Life Disrupted – Scientific proof stress & trauma changes our DNA

New findings in neuroscience, psychology and immunology tell us that the adversity we faced as children has long lasting, far reaching consequences.  For those of us experiencing this in our own lives this is no surprise.  The real shock is how come it took so long for the medical field to catch up.

Today in labs across the country, neuroscientists are looking into the brain/body connection and breaking down exactly how the stresses we experienced during childhood and adolescence catches up to us when we are adults, because it has altered our bodies, our cells and even our DNA.

Emotional stress in adult life affects us on a physical level, in quantifiable life altering ways. A perfect example of this is when we are stressed, chemicals and hormones rush throughout our bodies and increase the levels of inflammation. That is why stressful events in our adult lives are correlated with the likelihood of getting a cold or having a heart attack.

But, when as a child or teen, we faced adversity, especially unpredictable stressors – the effects were deeper and long lasting as our young brains and bodies were still in production.  When we were put into stressful situations repeatedly with out warning, the stress hormones were repeatedly ramped up and small chemical markers known as methyl groups, adhered to the genes that regulated the activity of stress hormone receptors in the brain.   These changes, then forever hampered our bodies ability to turn off the stress response.

In children who haven’t had this experience, they learned to respond and recover from stress, learning resilience.  For those children who have faced repeated, unpredictable and chronic stress, their bodies went through biological changes that then caused their inflammatory stress response to always stay activated.

John Kaufman, director of CARE research at Yale School of Medicine analyses the DNA in the saliva of healthy happy children and then compared to the saliva of children who had come from abusive or neglectful patrons, experiencing chronic stress.  The children from the second group, showed changes in almost 3000 areas in their DNA and all 23 chromosomes, effectively altering forever, how appropriately their bodies would be able to respond to and rebound from future stressors.

Similarly Seth Pollack, professor of psychology of the Child Emotional Research Laboratory at University of Wisconsin, uncovered serious genetic changes in children with a history of adversity or trauma. Pollak identified damage to the gene responsible for calming a stress response.  Quite plainly, it no longer worked. Effectively meaning there is no off switch for these hormones, resulting in a variety of combined issues in both the endocrine and immune systems (among others).

Experiencing this as a child, changed the set point of wellbeing for decades to come. Children who become adults within this scenario are churning out a damaging cocktail of stress neurochemicals in response to even the smallest of stressors, for the rest of their lives.  Because of the damage as a child, they are always in response mode, always producing these chemicals, setting the stage for full throttle disease in the form of autoimmune disease, heart disease, cancer, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, fibroid tutors, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers, migraines and asthma.

This scientifically proven correlation between having a difficult childhood and facing illness as an adult, offers a whole new perspective for health, disease management and control.

It also shows that truly, our bodes respond to the stresses and traumas we experience as children, in tangible ways that can be seen by outsiders, long after the bruises gone.  This proof shows we are not hypochondriacs, we are not wasting anybody’s time and we are not lying.  We have been hurt, our lives and bodies altered, through no actions of our own and we need the respect and help of the medical community to help us through these situations. It wasn’t our fault then and it isn’t our fault now.

Thank goodness the scientific proof is there for people to see and now act upon.  Better late than never.

 

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