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That's such and interesting question. I am more familiar with the assertion that vegetarianism causes or is a symptom of mental disorders. This article showed an association, but evidence supported mental disorders preceded vegetarianism:

Michalak, J., Zhang, X. C., & Jacobi, F. (2012). Vegetarian diet and mental disorders: results from a representative community survey. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 9(1), 67.
I've been trying to find information to support persons with history of trauma, especially child abuse and/or neglect, are more likely to be vegetarian, due perhaps to identifying with animal oppression. I haven't found much, but the above article suggests to me there might be such an association (i.e., if the mental disorder was associated with childhood trauma).
I'm not sure I understand the rationale behind vegetarianism as adjuvant treatment for trauma, but I'm certainly curious!
Good luck.
Nancy R. Downing, PhD, RN, SANE-A
Associate Professor
Texas A&M College of Nursing Forensic Health Care
Forensic Nurse
Baylor Scott & White Medical Center
Nancy – thanks for getting back to me. There is no rationale. I am inquiring because my daughter is an attorney for a non-profit that promotes plant-based diets. Given that veganism has been shown to help in a number of other areas, and given the variety of things that have been shown to help address trauma, I was wondering if there was a way to connect the two. I so, it would provide a way for me to team with my daughter by joining my work on trauma with my daughter’s work. Sounds like either the evidence is not there or it has never been explored. If you ever stumble on anything that suggests a connection, please let me know, but regardless thanks for your help. Great website by the way. Dan

Dan -

This is a great question. I've often thought that eating meat is just eating trauma. Same goes for consuming dairy products! We are consuming the cortisol and adrenaline produced by the animals as they are slaughtered or handled during milking. That Native Americans and other cultures have rituals to thank the animals for their sacrifice makes sense. Many studies show our means of mass-slaughter coupled with our carbon-creating meat-based diet are not sustainable. I'm obviously not an expert on any of this. I am very interested however. 

I bet you'll have some good response to this post. Following!

I think we need to be VERY careful in suggesting that certain diets can heal trauma.  Eating disorders are extremely prevalent in our society and show up in many different forms.  And they are NOT at all what the media portrays.  Roughly, over one third of patients with an diagnosed eating disorder have experienced some sort of trauma.   And there are MANY people suffering who do not have a diagnosis. 

If you want to help a patient who is dealing with trauma select a particular diet, PLEASE have them seek the help of a registered dietitian EXPERIENCED in eating disorders.  For anorexia alone, 26 people die EVERY DAY.   Restriction and limiting or eliminating  food groups is inviting an eating disorder.


Hi Everyone, 

Join us on the ACES and Nourishment Community Board to explore these ideas and share research. I do agree with BH Wright that one needs to be very careful about correlating diet and group outcomes, especially since people with trauma are at very high risk for eating disorders which include orthorexia (an obsession with food that one considers healthy). Our organization is considering how to help people develop an emotionally healthy relationship with food that doesn't re-enact  trauma or reinforce disordered eating, while still teaching people about the evidence-based benefits of a plant-based diet.

Last edited by Monica Bhagwan
Dorrie Philbeck posted:

There has been a number of studies, below are a couple:

Vegetarian diets are associated with healthy mood states

Diet and depression



From the Diet and Depression article:

β€œA dietary pattern characterized by a high intake of fruit, vegetables, whole grain, fish, olive oil, low-fat dairy and antioxidants and low intakes of animal foods was apparently associated with a decreased risk of depression. A dietary pattern characterized by a high consumption of red and/or processed meat, refined grains, sweets, high-fat dairy products, butter, potatoes and high-fat gravy, and low intakes of fruits and vegetables is associated with an increased risk of depression.”

Unfortunately, in selecting diets the mindset tends to be all or nothing rather than moderation. If the first article, vegetarians ate lower levels of omega-3 fats (omega-3 fats help reduce a multitude of inflammatory responses in the body). The second article associates a high f/v diet with a decrease risk of depression but includes some fish and meat as part of the diet.

Last edited by Rachael Brothers

I am applying for a doctorate degree in psychology and my research topic is on this very topic. Exploring a plant based protocol within an integrative form of treatment of ACEs to help promote healing, prevention, and intervention. This is not to say that the plant based protocol is the primary therapy, however it is to bring together trauma therapy, nutritional psychology, and somatic therapy to help health the whole self. As research does suggest that adverse experiences impacts the development of a healthy gut among other chronic and immune conditions. I'll keep you posted!

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