Diet and gut health could influence PTSD symptoms, study finds

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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that can develop in people who have experienced a traumatic event.

This event can be something terrifying or life-threatening, like a serious accident, natural disaster, combat, or assault.

PTSD can lead to intense fear, anxiety, and flashbacks related to the traumatic incident.

The Global Impact of PTSD

PTSD is a widespread issue that affects millions of people worldwide, not just those who have experienced trauma but also their families, healthcare systems, and communities.

People with PTSD also face a higher risk of developing other health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes, and even early death.

The Gut-Brain Connection

Recent research has revealed that the human gut, which is home to trillions of microorganisms, plays a significant role in our health.

Scientists have discovered that the gut can affect not only our physical well-being but also our emotions and mental health. However, the relationship between PTSD and the gut has not been fully explored.

A new study conducted by researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health aimed to investigate the link between PTSD, diet, and the gut microbiome.

This research could provide insights into whether what we eat might influence the symptoms of PTSD.

The Mediterranean Diet

The study focused on the Mediterranean diet, which is known for its health benefits. This diet includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds.

It also emphasizes lean proteins like fish and poultry while limiting red and processed meats. Olive oil is a key component of this diet, and it encourages moderate consumption of wine.

The researchers collected data from 191 participants who were part of the Nurses’ Health Study-II (NHS-II). This group included individuals from two sub-studies: the Mind-Body Study (MBS) and the PTSD Substudy.

The participants were divided into three groups: those with probable PTSD, those exposed to trauma without developing PTSD, and those without any trauma exposure.

Examining the Gut Microbiome

All participants provided stool samples twice, six months apart, for analysis. These samples helped researchers understand the microbial DNA in their guts and whether their gut microbiomes remained stable over time.

The researchers explored how different factors, including PTSD symptoms, age, body mass index (BMI), and diet, were linked to the structure of the gut microbiome. They also looked at whether the participants’ diets were associated with their PTSD symptoms.

The study revealed some promising findings. Participants who followed a Mediterranean diet experienced fewer PTSD symptoms. In particular, those who consumed less red and processed meat and more plant-based foods had milder PTSD symptoms.

To understand which gut microbes might play a protective role against PTSD symptoms, the researchers used a method called generalized microbe–phenotype triangulation (GMPT).

They identified a specific microbe, Eubacterium eligens, as a top candidate for potentially reducing PTSD symptoms.

The positive connection between the abundance of E. eligens and reduced PTSD symptoms remained consistent across all four time points tested.

Additionally, this microbe was linked to components of the Mediterranean diet, such as vegetables, fruits, and fish, and negatively associated with red and processed meat, which aligns with the dietary guidelines of the Mediterranean diet.

Looking Ahead

While the study acknowledges some limitations, such as using a short screening scale for PTSD, the results offer valuable insights.

Future research will aim to confirm whether probiotics could effectively prevent or alleviate PTSD symptoms, further exploring the intricate relationship between diet, gut health, and mental well-being.

If you care about nutrition, please read studies about why vitamin K is so important for older people, and this snack food may harm your heart rhythm.

For more information about nutrition, please see recent studies about vitamin that may protect you from type 2 diabetes, and results showing this common chemical in food may harm your blood pressure.

The research findings can be found in Nature Mental Health.

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