Post Traumatic Stress (PTSD)

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder has become an increasing problem for the military.  The Army Times this month has reported that more soldiers have died due to suicide than in combat.  This is a disturbing statistic.

Many of our clients have served several tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.  www.jamesphillipslaw.com and www.ucmjlawyer.com. They have been highly decorated for their combat service.  The problem is that emotionally, when they come home from the combat zone they are not ready for civilian life.  At home, they exhibit symptoms associated with PTSD.  They become aggressive.  They experience nightmares.  They have violent tendencies.  They are anti-social.  They begin to self-medicate.

I had a client that had all of these issues.  He was court martialed for a series of criminal misadventures, to include grand theft auto, drug use, adultery, etc.  At sentencing, the prosecutor argued that this soldier should recieve the max punishment for his misconduct.  The problem was that this is the typical military view.  Misbehaving soldiers are criminals.  The Military struggles to have a holistic response.

In this case, the judge was presented with evidence that our client had PTSD and that he was a forever changed person from his experiencing in Iraq. Our client testified that as soon as he came home he could not associate with his family.  He had a solid relationship with his wife and baby prior to leaving for Iraq.  Once overseas, he was repeatedly placed in harm’s way.  He was diagnosed with PTSD upon his return from Iraq.  When he got back from Iraq, he sent his wife and baby home.  He then started drinking, smoking pot, and just losing his mind.

 After the prosecutors closing argument, the judge asked “Is that really the government’s position?”  The answer was “yes.”  The judge replied, “well then I will dismiss everything the government just said.”

The reason for this was that this is a ridiculous and morally bankrupt response.  What do you do with these soldiers who have been damaged by their experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan?

We successful used his behavior and his PTSD diagnosis to keep our client from being punished with a punitive discharge.  The problem was that in the end, the Army did not know what to do with this soldier.  He cannot cope with being in the Army; yet, he needs sustained and long-lasting treatment. The Army owes him his long term health care. They owe him a VA disability.  The judge understood that.  The Army doesn’t. 

The only thing his command knew to do was to send him to a court martial.  For them, the soldier’s behavior was criminal.  For us, his behavior was a tragedy that needs to be addressed in a healthier way by the military.  Combat is not going to end.  Ignoring PTSD is not going to stop soldiers from experience trauma.

3 thoughts on “Post Traumatic Stress (PTSD)

  1. “The problem was that in the end, the Army did not know what to do with this soldier.” The Army should have checked his nutritional status. Please consider the following thoughts below. I am not a doctor, just someone who picks up facts and ideas. Ask your doctor what he thinks about the thesis below. For the purposes of this discussion I do not mean to equate PTSD with mental illness, but the treatment for both whether one equates them or not, can probably be benefited greatly by considering the following.

    The thesis: It is likely that some degree of healing of PTSD can be gained with nutritional supplementation, and it might be surprising just how much of a degree.

    In developing the first point of support for this thesis, consider that it would seem logical that one of the effects of stress is the reduction of a body’s supplies of hormones, enzymes, etc., and the vitamins, minerals, and trace elements necessary for health, both mental and physical. It seems logical, too, that this would particularly be the case for the types of stress endured in military service in Iraq or Afghanistan. Stress burns up and reduces hormone, enzyme, and nutrient supplies, and these stress-induced shortages are part of what leads up to and maintains PTSD.

    It’s not just during the time of the stress, it can be afterward, too, an ongoing thing as unpleasant memories return or stimuli trigger learned responses and fight or flight readiness.

    Everyone knows about vitamins, some about minerals, not so much about trace minerals. Trace minerals are needed in tiny, trace quantities. Too much can cause problems, just like too little.

    I don’t know for sure, but would guess that things trace elements are used as catalysts in the body in cells and tissues and glands and organs, to produce important enzymes and hormones. Not enough of them, and you suffer some loss of health. Probably the using up of the body’s supplies of just a few trace minerals ends up causing shortages of mental health hormones. Just read through the charts and lists of vitamins, minerals, and trace elements and the kinds of symptoms and diseases you can get if short on them, or in some cases too much of them. This is where a nutritionist’s advice, along with a doctor’s is necessary before supplementing.

    Second point, medical science has been negligent on the subject of nutrition. Think about this, have you ever heard any PTSD news articles addressing this nutritional aspect? The facts seem to be that the vast majority of MD’s, including psychiatrists, are trained in the use of drugs, not nutrition. Just check out any medical school curricula. Typically, there is not one class in nutrition. A retired psychiatrist once told me that in all his years of schooling, there was one lecture in nutrition. Approximately a 50 minute lecture in several years of education and training. So, consider that “doctors” including “psychiatrists” may be missing a big piece of the picture regarding PTSD treatment, and thus, their toolboxes are missing an important tool.

