Does Your Body Store Trauma?

Over the years I have been exposed to many kinds of healers.  Some of them are like me, science based. Others are far out there using nothing but intuition.  I have to be a little skeptical about this approach although I do not discount it completely.  I have always found that it’s awfully easy to say things when you don’t have to prove it or be accountable.

A personal favorite of mine is, “Oh Well Mercury is retrograde!”  Isn’t it always lol.

Another minor irritant for me is the tendency to endlessly focus on “healing”.  Geez when am I going to be well.  If you listen to the “always healing” people we have all suffered terribly in this life and will spend the rest of it “healing”.  Then in the words of Bill Murry in Caddyshack, we will achieve Total Enlightenment,

Most days I feel fine mentally and physically thank you.

Part of life’s trauma has been the “storing” of bad experiences. Now here is where it gets easier to see some of this stored bad juju.  Just the other day I had a conversation with a professional colleague of mine who squinted his eyes every time he spoke.  While this may be cultural it suggests some kind of defense mechanism to me.

I’ll never forget the conversation I had with a patient who remained obese most of her life.  Any time she lost weight she admitted to sabotaging it and getting fat again.  It was her defense mechanism against intimacy. She had had some seriously bad experiences with men in the past and wanted to make sure she was “protected”.

Then there are the postural abnormalities you see.  The way people carry themselves and walk can sometimes connote bad experiences in their lives.

But honestly much of the above can be leveled at the addictive nature of sweets and carbs and the body’s amazing tendency to find the easiest way to move at any given time.

Trouble is what is easy now may yield a problem later.  I am most convinced about the long term nature of physical damage and the mark it can leave on biomechanics.  For instance, if you have a rip roaring Achilles tendonitis that lasts for several months it would not surprise me if you have a permanent abnormality in the way you walk.  This can be fixed but these kinds of deformities require serious time and physical reeducation by movement specialists to go back to “normal”, whatever normal is!

But now we do have some measurable repeatable evidence that childhood traumas can cause stress on our bodies.  It may not show up in posture, gait, facial expression and so forth but it does show up in the telomeres.

If you are new to this blog you can find out anything you want about telomeres because, as it turns out I am an expert on the topic.  I will be lecturing at a physician conference on telomeres in a few weeks as I have done pretty much every year since 2009.

I also co-authored the book “The Immortality Edge” back in 2010.  It is still a great book and if anything, it is better now than ever since a lot of the unpublished references I used have been published and peer reviewed.  I often say it was true then and more true now!

The telomere segments determine your biologic age- how old your body acts and functions, rather than how many birthdays you’ve counted.

It turns out that a recent study showed significant telomere loss even in young people when they experienced different traumatic types of experiences.  So in a sense your body really does store trauma right down to the cellular and sub cellular level.

Now a few caveats: The study used saliva as a source of telomere material and this is notoriously problematic.  I wouldn’t be surprised if this is somehow yet another push to commercialize a technology that while cheaper than what is out there, is marginal at best for accuracy and reproducibility.

A while back I sent 2 samples to a company who was trying to market this technology.  They took my money and then went promptly out of business because they could not solve their technologic issues.

Another thing to remember is that stress is difficult to quantify.  Several years back one of the authors of this study co-authored another study with Noble Laureate Liz Blackburn.  That study showed much the same findings using a more accepted technology, but buried in the data was the word “perceived”.

This means that one person’s stress is another’s joke.  So in the long run it depends on how you look at things.

Keep that in mind the next time you choose whether to get angry or stressed out about something!

Today’s Health Secret: Don’t sweat the small stuff. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to worry about the real problems in life. But again Mark Twain said it best (I paraphrase) “I spent most of my life worrying about stuff that never happened!”

Keep Smiling and practice if you need to!



Dr. Dave



Reference: Lifespan adversity and later adulthood telomere length in the nationally representative US Health and Retirement Study

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