The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study that appeared in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine in 1998was groundbreaking because it made the connection between childhood trauma and chronically sick adults. The ACE study covers 10 types of childhood trauma and since then more have been added to the list. It succeeded in linking adverse childhood experiences to ill health in adulthood. Early life trauma creates more tissue in the emotional part of the brain that creates a physiological cascade that affects mood and inflammation often manifesting in chronic pain.
Maureen came with what she described as a debilitating struggle with energy after a viral infection five years previously as revealed by an antibodies test. She also explained she had muscle and joint pain and poor concentration. She had trouble getting to sleep at night and would wake up groggy and unrefreshed in the morning. She felt that she would succumb to subsequent infections easily and often had a sore throat.
She also had digestive issues suffering from acid reflux and bloating. A hematology profile revealed that an inflammatory marker, C Reactive Protein, was at the high end of range suggesting the presence of chronic low grade inflammation. Her LDL cholesterol was also 3,30 and so slightly out of the range of 3,00. Her anamnesis revealed that she had been raped as a child.
As we are all so individual, a healing journey requires a targeted –multimodality approach to address the dysfunctions in the system. The natural physiological-anatomical response to trauma is that the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex shrink and the size of the amygdulla (the emotional part of the brain) increases. The emotional brain is linked up to the immune system through hypothalamus which activates the immune system via the sympathetic nervous system. This explanation via a deep learning process that is a normal stress response was very helpful to the client as it reduced the fear that there might be something clinically wrong with her physiology.
Constant activation of the immune system via the sympathetic nervous system is costly in terms of the body’s energy currency adenosine tri-phosphate and so chronic fatigue is often the result. In a way it can be seen as a survival strategy so that we cannot expend energy when it is needed for an activated immune system. Our second task was to employ lifestyle measures through food, exercise and supplements to improve energy. Much of our food tends to be either pro-inflammatory or anti-inflammatory so we took steps to reduce any inflammatory foods.
Maureen also did an expressive writing exercise that allowed her to process what had happened to her without reliving the trauma. Memories are stored in the ‘emotional’ brain in childhood before our‘ cognitive’ brain develops. The exercise allowed her to process her experience in a way she had not been able to do before. Once we had restored energy levels we then focused on supporting the gut which was already showing fewer symptoms due to the removal of inflammatory foods.
After six months Maureen realized that she was no longer chronically fatigued and she rarely got back pain. Her inflammatory marker had come down to 2.0and her LDL cholesterol was 1.7.