Survivors Speak: PTSD can cause real physical health problems

Guest post by Svasti.

PTSD can cause real physical health problems

It’s a little challenging sometimes to get the facts of life through this thick noggin of mine. For some reason, I’ve a tendency to not believe things are real.

So this whole: yes, my body is sicker than I was aware of thing is taking some getting used to. Of course I knew I was having bouts of exhaustion, but I hadn’t associated that with anything in particular. And thyroid issues it seems, are known to be difficult to diagnose because their symptoms often appear as other things – like depression and anxiety, for starters.

I’ve no way of knowing how long this has been going on, but based on my sketchy knowledge of Ayurveda I’d say it’s been a while. The organs and glands are not the first parts of the body to break down during dis-ease, but they’re also not the last.

What’s been really impressive has been the vast amount of information I’ve gathered from Twitter, including several excellent pieces of advice.

Three of the most important things I’ve learned in the last week are:

  • Chronic stress can cause adrenal exhaustion, which in turn can trigger hypothyroidism and/or the auto-immune version of hypothyroidism, called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
  • Generally associated with thyroidism is some level of gluten intolerance and/or leaky gut.
  • There is PLENTY that a person can do other than take synthetic hormones to sort out this imbalance in the body.
    Here’s one woman’s story of what she did.

Bottom line #1: If you ever had any doubt about the body and mind being one and the same, seeing PTSD translate into a very real physical illness should be all the proof you require.

Bottom line #2: Never, ever, accept the standard western medical treatment without researching other options.

So far it’s been a wild learning curve and I know there’s plenty more to come.

Right now, I’m temporarily taking synthetic hormone medication for one month because it’s part of the protocol my current doctor wants me to follow. I’m not terribly happy about this! After that, I’ll have more blood tests to work out if I’ve got plain old hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s.

In the meanwhile, I’m also taking a small army of supplements including:

  • Olive leaf extract (which I’ve been taking for ages to support my immune system)
  • Fish oil (another one I’ve been taking for ages – good for joints and cholesterol)
  • L-Tyrosine – this made me feel SO. MUCH. BETTER. The almost ever-constant anxiety I was experiencing, that’d flare up without much cause is now gone. Yep, GONE. This is an amino acid and it’s referred to as “neuro-transmitter support”. It is incredible!
  • Liquid iron (better for absorption, and doesn’t cause constipation like the tablet form. Also includes vitamin C in the blend) – related to adrenal exhaustion
  • Magnesium – to support iron absorption
  • Huge doses of B12 and vitamin D – which I am deficient in right now and this is also related to adrenal exhaustion

But that’s not all. I’m working with my acupuncture guy on my spleen/yang energy – which is also connected to the thyroid. He’s gonna give me some herbs and needles to see what can be done to support my body.

AND I’ve started – somewhat fitfully – eating gluten free. I can report that the first few days my body was having a little celebration at the change in my eating habits. I felt like it was literally singing to me!

But I’ve had to work out what’s okay and not okay to eat. Obviously things like bread are totally out (unless it’s gluten-free chia bread!), but other things I’d eat occasionally like dumplings, fries (cross-contamination issues), and even most potato chips are OUT. So is blue cheese (*cries*). My breakfast cereal, which I thought was okay as it was wheat-free, just isn’t. Barley and rye also have to go, you see.

The weird thing is that after even just a few days without gluten, then slipping up with stuff I wasn’t aware of… WOW, my belly hurts! That’d also be me just double checking to see if this thing is really REAL (thick noggin, remember?).

Interestingly, I noticed that I’d been having this sort of tight, bloated pain for a while. Only I hadn’t realised before now that this was a symptom of gluten intolerance. Amazing what we put up with, isn’t it?

So mostly I’m sticking to very simple meals – fish, organic chicken, rice, steamed veggies (drizzled with tahini – YUM!) and salads. Stuff like that. I’ve found a wonderful gluten free breakfast cereal and the previously mentioned chia bread. The other thing I’m meant to do is eat smaller meals more frequently.

Basically, I’m not taking any of this lying down (see bottom line #2). I’ve already got some leads on doctors that work more holistically when it comes to thyroid issues. So once I get my test results, I’ll probably switch doctors because I want someone who knows this stuff inside out and is prepared to go further than just giving me replacement hormones!

Food, exercise, proper rest, yoga and meditation – along with the appropriate supplements etc – all appear to be the way to go.

I’m also doing some work on my self-nurture abilities: today I had an awesome “me” day! Post-yoga class, I had myself a lovely time – getting my eyebrows waxed, a massage, going to a movie, buying some lovely fruit tea, a new light for my push bike, and wandering at a leisurely pace back towards my part of the world.

Game on, people. It’s game-freakin’-on.


Svasti is an Australian woman living in Victoria, Australia and a survivor of PTSD and depression. She developed PTSD in 2005 after a terrorising physical assault, but her condition was undiagnosed for three years. After extensive talk therapy, EMDR and lots of yoga she is now almost 100% free of debilitating flash-backs, panic attacks and the depression that dominated her life for many years. A key message Svasti wishes to share with anyone affected by PTSD is this: don’t neglect your physical health. Seek support not just for your mind, but your physical body.

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