayer and live by it, even if you do not believe in God. Lord, grant me the Serenity to accept that which I cannot change. rant me the Courage to change that which I can, And give me the Wisdom to know the difference.
  • Exercise regularly: Exercising can and will help you feel better about your body, reduce stress, and help alleviate depression. Vigorous exercise will essentially give your brain a reset when you need it as it is a powerful depression fighter for several reasons. Moderate intensity exercise promotes all kinds of changes in the brain, including neural growth, reduced inflammation, and new activity patterns that promote feelings of calm and well-being. It also releases endorphins, powerful chemicals in your brain that energize your spirits and make you feel good. Finally, exercise can also serve as a distraction, allowing you to find some quiet time to break out of the cycle of negative thoughts that feed depression.
  • Keep disciplined. If you have set days and time dedicated for your exercise, then by all means stick by them. If you track your food intake for calories and macro-nutrients, then continue doing so even if you have gone off the rails a little bit at a holiday family function. It is imperative that you remain accountable to yourself during the holidays. By tracking what you eat, you will know how much you might need to adjust your nutrition over the next few days in order to mitigate the effects of that damn cake Aunt Gladys insists you eat. When you do not track what you consume, it becomes easy to underestimate just how many calories you have had for the day by 1000 or better. If you do get off track for a day, then make sure that beginning first thing the next morning you get back to normalcy. The longer you put it off, the worse it is going to be for you.
  • Avoid temptation: If you know that you’re prone to binging after a long day, don’t keep any bad-for-you foods lying around. By making them less accessible, you can reduce overeating and focus on other coping and stress management techniques. Always be prepared! By having a plan you can make smart eating choices in every situation that life throws at you. When you’re offered a food that’s not on your diet, the best response is a firm “no, thank you” without any explanation.Weak excuses open the door for unwanted arguments.

 By knowing your temptations you can prepare a strategy that will help you enjoy the holiday season in a healthy manner without feeling guilty nor fat on New Years Day.