    Third point, to get it, you will have to research the subject of nutrition and mental health. If you want to speed it up, read the article, “Vitamin Cure?”, found in the May 2005 issue of Discover magazine, and also available at http://www.truehope.com/truehope_bipolar_disorder_press_article_1.aspx and then research further as you think necessary.

    This article is a treasure trove of information concerning mental health, and nutrition. Read and consider the information it contains. This is really the summation and final point of this article, right here, this magazine article. Read it, and you get the point of this essay about PTSD and the nutritional aspect of treating it. There are many aspects to be sure, but this is an important one.

    Why might some soldiers get PTSD and others not, and some worse than others? There are of course many factors, but DIFFERENCES IN GENETICS THAT DETERMINE the assimilation and use of nutrition from food, is clearly one. And one that so far as I have seen, nobody is addressing.

    Just like some people have longer lungs and thus better running ability than other people, it is also true that some people have better nutritional abiity, determined by genetics, than others. Two soldiers can eat the same food, and one come up short on one or more vitamins, minerals, or trace elements. And, sheesh, if it’s gamma-irradiated, keep-for-years on the shelf MRE’s they are both eating!!??

    And if someone does address the issue of nutrition and mental health, don’t let them tell you that if you just eat a good well balanced meal, you will get the nutrition you need. It is hard to get good nutrition in the world today.

    Soils are not managed for trace mineral content, just the major nutrients of nitrogen, phosporus, potassium, calcium, mangnesium, and sulfur, and for some crops born and molybdenum. In the push for increasing yields, the agricultural universities have not done much research in trace minerals. Research done all the way back in the 1930’s, showed soils to be deficient back then. If the soil is deficient, the plants will be, and their produce will be, and so will be the animals, and the people who eat the produce and animals. For an interesting read, check out the book, “Organic Gardening”, published by Rodale Press, back in the late 1950’s.

    This book contains the WWII story of Navy dentists studying dental caries incidence in recruits. They made a map of incidence rate. It turned out to correspond with a soil map of the nation! Most food at that time was grown relatively close to where people lived.

    The further east and south one goes, the more annual rainfall there is. The more rainfall, the more leaching of minerals out of the upper layers of soil and down to the lower layers and out of the plant rooting zone. The further east and south one goes, the more weathered the soils, the less their mineral holding capacity, and the less their mineral content, and the quicker they are depleted of minerals, the lower the mineral content of the food, and thus, the higher the rate of cavities in sailors in the 1940’s. This is just one interesting thing found in one of the chapters on soils and disease.

    This book also talks about how vegetables grown in well balanced soils with healthy microbe populations, fertilized with well balanced compost, have higher levels of vitamins and minerals, than vegetables grown in chemically fertilized and less cared for soil. This was already known in the late 1950’s!

    Today, in addition to the problem of mineral and trace element deficiencies in soil, there is a problem with hybridized varieties of crops.

    Apparently, in the process of crop breeding to seek out desired characteristics like high yield, corn plants with ears at the right height for machine harvesting, resistance to a particular disease, etc., scientists have accidentally bred other things out! Important things, LIKE THE ABILITY TO PULL TRACE MINERALS OUT OF THE SOIL, both in field tests, and in greenhouse trials where the soil was fertilized with trace minerals. The magazine Small Farm Today, once had an article in the column, “The Road Less Traveled”, which talked about research in this field. One researcher said the the hybrid varieties of corn had several times less trace mineral content in the corn grains than non-hybrid corn, and some in the greenhouse trials had none. Livestock will choose non-hybrid corn grain when offered a choice. Varieties of wheat grown early in our country’s history, had as high as 15% protein content. Bread used to be a protein source!

    Well, it’s late and this two-bit discourse has to come to a summary short end. The point is, nutrition should very probably be considered as an important part of dealing with stress and PTSD. It is something I sure would consider.

    1. I greatly appreciate the link to the article provided. As a person who’s been on a recovery path from PTSD for the last decade, I can attest to the importance of proper nutrition and supplementation in overcoming many of the effects of trauma and depression. The traditional treatment for most things these days is to push medications, without first considering nutritional depletion as the cause for many illnesses, whether of a mental or physical condition. Since I had been misdiagnosed several times in my life by medical ‘professionals’ for several serious physical matters, it was natural for me to first seek holistic and alternative options for my depression. I found working with a good alternative nutritional expert to be the first step toward my recovery and have continued to work with one to this day. In addition, continuing my own education about food additives and other harmful ingredients that are continually invading our food supply, I have chosen to greatly enhance my recovery by eating mostly fresh organic and locally produced food to ensure I receive the best possible nutrition with or without additional supplementation. Individuals with PTSD – or any kind of illness for that matter – could greatly enhance their own lives and health by opting for a diet of mostly fresh ingredients (preferrably organic and locally grown) and giving up non- or low-nutritional pre-packaged foods, which serve to deplete their bodies of vital nutrients even more. Good food of fresh ingredients, in any case, does a mind and body good.

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