Read time: 6 min.
Issue 13 * 24 February 2024

Understanding the Gut-Brain Axis: Dietary Strategies for PTSD Relief

Discover how a groundbreaking US study links PTSD with diet and gut health, featuring insights from gastroenterologist Dr Supriya Rao and Goldster's nutrition expert Claudia Le Feuvre on the latest gut-brain axis research.

Claudia Le Feuvre & Dr Supriya Rao

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Gut Brain Connection

A new study from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (both in the US) reveals that PTSD, diet and the gut microbiome are all closely linked. And that participants in the study who were eating a Mediterranean diet had fewer PTSD symptoms. “While further research is needed, we are closer to being able to provide dietary recommendations for PTSD prevention or amelioration,” said co-corresponding author Yang-Yu Liu of the Channing Division of Network Medicine within the Department of Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, recently.

What’s more, it was found that eating red and processed meats was positively associated with PTSD symptoms and that eating plant-based foods was negatively associated with symptoms of PTSD.

Mediterranean Diet

Dr Supriya Rao, a Gastroenterologist based in Boston, US says: “This study comes as no surprise to me and I’m glad to see the gut-brain connection is being studied. The brain and the gut have a strong connection, which is why some people feel sick to their stomach under stress. The gut-brain axis is responsible for linking the cognitive centres of the brain with digestive functions. Studies have shown that these interactions can change depending on the gut microbiota composition. ⁠In my line of work, the gut is often called the ‘Second Brain.’”

She goes on to say that there are millions of nerve endings in your intestines that send signals to the brain. And that the gut releases neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine which exert a powerful effect on our mood and stress levels. “I can’t stress enough focusing on the six pillars of lifestyle medicine for a healthy gut microbiome and therefore a healthy mind” concludes Dr Rao, “exercise regularly, avoid risky substances, get good quality sleep, reduce stress, eat a diet rich in plants and vegetables and low in processed foods and make sure you have meaningful relationships.”

Keys to Managing PTSD

Goldster nutritionist Claudia Le Feuvre also feels this study has promising findings. “It's truly exciting to explore how the Mediterranean Diet may offer potential benefits in preventing and supporting individuals with PTSD,” she considers, and goes on to elaborate on what the Mediterranean diet actually constitutes in terms of food. “ It is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats like olive oil, and not only nourishes the body but also fosters a balanced gut microbiome. We need to make sure we are also including gut health foods such as fermented foods including live yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi which will further enhance our friendly gut health bacteria. These probiotic-rich foods improve gut health, possibly influencing mental well-being.”

PTSD treatments are advancing with some holistic breakthroughs. Keep up with Goldster for the latest health news.