Learn how to treat PTSD naturally through lifestyle changes, the best functional medicine treatment options for PTSD, and how ketamine infusions can offer relief.
Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a debilitating condition that can occur after witnessing or being involved in a traumatic event. While PTSD is often associated with war, it can impact anyone – whether it be through assault, natural disaster, a death or other life-threatening or life-altering events.
So, what does PTSD look like? Let’s look at how PTSD affects the body and some promising treatments for PTSD.
What Is PTSD?
According to the National Center for PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental health condition characterized by upsetting memories, trouble sleeping, or feeling on edge lasting more than 4 months after the traumatic event. While these symptoms are normal after a traumatic event, if they last longer than 4 months, PTSD may be to blame.
Some common symptoms of PTSD include:
Avoidance of memories or feelings
The person with PTSD often tries to avoid memories or feelings associated with the event. They may go to significant lengths to keep busy, avoid reminders of the traumatic event, and feel physically numb or detached from their body.
Reliving the trauma
Vivid flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, and nightmares are also common in PTSD. Physical sensations such as pain, nausea, sweating, racing heart, shortness of breath or trembling can also occur when thinking about the trauma.
Often after a traumatic event, nowhere feels safe and it’s hard to trust anyone. This is especially true for those with PTSD. They may blame themselves for what happened and harbor overwhelming feelings of guilt or shame.
Alertness and feeling on edge often accompany PTSD. With emotional stress, the body releases the hormones cortisol and adrenaline – the fight or flight response (activation of the sympathetic nervous system). But someone with PTSD continues to produce these hormones even when they are no longer in danger. This is why people who suffer from PTSD can be easily startled, anxious, and constantly alert.
What Causes PTSD?
PTSD likely occurs from a dysregulation of several stress-mediating systems. Inadequate regulatory effects of an amino acid neuropeptide Y (NPY), as well as GABA and serotonin, can make this worse. Neurotransmitters norepinephrine and cortisol are also involved in the stress response.
PTSD affects several areas of the brain – the amygdala, hippocampus, and the prefrontal cortex. When the hippocampus, an area primarily involved in memory, isn’t working right, it can cause memory deficits after trauma.
Best Natural Treatments For PTSD
Fortunately, lifestyle changes can have a significant impact on many mental health conditions, including PTSD. Nutrition, sleep, exercise, stress management, and toxin reduction all support mental health. Let’s look at each of these natural treatments for PTSD.
The food you eat matters, especially for your mental health. A high-quality, nutrient-dense diet provides vitamins and minerals needed to create hormones, neurotransmitters, and amino acids. These nutrients also support the stress response pathways in your brain.
The best way to improve your diet? Increase your intake of fresh non-starchy vegetables, fruits, seeds, and nuts, as well as high quality sources of protein like grass fed beef, free range poultry, and wild caught fish for example. At the same time, limit inflammatory foods such as sugar and alcohol. I find a Paleo nutrition approach to be most effective for most patients, however other nutrition plans that include whole foods and limiting processed and packaged items can also be helpful.
Nightmares and difficulty sleeping often accompany PTSD. Here are some ways to support your body and mind sleep:
- Keep a consistent sleep schedule, going to bed at the same time every night
- Sleep in a cool, dark, and quiet environment
- Avoid eating within 2 hours of bedtime
- Put away electronic devices at least 1 hour before bedtime to limit blue light exposure
Supplements can also help you sleep. Magnesium glycinate is a great place to start. It may help reduce insomnia, anxiety, and stress. It’s highly absorbable to the body and promotes muscle relaxation. Melatonin can also be helpful, especially if you have trouble falling asleep. 1-3 mg taken 30-60 minutes before bed is best.
Study after study shows the correlation between exercise and mental health. Regular exercise improves sleep and mood, relieves stress, and improves blood circulation to the brain. It’s one of the best natural treatments.
The key is to start with small changes that are maintainable for your lifestyle. Keep building up the length and intensity until you meet the recommendation 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week. Here’s more information about exercise if you want to learn more.
Stress Management and Meditation for PTSD
Managing stress is essential for mental health. Thankfully, many of the previous mentioned factors help manage stress. But meditation and mindfulness can also do wonders. In one study, mindfulness meditation significantly reduced the severity of military members’ PTSD symptoms.
But that’s not all. PTSD symptoms can decrease further when meditation is completed with yoga. One study found that PTSD symptoms were reduced at the 6-month and 1-year marks with a specific form of yoga incorporating mindfulness and focused breathing.
Because meditation is such a great way to reduce PTSD symptoms, we highly recommended it! It’s one of the best natural treatments for PTSD that takes care of your mental and emotional health.
In our lives, toxins are all around us – in household cleaning products, plastic, and food for example. Reducing toxins supports your body’s overall health, as well as your mental health.
Here are some ways to reduce toxins in your life:
- Eat organic when possible and avoid the dirty dozen.
- Sweat often, either from exercise or sauna.
- Swap out toxic household cleaners to natural cleaning products.
- Drink at least half your body weight in ounces of clean, filtered water each day.
Psychedelics for PTSD
Did you know that psychedelics are currently being studied for PTSD? Psychedelics cause a subjective change in the person’s perception, emotions, and thoughts. This results in different behaviors and responses to situations.
Emerging evidence has shown the potential therapeutic benefits of hallucinogens, like small doses of LSD on PTSD. Because LSD has the ability to modulate the brain’s functional connectivity, it can be a unique treatment option for PTSD. Not only that, but MDMA, sometimes called ecstasy or molly, has been shown to help reduce PTSD symptoms. This is especially true when combined with psychotherapy. The most significant effects of MDMA for PTSD are increased feelings of social connection, openness, and trust of others, while disrupting memories of fear. Psilocybin, also known as magic mushrooms, can also be profoundly helpful in small doses and is also being studied. These are just a few of some very promising research studies underway to treat mental health conditions in different ways than traditionally known.
Ketamine Infusions for PTSD
Ketamine, a dissociative anesthetic, is a great treatment option for PTSD. In one study, ketamine resulted in the remission of PTSD symptoms. Another study found participants had 80% less PTSD symptoms with a ketamine infusion series combined with psychotherapy. When combined in a series given over several weeks, ketamine provides nearly complete remission of symptoms in the short-term. Medications can’t do the same thing.
Here at Arizona Wellness Medicine, we offer the functional medicine approach for mental health conditions, including ketamine infusions for PTSD. We want to give you the best tools, support, and treatment to get you back living your life. You deserve to move past your debilitating PTSD symptoms. Ketamine infusions can help! Learn more about ketamine infusions and how this natural treatment for PTSD can help here.