A trend that I have noticed on my intake forms from new clients over the past 4-6 months is that there are 2 questions answered that breaks my heart.  Both are yes/no questions.

Question #1:  Did you feel safe growing up?

Question #2:  Have you ever been abused?

I can say more often than not, I have seen more ‘Noes’ when asked if they felt safe growing up and I have seen more ‘Yeses’ when asked if they have ever been abused.  And a common ailment in those answers are autoimmune conditions.  Is there a direct correlation?  I wouldn’t rule it out but that’s just based on my observation.

Functional medicine Colorado SpringsI’ve had conversations about this with colleagues as well as I’ve talked about these similarities in my workshops.  But what I didn’t know, is that my speculation has already been quantified.

I was recently introduced to the ACE study.  I hadn’t heard of it but as it was described, I had to go find it.  The ACE Study (Adverse Childhood Experiences) was conducted between 1995-1997 and eligible for follow up through 2005.  ACEs included childhood physical, emotional, or sexual abuse; witnessing domestic violence; growing up with household substance abuse, mental illness, parental divorce, and/or an incarcerated household member.

In an autoimmune analysis based on those results, the outcome was hospitalizations for any of 21 selected autoimmune diseases and 4 immunopathology groupings.  64% reported at least one ACE.  First hospitalizations for any autoimmune disease increased with increasing number of ACEs.  Compared with persons with no ACEs, persons with >or=2 ACEs were at a 100% increased risk for rheumatic diseases.


Follow up of these people weren’t just narrowed to autoimmune conditions.  There were all sorts of chronic disease problems from headaches, heart disease, cancer, and COPD.

The problem isn’t that these childhood experiences are isolated events. Don’t look at trauma as an event.  Trauma is a persistent pattern of dysfunction.  Your nervous system is like plastic and the more experiences that shift that expression into a fight or flight expression, the more you are setup for tissue breakdown.  This shift is mediated by inflammation as a means to help repair.  The problem is when that trauma (persistent pattern of dysfunction) is not recognized or dealt with, the inflammatory/immune response gets imbalanced and persistent, creating a host of other ‘traumas.’

Especially with autoimmune conditions, you need a two pronged approach, especially if you have a higher score on the ACE questions.  You can only get so far by throwing a nutrition, movement, or supplement solution at a psychological trauma cause.  The opposite is true as well.  You can’t out meditate a physiological trauma cause.  While many issue may have had a single event catalyst, that doesn’t mean the damage is over.  When the hurricane or tornado rips apart your city, the cleanup and repair takes far longer than the event actually occurred.

While the event may indeed be traumatic, the real trauma occurs in the days weeks, and decades following.  Don’t assume that because you’re safe now, that there won’t be residuals that need to be addressed both psychosocially in addition to physiologically/metabolically.  If you’re struggling with your health despite feeling like you’re doing everything right you know how to find me.  But maybe diving into your past a bit with some self analysis can shed light onto your current health expression and answer why you are hitting certain roadblocks.

This doesn’t mean that every autoimmune condition has emotional trauma nor does it mean that every emotional trauma will lead to autoimmune expression.  But it does create a connecting theme of understanding your root cause.


  • 1. Did a parent or other adult in the household often … Swear at you, insult you, put you down, or humiliate you? OR Act in a way that made you afraid that you might be physically hurt? Yes No If yes enter 1 ________
  • 2. Did a parent or other adult in the household often … Push, grab, slap, or throw something at you? or Ever hit you so hard that you had marks or were injured? Yes No If yes enter 1 ________
  • 3. Did an adult or person at least 5 years older than you ever… Touch or fondle you or have you touch their body in a sexual way? OR Try to or actually have oral, anal, or vaginal sex with you? Yes No If yes enter 1 ________
  • 4. Did you often feel that … No one in your family loved you or thought you were important or special? OR Your family didn’t look out for each other, feel close to each other, or support each other? Yes No If yes enter 1 ________
  • 5. Did you often feel that … You didn’t have enough to eat, had to wear dirty clothes, and had no one to protect you? OR Your parents were too drunk or high to take care of you or take you to the doctor if you needed it? Yes No If yes enter 1 ________
  • 6. Were your parents ever separated or divorced? Yes No If yes enter 1 ________
  • 7. Was your mother or stepmother: Often pushed, grabbed, slapped, or had something thrown at her? OR Sometimes or often kicked, bitten, hit with a fist, or hit with something hard? OR Ever repeatedly hit over at least a few minutes or threatened with a gun or knife? Yes No If yes enter 1 ________
  • 8. Did you live with anyone who was a problem drinker or alcoholic or who used street drugs? Yes No If yes enter 1 ________
  • 9. Was a household member depressed or mentally ill or did a household member attempt suicide? Yes No If yes enter 1 ________
  • 10. Did a household member go to prison? Yes No If yes enter 1 ________

Now add up your “Yes” answers: _______ This is your ACE Score



Cancel Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.