PTSD and bellyfat

They say that the signs of “The good life” lies around the stomach.

 Bellyfat comes slowly but surely as one gets older. Or does it? And is it dangerous?The answers are clear. Gaining weight when you get older is not uncommon, but it not something that just happens. 

Inactivity, poor metabolism and poor sleep are the main ingredients in putting on weight as you get older. Inactivity, poorer sleep and general inflammatory conditions in the body also coincide with the diagnosis of PTSD.


Is belly fat dangerous? Yes, it is. Many studies show a clear link between fat and cardiovascular disease.

Here I will try to answer some of the questions about PTSD and fat (around the stomach)

Table of content

Is belly fat dangerous?

The belly fat that lies within the skin around the abdomen is the dangerous belly fat. What accumulates in the liver and can cause fatty liver, and what lies as loose fat and fat lumps between the intestines, can be dangerous to health. – The fat on the stomach is used from day to day and is a short-term store of energy. I will avoid becoming too scientific, and rather link to places where I have picked up the information for those who really wants to dig in. But let’s take it a little further:


Belly fat and inflammation

Belly fat consists of both subcutaneous fat and so-called visceral fat. The latter is fat that surrounds our organs. This fat is more harmful than the fat that settles on the thighs and buttocks 

Fat is not just something that sits on your body, but it is biologically active and involved in the development of disease. Even at a normal weight, increased belly fat increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and premature death

Inflammation process

Belly fat helps to form a chronic, low-grade inflammatory process in the body. Low graded inflammation is the same as ordinary inflammation. The fat cells that surround the stomach form proteins that trigger inflammation, called cytokines. These drugs increase the risk of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, depression, dementia and cancer.

What effect does too little sleep have on belly fat?

We already know that too little sleep can increase the risk of putting on weight. Experts believe that lack of sleep accelerates appetite through hormonal changes. Lack of sleep leads to increased production of the hormone ghrelin, which is known to stimulate the appetite, and lower the production of the hormone leptin, which tells the body of it is full


Chronic stress

Chronic stress can be a contributing factor to fat storage on the stomach. Stress leads to elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which leads to an increased amount of fat and sugar in the blood and which helps the body to more easily stick to the fat on the body, especially around the stomach.

Elevated value of cortisol also leads to increased appetite – preferably on some sweet and easily metabolizable carbohydrates – and thus more deposition of fat around the waist. Cortisol tells the liver to release sugar as fuel and the fat cells to release fat into fuel – directly into the bloodstream.

High blood sugar then leads to increased secretion of the hormone insulin, which stimulates the production of the fat storage enzyme in the fat cell. Increased levels of insulin thus lead to increased fat storage and poorer metabolism. Elevated insulin also leads to increased appetite and especially to cravings for sweets and fluctuating energy levels.


The link between PTSD and bellyfat

Little sleep, chronic stress anxiety… Does this sound familiar? For most people with PTSD, there are unfortunately familiar concepts. It is also scientifically proven that PTSD provides the opportunity for weight gain and with that consequent diseases.

The underlying changes in the sympathetic nervous system and metabolism in people with PTSD are quite similar to the changes seen in people with obesity and diabetes. This mutual similarity increases the risk of developing physical diseases (Rosenbaum et al.,) Low-grade inflammation coincides with changes in behavior, namely mood and lifestyle (Lasselin and Capuron, 2014 )

The specific mechanism that increases the severity of PTSD and mood disorders when changing metabolism is still uncertain, but there are many indications that it is hormonally conditioned. The trauma you have suffered causes your body to secrete hormones that make you do things you absolutely should not do.

People with PTSD have a disturbed sleep pattern and a more unhealthy lifestyle. (Alcohol, smoking, poor eating habits, inactivity.) All of these behaviors are associated with a pro-inflammatory conditiones. (Bryant et al., 2004; Frohlich et al., 2003; Fu et al., 2007; Jamal et al., 2014; Scott et al., 2008). 

Increase in fat due to excess energy intake and reduced energy consumption in people with PTSD may also contribute to the emergence of metabolic disorders in those with PSTD via increased secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokines and GR resistance (Karalis et al., 2009).

This is a difficult way to tell that weight gain can cause inflammatory conditions and there are studies that suggest that PTSD increases the risk of developing metabolic disorders and cardiovascular disease (Boscarino, 2004; Rosenbaum et al., 2015). 

Can Obesity Lead to PTSD?

What is interesting, however, is that although PTSD in the absence of obesity is associated with increased inflammation, a recent study shows that existing inflammation, which is characteristic of cardiometabolic disease, (possibility of blood clots and clogged blood vessels) increases the risk of developing PTSD.

In active military personnel, increased inflammation can arise from behavioral sources (ie, alcohol consumption) and the chronic stress associated with living with PTSD and depression (Groer et al., 2015; Reyes-Guzman et al., 2015).

This increased inflammation may be due to the increasing incidence of obesity in military personnel in active service (Reyes-Guzman et al., 2015), suggesting a mechanism by which inflammation may result in an increased risk of developing PTSD in humans otherwise believed to be in good health.


PTSD a physical disorder or a mental illness?

In the future, treating PTSD as a whole (where the whole body must be treated) will be very important. It has already been suggested that relieving inflammation can provide benefits for people suffering from PTSD and metabolic disorders, and even help prevent the onset of metabolic syndrome in people with PTSD (Michopoulos and Jovanovic, 2015). To begin achieving this goal, we must recognize that chronic PTSD is both a psychiatric and a metabolic disorder

What is PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD, sometimes known as shell shock or combat stress, is an anxiety disorder that can occur in people who have been exposed to particularly frightening and horrific experiences such as aggravated violence, abuse, war and concentration camps, disasters, torture, rape, serious accidents or serious crimes (such as armed robbery).

Mobilization, or fight-or-flight, occurs when you need to defend yourself or survive the danger of a combat situation.

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