Tag Archives: Brain

025 – Bitter (Not So) Sweet Sugar & PTSD


how-much-sugarWeEatIn this episode we discuss the role of sugar, our brain and recovery… Last week we learn about how running can be a tool for helping us deal with difficult memories.  One of the ways running helps is by increasing a key brain protein, brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).

The sweet white powder we call sugar is in most processed food products.  It has a powerful effect on our brain in producing a short lived pleasure response.  But it can come at great expense.  Sugar has been linked to obesity, diabetes, cancer and other health problems.  But what does that mean for those dealing with Post-traumatic stress?  It is estimated that Americans consume 22-32 tsp. of sugar each day!  An estimate for the U.S. Department of Agriculture says that we consume an amount equal to 31 five pound bags each year!

It has been shown to influence brain function.  In particular BDNF, a key brain protein involved in memories, is negatively impacted by sugar.  In recovering from PTSD we need all the proper neurotransmitter working as designed. Getting sugar out of your diet is not likely to cure PTSD.  But in combination with all the other tools at our disposal it could help further our progress toward victory.



Some resources for further investigation: A CBS News/60 Minutes Report (See how “addicting” sugar can be)


What Eating Too Much Sugar Does to Your Brain http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/neuronarrative/201204/what-eating-too-much-sugar-does-your-brain

Brain-derived neurotrophic factor: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brain-derived_neurotrophic_factor

What Sugar Does to Your Brain: http://www.olsonnd.com/what-sugar-does-to-your-brain/

The Effects of Energy-Rich Diets on Discrimination Reversal Learning and on BDNF in the Hippocampus and Prefrontal Cortex of the Rat  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2042136/

Sugar: The Bitter Truth (The SHORT Version)


Sugar: The Bitter Truth – Dr Robert Lustig, MD, University of California http://youtu.be/dBnniua6-oM

Secrets of Sugar – CBC News


chicklet_itunesrss subscribe Are you drawn to sweets (or other carbs) when you are stress?  I am.

007 Can gratitude save your life?


Hand writes the word thank you“90% your long-term happiness is predicted not by the external world, but by the way your brain processes the world.”  Dr. Shawn Achor, “The Happy Secret to Better Work” TEDx 2011

In today’s episode we:

  • Explore the power of gratitude
  • Consider what we can do to make use of gratitude
  • Discuss how science is trying to reshape memories.


  • Can gratitude save your…job, relationship, life?
  • What about medication?   What if after doing all the right things our brain still do not cooperate and gratitude seems out of reach?
  • Seeing the good, not ignoring the bad.  Gratitude does not deny the bad.
  • Can we change the wiring in our brain?
  • Can an attitude of gratitude help us with PTSD recovery?  It can.  As we adopt a mindset shaped by being able to see what is truly good in ourselves, others, and the world we are in a better position to deal with our traumatic experiences.

Reshaping Memories with Genetics… (see the post on Reshaping Memories)

Gratitude Experiments:

  1. 3 Gratitude Each Day for 21 Days
  2. Journaling One Positive Event Each Day
  3. Exercise
  4. Meditation
  5. Random Acts of Kindness: E-mail/send a positive note

I will be doing #1.

What one or two will you be doing?  What other ways have helped you maintain an attitude of gratitude?

Resources and References:

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Can small actions make a big difference?

Yesterday I forced myself out of the house as the sun unexpectedly peeked through the afternoon clouds.  My lungs were not up to the trek; but I thought I ought to practice what I encourage others to do—take a walk in the sunlight.

In Episode 004 of Healing the Wounds of War we considered the evidence that bright light (daylight in particular) can help our brains function better by stimulating the release of serotonin (an essential neurotransmitter).  So there I was strolling along at my normal snail pace.  I won’t say that I was happy.  Breathing was a bit difficult and my feet (diabetes related) were not wanting to cooperate.

However, shortly into the walk I made a decision to practice some of the things that I know from science and experience that can help our brain chemistry.  On this day will any of this make a difference?

Douglas Fir with blue sky1-1I set my eyes on the stunning beauty all around me.  The rich blue sky dotted with shades of white and gray clouds.  The sunlight filtered through the 120+ feet tall trees and inspired me to take a deep breath.  The aroma of Christmas trees further drew my attention to the beauty of my surroundings.  Thoughts of gratitude started to occupy my mind.  The fresh cool air and the warm sunshine refreshed me in unexpected ways.

Yet my physical reality seemed largely unchanged.  I still had trouble breathing.  My feet still hurt—although I did not notice it as much for a moment or two.  In short most of my body remained the same.

What had changed was my attitude and perspective—my brain.  Not in some radical way.  Rather in a subtle way that allowed me to not just find enjoyment at that moment, but for many moments after the walk.  My mind was a bit sharper and focused.  My attitude was a bit more hope filled and productivity came with a bit more ease.

Sure, this is anecdotal; but it is also in line with what scientist have observed.  The proper amount of daylight may not by itself radically change your life.  Sometimes all we need is that little bit to bump us to the next level; and that just might radically change our life.

What small things help you take your performance to the next level?