During my first call with a client diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, she listed off all the things her specialists advised her to follow. The list included a highly restrictive “no fun” diet, as she called it. This was followed by warnings about being around crowds of people or potential environmental triggers as well as being hyper vigilant about flare ups.
The amount of fear she was living in was insurmountable. She was afraid of her own body and feared for the worst if she didn’t follow the protocols.
Out of all the specialists she had seen, no one asked about her mental health or what challenges she had experienced throughout her life.
Like so many of the autoimmune clients I’ve treated, her history included being bullied, not feeling heard or fully accepted by her parents, living a life built around someone else’s passion and experiencing the sudden deaths of several people close to her.
When we began to heal and release the energy held in her body from these traumas, her symptoms vastly improved, so much so that she started traveling to new places without first researching the location of the nearest emergency room.
So many people experience the symptoms of autoimmune conditions indefinitely because we’re placing our focus on treating symptoms instead of healing the root cause of these conditions.
Uncovering the Root Cause of Autoimmune Conditions
Unaddressed childhood trauma and the energy imbalance that results is often the root cause of autoimmune conditions.
Traumas are any experiences big or small that had a negative impact on you, changed the way you viewed yourself or the world and created energy imbalances or blocks in the body. These experiences are often sources of hurt, guilt or shame. A trauma can be something big like going through a divorce, losing someone you love, serving in a war or experiencing a car accident.
Smaller traumas often fly under the radar, even though they can affect the body just as much as larger ones. These can be things like not feeling safe to express who you truly are, being criticized, judged or bullied as a child, being told there is not enough money or resources, playing the mediator between two parents or believing that to be loved and accepted you must be a good girl or to put other people’s needs above your own. Being told to “suck it up” or “just get over it” as kids can compound the feeling that something is wrong with us or create feelings of shame over time.
It’s important to keep in mind that what one person’s body identifies as a potential threat or a trauma, might not register the same to someone else, even if both people witnessed the same experience together. We each have a unique nervous system.
In my autoimmune clients, I often see similar patterns of trauma, which can stem from feeling invalidated from an early age, which can lead to having difficulty speaking up, expressing your needs and advocating for yourself. For some, there is a past history of rape or sexual abuse. For others, the core wound is not being accepted for who you are, like something is inherently flawed in you. This can lead to perfectionism or feeling like you must do for others in order to receive love, at the expense of your own dreams, desires and energy. There can also be a drive to always succeed or even overcompensate in order to receive validation and love.
How Trauma Affects the Body
Trauma essentially creates a cracked foundation on your house. When you try to build your life on this foundation, it cannot support it. There’s a weakness. Things may appear stable at first, but ultimately, they fall apart because the structure can’t support new changes and growth.
Treating autoimmune by adjusting someone’s diet or limiting their exposure to a trigger is like repairing a cracked window or reinforcing a broken door. You might experience temporary relief, but the foundation is still compromised. I like to address these symptoms to help provide short term relief, but we must also look at the underlying unprocessed energy and emotions that are responsible for the cracked foundation.
Trauma lives in the cells and organs of the body. It is a weight we carry and it only increases over time, until it becomes unbearable. That’s when the body responds with symptoms in order to get your attention.
Trauma is more than something that just happened. It’s a physiological process that overwhelms the body, affecting your perception, response, reaction and behavior. It impacts your heart, nervous system and immune system. It literally changes the way your body sees and responds to the world around you. On the heels of traumas, even if it is decades later, your body is constantly scanning your environment for danger and hyper alert to even the smallest threats.
When you look at this way, your body is simply trying, at all costs, to protect you from further danger. I find healing becomes much smoother the moment you can shift your view from “battling against” this autoimmune condition, to thanking your body for protecting you and working together to heal.
On the other side of healing is growth. Traumas are catalysts for our growth. They aren’t meant to be carried with us forever or keep us feeling broken. They may feel like a mountain to climb, but when you are ready, you will always be presented with a trail.
Continue on to read Part 2, where we dive into the underlying factors of gut issues and why they’re so prevalent with autoimmune. We also look at one of the biggest factors that holds people back from healing that is rarely discussed. If you’re interested in diving deeper into your autoimmune symptoms and learning how to identify how your past is affecting your present health, join me inside the 4-week group program Thrive! Uncovering the Root of Autoimmunity.