Health Psychology Capstone: Biopsychological and Nutritional Aspects of Post-Traumatic Stress
Disorder in Veterans
HEALTH PSYCHOLOGY CAPSTONE
Polyphagia (over eating) is a common problem among those who have known trauma.
This is particularly of Veterans who experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The
biopsychological results of this condition may alter metabolism of important nutrients that can
alter the physiological conditions of the body. The treatment for this type of trauma involves
psychiatric, pharmaceutical, and dietary interventions.
HEALTH PSYCHOLOGY CAPSTONE
Health Psychology Capstone: Biopsychological and Nutritional Aspects of Post-
Traumatic Stress Disorder in Veterans
Recent research has correlated depressive disorders, stress, and trauma with changes in
dietary intake (Jacka, Mkletun, Berk, Bjelland, & Tell, 2011; Jarvis, 2013; Roberts, Campbell, &
Troop, 2013). Based on this research, certain nutrients in the diet were shown to affect
psychological disorders and vice versa (Camardese, 2012; Kroes, Van Wingen, Witwer,
Mohajeri, Kloek, J. & Fernandez, 2014). This means that there is relationship between
psychological health and diet. Consequently, individuals with poor psychological health may be
more likely to consume poor quality diets, but poor nutrition may contribute to compromised
biopsychological well-being (Cleamons, 2015; Gibson, 2006; Quirk, et al., 2013).
The research of Roberts, Campbell, and Troop (2013) and Vieira (2015) related stress to
changes in eating habits. These researchers found that copious amounts of high-starch, high-
sugar foods are ingested because of anxiety in stressful situations. Besides changes in eating
habits, stress also affects the production of the glucocorticoid hormone known as cortisol by
the adrenal glands. This catabolic steroid hormone increases blood sugar, thereby
counteracting the role of the insulin hormone to mitigate hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) and
compromise immunological health (Gropper & Smith, 2012; Pinel, 2014; Randall, 2010).
This means that blood sugars for individuals under stress will be elevated and their immunity
weakened due to increased cortisol levels. Excess intake of dietary carbohydrates, known as
starches and sugars, further increases these hormonally induced hyperglycemic conditions due
to stress (Gropper & Smith, 2012). Excess calories from these carbohydrates can lead to
(2014). Food can lift mood by affecting mood-regulating neurocircuits via a serotonergic
mechanism. NeuroImage, 84, 825-832.
Kubzansky, L. D., Bordelois, P., Jun, H. J., Roberts, A. L., Cerdad, M. Bluestone, N. & Koenen,
K. C. (2014). The weight of traumatic stress: A prospective study of posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms and weight status in women. JAMA Psychiatry, 71(1), 44-51.
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2016). National Center for PTSD. Retrieved from
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overweight and obesity. Retrieved from http://www.healthquality.va.gov/guidelines/CD/obesity/OBESUMC20150106.pdf
Veterans Health Administration. (2015). Providing health care for veterans. Retrieved from
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