childhood experiences and autoimmunity

Autoimmune patients expend considerable effort finding the right diet, supplements, lifestyle, and practitioner to manage their autoimmunity.

But did you know your experiences from childhood could be provoking your autoimmunity as an adult?

Abuse, belittlement, insults, neglect, loss of loved ones, parental acrimony… the traumas children weather unfortunately become a lifelong “operating system” that has profound influences on immunological and neurological health. Traumas in childhood affect not only physical and cellular health, but also our DNA.

Early traumas make it hard to turn off stress

In a healthy situation, a child can respond to stress and recover from it, developing normal resiliency.

However, chronic and unpredictable stress in childhood constantly floods the body with stress hormones and keeps it in a hyper vigilant inflammatory state. In time, this interferes with the body’s ability to turn off or dampen the stress response.

In fact, research that compared the saliva of healthy, happy children with children who grew up with abuse and neglect found almost 3,000 genetic changes on their DNA. All of these changes regulated the response to stress and the ability to rebound from it.

This means that little, everyday occurrences that might momentarily irritate a healthier person can unleash a torrent of stress hormones and an accompanying inflammatory cascade that predisposes one for disease.

These are the people accused of overreacting and who are rattled by loud noises, bright lights, and crowds.

A disagreement with someone, a near miss on the highway, a restaurant that’s too loud, an unexpected bill — for the person who had a stressful childhood these minor but regular insults create a metabolic environment that fosters and perpetuates illness.

This can include autoimmune disease, chronic pain, heart disease, cancer, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, digestive disorders, migraines, asthma, and obesity.

In fact, this research was inspired by one clinician’s observation that the majority of his obese patients endured sexual abuse as children.

Assessing chronic childhood stress

Researchers studied the effects of childhood stress on later health in the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study, developing a short quiz to assess the relationship between childhood traumas and disease risk.

For instance, someone with a score of 4 (scale of 0–8) is at a significantly higher risk for chronic disease, suicide, and addiction.

Early trauma and autoimmune management

Although traumas during childhood and a higher ACE score can increase hardships and disease risk in adulthood, it doesn’t have to be a prison sentence —the brain and body are responsive to change.

Many therapies have been shown to help heal these traumas: meditation, mindfulness practices, neurofeedback, EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing), cognitive therapy, EFT (emotional freedom technique, or tapping), and more.

Be sure and include your emotional well-being and the health of your subconscious “operating system,” which was established in childhood, in your autoimmune management plan.

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