From the Ranch

From the Ranch

Friday, May 4, 2012

PTSD Information You May Not Know

 When my husband came home from service with the Army in the Middle East among the prophylactic drugs he had been given was "fish oil."  The Army being what it is, he wasn't told why he was being given the "fish oil," it was just, "here, take this once a day."  He thought he was being given this supplement for “heart health.”  Another medication he received was to prevent Malaria.  Seems there might have been an alternate reason for that fish oil.  Fish oil is one of the sources of Omega 3; it is also found in flax seed, and walnuts, along with a few vegetables, but the vegetables do not offer significant amounts.  There are studies that suggest that Omega 3 is preventative for the condition known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  While certainly more studies are needed, this information should be known by not only those serving in the military, but by everyone.

I vaguely remembered from nursing school that Omega 3 had to do with heart health, but when I began doing a research paper on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and its association with TBI,(Traumatic Brain Injury) I came across the true significance of this essential nutrient that the human body does not have the ability to produce on its own. I will cite the article I found most informative and user friendly at the conclusion of this blog.  The first fact that kept me glued to the entire work was the information that 40% of the brain is made of the fatty acids docosahexaenoic acid, (DHA,) Eicosapentaenoic acid, (EPA) and Linolenic acid.  These acids make up what is known as Omega 3.  Linolenic acid is also a part of the bilipid membrane in every cell of the human body.

 I have had Ankylosing Spondylitis since I was fourteen years old, and I had noted that Omega 3 is an anti-inflammatory and began taking it myself about four months ago.  I am nearly sixty years old, and I have never felt this well.  Long ago I had become accustomed to the chronic fatigue, and what the clinical description of Ankylosing Spondylitis notes as "chronic moderate to severe pain."  NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin or Motrin,) a group of drugs including Sulfasalazine, Methotrexate and Corticosteroids, and as a last resort, TNF Blockers, such as Enbrel, Remicade and Humira, are the drug interventions available for treatment of this disease. I won't go into the side effects, but one does not submit to any of these courses of treatment lightly.  I can tell how reduced the inflammation is in my body since I began taking Omega 3 by the reduction in pain, plus my CRP levels, (blood test indicating inflammation in the body,) are lowered.

This function of reducing inflammation is one of the attributes that makes Omega 3 vital in the treatment of brain injury. From the articles I have read, there are major benefits involving function and the healing of injuries to the brain produced by Omega 3.  Not only are they a part of the brain itself, these elements act in the neurotransmitter system.  That is significant in TBI and PTSD both, which our Soldiers are suffering from in staggering numbers. Their exposure to repetitive explosions, which produce TBI, by deduction makes education concerning Omega 3 something that should be a part of every Soldier’s training.  

With brain injury, one of the reasons for cell death is inflammation and edema, (swelling.)   Omega 3 has been found not only to be a part of the cells that make up the brain, but they are converted into anti-inflammatory prostaglandins.  This function is what makes them vital in treatment and recovery after brain injury. They are also significant in recovery from injury anywhere in the body.

For all the years that I worked in nursing the kind of brain injuries I became familiar with are the kind most people understand somewhat.  These kinds of injuries can cause loss of consciousness, either short term or long term, with long term producing what is known as "a coma."  The symptoms are obvious and dramatic.  Auto accidents, falls, and other such trauma produce irrefutable evidence of severe injury, and are sometimes fatal within a short period of time.  Usually there are other accompanying injuries as well.  There is another brain injury that is often encountered in childhood, which is known as your everyday vanilla "concussion."  I can remember having a concussion when I fell off a slide and my head landed on a large rock when I was about six.  I remember throwing up, feeling dizzy, and having a headache, but I have had no after affects.  Visual disturbances such as diplopia, (seeing double,) are another symptom of your garden variety type "concussion." 

When someone sustains repetitive garden variety mild concussions, a condition can develop called Postconcussive Syndrome.  Ordinary concussion symptoms disappear in two to seven days.  In PCS, longer lasting symptoms, such as mood alterations and behavioral changes, fatigue, sleep pattern changes, and poor concentration distinguish this type of brain injury from both major traumatic brain injury and plain concussion injuries.  The syndrome PCS can not only be long lasting, creating life altering symptoms, but it can also become permanent.  Of course our military sustain “concussions” routinely from the explosions they are exposed to.  A Soldier can sustain a mild TBI, (traumatic brain injury,) and not display any signs of injury at all, and be sent right back to combat duty. 

Those in the military are not the only persons affected by Postconcussive Syndrome (PCS), athletes, both amateur and professional can develop PCS.  High school football players are particularly at risk, as are boxers.  When I chat in the social medias where military folks hang out, there are always a few either active duty military, or veterans, who do not believe in PTSD.  They express, in so many words, that they feel it is really just whining Soldiers that can't cut the mustard. That really is such a display of ignorance.  What distresses me most is that some of them appear to be officers in charge of combat units. I had a technician from my satellite internet provider, who was a veteran, tell me that most of the Soldiers applying for disability because of PTSD brag about scamming the government for a hand out.  I am sure that people being people, perhaps there are some who do, but not for the most part.  I have found too much information on PTSD which proves that this condition is in part a biological injury to include  all of it in this blog entry, but I will be posting several entries sharing what I have found.  Tonight I am going to cite the articles I have read so far, beginning as I said, with the one that is most user friendly.  

 Self-education is vital when it comes to health, and that is especially true concerning any involvement in health issues with the military or the VA.  So tonight, while I am no expert on any subject I have discussed here, to me it just makes sense that if you are suffering from PTSD, the supplement Omega 3 might be a consideration for you.  I get mine in the form of Omega 3, 6, 9 from Walmart, and the cost is less than five dollars.  I am careful to choose from the brands the one that is pharmaceutical grade, which has had the mercury removed. Mercury is a problem with fish oil.  It seems our oceans are so polluted that mercury is present in fish, and can accumulate in the body of anyone eating large amounts of fish.   Since the vital requirements of the body include Omega 3, it would be a wise choice for anyone to add this supplement to their diet.  I think you will note a difference in just a matter of days.

Blast-Related Traumatic Brain Injury: What Is Known?
Katherine H. Taber; Deborah L. Warden; Robin A. Hurley
The Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences 2006;18:141-145.

Psychiatric News   |   October 07, 2011
Volume 46 Number 19 page 22-23
American Psychiatric Association
Clinical and Research News

Hormone May Be Long-Sought Treatment for Brain Injuries
Leslie Sinclair

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