Your Brain on PTSD. Your Stomach on PTSD?


I think that PTSD, or “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder” is most often associated with war veterans, but anyone who has been through any kind of trauma can end up with PTSD. I have more than a few symptoms that seem to cycle in and out. It can feel like I’ve conquered one or more, then the symptoms show up again.  There are three that I’ve had continuously since my early twenties, and some that I’ve had longer: anxiety and tremors, insomnia and other sleep issues, and fatigue. There are many more that I could list, but for now I’ll leave it at those that I’ve dealt with the longest.

But not all of them come from the brain, at least not directly. It’s common for those with PTSD to have problems with digestion. I only learned this a few months ago, after years of dealing with it. During my divorce about ten years ago, my stomach hurt nearly all the time for over a year. I was told that it was stress. It stopped, and only came back occasionally, during times of stress. Then this past year it got worse, and a few months ago it seemed like everything I ate made me sick. There are times when I can’t keep much in me. It’s called IBS. (You can look it up if you like, I’d rather not describe it.) Even though I had to go gluten-free about 18 years ago, and found out that I was lactose intolerant just prior to that, I could be strict with both of those issues and still get very sick for a couple of days. I could go into a lot of detail about the elimination diets I’ve been on (which were helpful) as well as the several times I’ve tried the Candida diet (for me, not so helpful), but I’ll leave it at that. And for those who think that no one really needs to go off gluten and that it’s just a “fad,” I wouldn’t try saying it to my face. It may be a fad for some, but when I stopped eating it 18 years ago, most of the doctors I went to for my fatigue had never heard of it, but it made an enormous difference for me. Several years later I was also able to see a doctor at UCLA who was on the National Board for Celiac Disease.

There are those who say that IBS is not affected by stress. The lives of thousands of people with IBS say otherwise. I’ve been managing it by going on the FODMAPS diet, which frankly is even more complicated than going gluten-free. I frequently have no idea what I’m going to eat, because if you talk to a few hundred others dealing with IBS on Facebook, they’re all “triggered” by different things. The different medical centers who list the “can and can’t eat” of the FODMAP diet online don’t agree on everything (try John Hopkins’ and Princeton’s lists for a comparison.) It means more elimination diet and having to accept that I’ll get sick sometimes. Because I’m hungry nearly all the time at the moment (but losing weight, yay….?) I still experience difficulties cooking at times because I’m going through medication changes and I often feel confused. I used to struggle being in the kitchen with someone else, but these days it’s helpful because having someone there helps keep me focused. Usually. If they try to give me to much unasked for advice, I just get confused and my mind goes blank.


By Mariana Ruiz Villarreal(LadyofHats) (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


About pickleclub1971

I'm a single mom of 2: a Southern CA native, who transplanted to Utah 4 years ago. I have one 18 year old who is off to the Ivy League, and one 14 year old who is in high school. I served an LDS Mission to Southern France and I’ve also lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, Idaho, Northern Arizona, and New Hampshire. I love 80’s music, classical music, choral music, playing the piano, singing, speaking what French I still remember, and talking about history and music with whomever will listen. I love that my kids are better at math than I was at their age. (But they still get frequent historical references from me…anyone familiar with Ducky from NCIS? He’s that kind of medical examiner, I’m that kind of mom.) My kids also think I know all the lyrics to all the songs from the 80’s, mainly because I’m good at making them up and faking it when I don’t know. Sometimes they catch me. I’m currently disabled with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). I want to get better (of course) and be an advocate for trauma survivors and others with mental illnesses. I like people in general. I suffer from the delusion that I can make everyone my friend, but of course that isn’t possible: but I still believe that the world can be a better place.

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