Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a potentially debilitating mental condition arising from experiencing traumatic events such as sexual assault, terrorism, being kidnapped or held captive, combat as in military warfare etc. It may also present even after witnessing traumatic events such as train wrecks or plane crashes. Symptoms range from unprovoked panic attacks, easily startled response, flashbacks or recurring thoughts of the traumatic event, nightmares, sleep disruption and avoidance of anything that triggers a reminder or memory of the event. Risk factors for developing PTSD include having a history of mental illness, surviving or living through the traumatic experience, witnessing people getting hurt or killed, feeling helpless or having little or no social support after the event, recurrent concussions, and childhood trauma. Furthermore, brain development and resiliency after traumatic events may also be affected. Failure to recognize early signs of PTSD often leads to depression or other psychiatric symptoms.
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) researchers have pinpointed genes and chemicals that play a role in creating fear memories including GRP (gastrin-releasing peptide), stathmin protein and 5-HTTLPR genes which control serotonin levels. University of California at Berkeley research on vitamin supplementation as an alternative treatment has focused on using mega doses of certain vitamins as intervention for physical or mental health disturbances. Vitamins are essential to your body. They also aid in the regulation of brain chemicals and hormones. People with PTSD experience greater degrees of depression and stress on the body; which affects the desire to eat healthy in order to get daily nutrient requirements. The strategy is to saturate the body with enough micronutrients to stimulate an increase of serotonin, a brain neurotransmitter with a primary role in mood and fear.
New and Emerging Complementary and Alternative Therapies
Natural therapies utilizing a combination of vitamins, herbal extracts, and amino acids have shown clinical success in patients diagnosed with PTSD and other anxiety disorders. These include 5-hydroxytrophan (5-HTP), Mucuna pruriens, 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF), vitamin B6, L-tyrosine, Bacopa monnieri, and gamma-amino-butyric acid (GABA). Vitamin B6, B9 (folate) and B12 are all very important in neurotransmitter support and synthesis. Conventional prescriptive approaches including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), benzodiazepines, and tricyclic’s, though effective, pose undesirable potential side effects including decreased libido and sexual performance, gastrointestinal distress, weight gain and emotional numbing. Alternative and complementary therapy for PTSD, anxiety and depression focus on replenishing these micronutrient imbalances or by saturating the Central Nervous System (CNS) with amino acids and vitamins, particularly, B vitamins with hopes of increasing neurotransmitter synthesis – norepinephrine, serotonin and dopamine.
Newer complementary and integrative approaches focus on non-traditional medicinal options including emphasizing the replenishing of micronutrients to aid neurotransmitter synthesis. This is the fuel that drives the vision behind the development of new natural formulations including “Advyndra™” and other promising alternatives. Todays’ society both in the U.S. and internationally are hungry for alternatives to typical OTC and prescription drugs because of their problematic side effects, which are often worse than the condition being treated. Too often as clinicians we fail to challenge the science behind what we are taught pharmacologically to remedy our patients’ ailments. PTSD and other psychiatric disorders may indeed benefit from a more complementary and holistic approach.
Dr. Germaine Hawkins