We are what we eat: a link between diet and PTSD symptoms

With 4 out of 5 people experiencing a traumatic event, there is a good chance you or someone you know has Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The symptoms of flashbacks, intense fear and nightmares are quick to appear, but slow to disappear.  Research tells us how to effectively treat PTSD. 


Diet and PTSD


Traditional treatments, like medication or therapy, are life changing treatments for some who experience PTSD symptoms. Many people are looking to incorporate other methods to improve mental health. Improving your diet is something that everyone can, and should, do. Not only is our diet something we relatively can control, eating is something we do several times a day.

Additionally, nutrition plays a key role in the function and structure of our brain and body.  A link between mental and and food was recently found. A study was conducted to see if a dietary intervention would impact those with moderate to severe depression. In this trial, 67 adults meeting the DSM-IV criteria for a major depressive episode and reporting poor dietary quality were evaluated.  They were randomly assigned to either seven sessions with a Dietitian for Dietary Support, or to an intensity matched social support control condition. This study also did an economic evaluation, taking into consideration the costs. After the study was complete, they found that a dietary support intervention was found to be a cost-effective treatment for depression from both health sector and social perspectives. 


We are what we eat


In Australia, a study aimed to investigate the association between fruit and vegetable consumption and psychological distress in those who are 45 years or older. They concluded that increasing fruit and vegetable consumption could help reduce psychological distress of middle age and older adults. Furthermore, an additional study was conducted that linked depression and anxiety with unhealthy dietary patterns. These studies are a big reminder that mental health and physical health are fundamentally connected and aggravate each other.  PTSD involves oxidative stress, brain chemical irregularities and mitochondrial dysfunction. A change in your eating lifestyle can have a positive influence on this. 


Eating tips for good mental health


  • Incorporate coping strategies that do not involve food
  • Include foods that promote gut health: garlic, yogurt, leeks Jerusalem artichoke, kefir, foods rich in dietary fiber (whole grain and plant foods), and colorful fruits and vegetables
  • Moderate red meat consumption may be beneficial for depression and anxiety
  • Implement sustainable changes, as evidence supports the importance of long-term diet for mental health
    • Swapping out an unhealthy snack with a healthy one
    • Eating vegetables at each meal
  • Limit intake of processed food
  • Follow traditional dietary patterns 


Other PTSD treatments


Psychotherapy Services
DENT Neurologic Institute offers psychotherapy services to assist patients with managing psychiatric symptoms, behavioral issues and interpersonal difficulties. These symptoms and struggles often have a significant impact on the patient’s ability to function as well as on their quality of life. Our providers work with patients and their support systems to create a treatment plan that is tailored to the patient’s specific short and long-term goals.

TMS Therapy 
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) Therapy is a state-of-the-art treatment utilized by our doctors to help treat adult patients with major depressive disorder. The treatment utilizes short pulses of a focused magnetic field to stimulate nerve cells in the area of the brain thought to control mood. This brief painless treatment is performed in a quiet, comfortable setting under the supervision of a psychiatrist and is done while the patient is awake and alert.

Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)
Finally, Dent Neurologic Institute offers ECT for relief of major depression, bipolar disorder and other serious mental illness. We are proud to be the first and only in Western New York to provide this highly effective treatment in an office-based setting as opposed to the traditional hospital setting. Our welcoming atmosphere helps ease the anxiety and tension that often accompanies patients who undergo ECT.  

If you or someone you know is looking to see one of our medical professionals, call 716-250-2000 or learn more by clicking here.






The content of this post is intended for general educational and informational purposes only; it does not constitute medical advice. Readers should always consult with a licensed healthcare professional for diagnosis and treatment.


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