Did childhood trauma play a role in your autoimmunity?

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.

Mystery symptoms? Lab testing can reveal whether it’s autoimmune

cyrex 5 panel autoimmunity copy

Do you have chronic, mysterious symptoms that drag your life down but your lab tests come back normal? You may have an autoimmune reaction, a disorder in which your immune system attacks and destroys a part of your body.

Autoimmunity can strike any tissue or compound in the body and symptoms will vary based on the part of the body attacked. However, people with autoimmunity have many symptoms in common:

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Muscle weakness
  • Swollen Glands
  • Inflammation
  • Allergies
  • Digestive problems
  • Memory problems
  • Headaches
  • Low-grade fevers

Conventional medicine has yet to fully recognize autoimmunity

Identifying autoimmunity can bring considerable relief. It validates you are not lazy, crazy, or that it’s all in your head, as many people struggling with autoimmunity are made to feel.

Autoimmunity has exploded in incidence in recent years and neither medicine nor society fully accepts it unless it is at its most severe, end stages. Autoimmunity can slowly undermine your health and quality of life for years of decades before it is medically recognized.

This leaves those with autoimmunity alone in their struggle, wondering what’s wrong and why no one will acknowledge their suffering. Identifying an autoimmune process with proper testing provides solid proof for the fatigue that keeps you pinned to the couch, chronic pain, unexplainable weight gain or loss, depression, poor brain function, and other symptoms.

Testing for autoimmunity

You can identify autoimmunity by screening for antibodies against a particular tissue with a blood test. Antibodies are proteins made by the immune system that attach to the affected tissue to tag it for destruction. You can screen for antibodies to thyroid tissue, joint tissue, brain tissue, the pancreas, and other tissues in the body.

For instance, the book Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms? talks about screening for Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune thyroid disease, by running antibodies against thyroid peroxidase (TPO), the enzyme that is a catalyst for thyroid hormone production, and thyroglobulin (TGB), a protein involved in thyroid hormone production. If those values come back positive then you know autoimmunity is responsible for low thyroid symptoms causing weight gain, depression, fatigue, constipation, cold hands and feet, and more.

Screening for individual autoimmune reactions is difficult and costly and conventional medicine does not offer treatments to manage autoimmunity until it is in more severe stages. This is why doctors don’t screen for it more routinely. Also, many types of autoimmunity are still considered obscure. The average doctor will not think to test for autoimmunity the brain, the adrenal glands, the ovaries, or bladder muscle, even though these autoimmune disorders are more common than people realize.

Modern, comprehensive testing for autoimmunity

Fortunately, we now have a lab test called the Array 5 Multiple Autoimmune Reactivity Screen  through Cyrex Labs, that screens for antibodies to 24 different tissues at once much more affordably than running them individually. It can help both the patient and practitioner understand what is causing symptoms.

A positive (or equivocal) response indicates the immune system is tagging that particular tissue for destruction. However, it’s important to know that a positive result does not necessarily mean you have autoimmune disease. It could indicate your body is in the early stage of autoimmunity, which may be silent or causing less severe symptoms. By following autoimmune management protocols you may be able to keep it in a silent or less severe stage indefinitely.

The Cyrex Array 5 panel screens for the following antibodies to indicate specific autoimmune reactions:

  • Parietal cell and ATPase instrinsic factor: stomach autoimmunity
  • ASCA, ANCA, and tropomyosin: intestinal autoimmunity
  • Thyroglobulin and thyroid peroxidase: thyroid autoimmunity
  • 21 hydroxylase (adrenal cortex): adrenal autoimmunity
  • Myocardial peptide, alpha-myosin: cardiac autoimmunity
  • Phospholipid platelet glycoprotein: phospholipid autoimmunity
  • Ovary/Testes: reproductive organ autoimmunity
  • Fibulin, collagen complex, arthritic peptide: joint autoimmunity
  • Osteocyte: bone autoimmunity
  • Cytochrome P450 (hepatocyte): liver autoimmunity
  • Insulin, islet cell, glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD): pancreatic autoimmunity
  • GAD, myelin basic protein, asialoganglioside, alpha and beta tubulin, cerebellar, synapsin: neurological autoimmunity

To learn more about how to find the cause of your chronic symptoms of how to manage your autoimmunity, contact my office.