Childhood Experiences Can Bring About Health Concerns in Adulthood
During childhood, our brains are growing and forming, and we’re learning about the world around us and how we fit in that world. Unfortunately, for some children, it is also a time of stress and deprivation that can lead to a lifetime of complications with their mental and physical health. The phenomenon of adverse childhood events and the impact on adult health is well researched and understood by many to be a predictor of illness later in life. Preventing adverse childhood events could save 1.9 million Americans from heart disease and 21 million Americans from depression.
When you hear the term “adverse childhood events,” or ACEs, you may think of major issues like witnessing a horrific murder or being abducted and held for ransom. What we do not typically think of is the daily stressors of living with a parent with mental illness or substance abuse disorder, not having enough food to eat every day, worrying about losing a home or actually being homeless, seeing a loved one abused, having a parent in prison or jail, or being sexually abused. There are many well validated tools for measuring the number of ACEs a person may have experienced and scaling the risk associated with those events.
So, what is happening the brain of those with ACEs? The brain itself is like a permanent hard drive of all the experiences we have ever had. Each experience is sensed by our bodies through our five senses and that data is transferred to the brain via the spinal column or cranial nerves. Once in the brain, our amygdala decides if that experience is good, bad, or somewhere in between. Anything that is stressful or that has caused us fear or anxiety will be recorded on the brain’s hard drive as a BAD experience. The next time we encounter that same experience, the brain will respond with a warning to run away and escape or to get ready for a fight. This is the sympathetic nervous system, or the flight or flight response, at work.
Unfortunately, the brain isn’t great at recognizing when the bad experience is happening versus when there are simply similarities to that experience. For example, imagine if you were a child watching cartoons when you were hungry with no food available. You may forever have the feelings of fear and anxiety at the sound of cartoons. This is a traumatic experience response, and it causes a release of hormones and neurochemicals that cause the same response we had initially, only to a non-threatening similar event. Over time, the higher levels of those hormones, like cortisol and norepinephrine, can cause a myriad of health concerns, from high blood pressure and heart disease to chronic pain and depression.
The higher the number of ACEs a person experiences, the higher their risk for mental and physical health disorders as an adult. This includes higher rates of painful conditions and disability, both issues that a skilled chiropractor can assist with through gentle adjustments that are designed to restore normal function to the nervous system. While a chiropractor cannot remove the memories of the original ACEs, they can help the body produce normal signals for the brain to process and the brain, in turn, to command the body appropriately. This is a root cause approach, to ameliorate the signaling that triggers the trauma response. Since pain is a known trigger for the sympathetic nervous system, reducing painful states can also reduce the overall flight or fight responses in the body. You can schedule an appointment today with Dr. Thomas Madigan or Dr. Brendan Shanahan at Vitality Precision Chiropractic in Rochester Hills, MI and get started on the path towards health.