Living with post traumatic stress is a daily battle. I was 16 when I began eating a vegetarian diet. I had been reading a lot about vegetarian and I decided it was time to put it into practice. Almost 10 years later I am still a vegetarian, but for the past 4 years I have shifted in a completely plant based diet (also known as vegan) that includes no animal milk or eggs. I can’t say this works for everyone but it has worked wonders in my body to help me manage my anxiety, depression and post traumatic stress.
Those who struggle with post-traumatic-stress are in a constant state of anxiety and low-grade fear. This anxiety can climax when startled or in trigger situations. Childhood trauma and trauma during infancy or childhood occurs, the body and mind engage an adaptive defense mechanism that program the body and mind to be a survival mechanism. This can even physical health and affect relationships.
Take time to explore what types of foods for you. Rather than focus on a particular diet look at foods that nourish and sustain you. Every one has different types of bodies so certain foods work better for some people. For instance I have a strong digestive system so I am very consistent about eating when I am hungry. Sometimes I will eat some fruit as a snack, other times I’ll make an entire body if that is what my body is telling me what I need. Take time to listen to your body. You know your body best. Trust it. You are the best doctor out there!
Meals: Eating three healthy meals a day, each consisting of protein, provides your body with essential amino acids, which are the building blocks that keep everything (especially your mood and mental health) functioning optimally. Skipping meals creates more stress for your body because your body interprets the lack of food as a state of emergency. Be consistent. Be creative. Eat for your health.
Fats: Fats are not only delicious, our body desperately needs them! Several tablespoons a day of good fats such as olive oil, nuts, seeds, avocados, support brain activity and health. These good fats provide a vital buffer against stress and can also increase your mood and energy. Avoid products that contain hydrogenated oils because these oils prevent good fats from doing their job. Avocados and coconut oil are two of my favorites.
Caffeine: Although caffeine provides a boost for those of us who feel exhausted and overwhelmed, it does not support trauma recovery. In fact, caffeine can actually drain the adrenal glands, whose function is to protect us from stress and to provide us with energy. I still drink coffee and tea, but I’m mindful of how much I consume now. Sometimes when I am craving a “caffeine kick” I drink two glasses of water and wow do I feel amazing. When I’m feeling anxious I realize now that caffeine has become a way to escape what I am feeling. Sometimes I just need to take a walk around the block.
Water: Water is invaluable to your health as dehydration causes additional stress on your body. Drinking eight 8oz glasses per day, preferably of filtered water, will keep you hydrated. Water is essential because “every cell of our body requires water to carry nutrients and energy to them and to carry away toxins and metabolic wastes.” I never understood how important water was to healing until I started drinking a lot of it. Water is the easiest way to flush out toxins. Drink to your health!
Whole foods: Whole foods contain more nutrients than processed foods. Whole foods are grains, fruits, vegetables, animal meat, and products that have not been processed. Whole foods are usually found along the perimeter of the grocery store while processed foods are often stacked in the center aisles. Refined foods, especially sugar and flour, cause additional stress because they extremely overwork the body in order to be metabolized. Think simple: Food that isn’t packaged. Food that is colorful.
Fruits and vegetables: Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables will supply you with essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Antioxidants are especially helpful in protecting your body from the harmful byproducts of stress. I recently stopped taking a multi vitamin because I realized I was getting almost all my nutrients from consuming daily doses of fruits and vegetables.
Allergens: Any allergy that you have – whether it is to food, animals, or pollen – creates stress in the body. Common food allergens include peanuts, milk, wheat, soy, beef, chocolate, corn, and tomatoes. Avoid allergens so that your body does not have additional stress to combat. Recently I started eating less gluten (wheat products). I haven’t completely ruled it out of my diet, but I do feel lighter and digesting my food has become easier. Trying taking certain foods out of your diet every few weeks and keep a journal documenting how you feel. You might be amazed of the results.
Sleep and relaxation: Supporting what is restful and restorative for your body can encourage health and strength while you are recovering from trauma. Avoid eating late at night, as it keeps your body working when it should be resting. For years I had a hard time sleeping due to flashbacks and sleep insomnia. Now I have a night routine which consist of drinking tea, yoga, a self massage, a little reading and yoga nidra right before I go to sleep. I sleep like a baby now.
Good nutrition is such a vital part to healing. Find what works do and don’t work for you. Each of us has a different body type and it’s up to you to discover what your body needs to heal. Eat. Sleep. Heal. Repeat.