Another thing to consider on our quests to stay healthy...

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SusanJ
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Another thing to consider on our quests to stay healthy...

Post by SusanJ »

We tend to talk a lot about genetics and diets here, but we also know that some folks with not so nice genes and diets stay relatively healthy. Heads up, this is another long post, but I wanted to share information about a book I just finished, which has put me on a very different healing path for the near term.

The Last Best Cure by Donna Jackson Nakazawa (the science writer who also wrote The Autoimmune Epidemic)

We know we are emotional beings living in physical bodies. Science shows that if we can move our emotional state from anxiety and pain to joy and well-being, then levels of inflammatory biomarkers and stress hormones decrease. Tools like meditation, yoga and acupuncture can help to that end. The book looks at the author’s own experience with (and research into) how non-traditional healing methods can be used as tools to influence our health. Nakazawa, who was quite ill at the start, did one year of following these methods, and with no other changes in her life saw incredible changes to her biomarkers and overall health.

Here’s what the science shows. Sometimes a harmful brain-body stress cycle gets set in place during childhood trauma, which then can be further triggered by present-day stressors, sparking the same stress reactivity and inflammation cascade. Emotional and/or physical abuse in particular sets in place a pattern of inflammation and cellular aging that “casts a long shadow on our health.” Hyperarousal at an early age causes epigenetic changes in the brain, especially genes that govern our stress hormone receptors by disabling genes that govern stress hormone production and should normally regulate response to stress. Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are the reason and a long term study showed childhood trauma is a strong predictor of adult illness.

The study found that over 60% of us have an ACE score of 1. 40% have 2. And get this, ACEs cause profound physical changes to our hippocampus - for those with ACE scores, we have 6% smaller volume than those with ACE scores of 0. It also reduces the function of the emotional processing center of the hippocampus.

Here’s what the ACE questions look at:

Did you live with any of the following conditions before 18:
- emotional or physical neglect, recurrent physical abuse, recurrent emotional abuse, sexual abuse?

Were any individuals in your household:
chronically depressed, mentally ill, institutionalized or suicidal; alcohol or drug abuser; incarcerated; treating your mother violently?

Did you live with only one or no biological parents?

The higher the score, the worse your adult health outcome will be. People with a score of 7 or higher, who didn’t drink or smoke and were not overweight had a 360% higher risk of heart disease. And the earlier the trauma, the more damaging it would likely be. And no one category appeared to cause more damage than another. The one exception was that recurrent humiliation seemed to have a slightly higher statistical correlation to adult illness. ACE researcher Felitti showed that for each ACE score a women has, their likelihood of being ill and hospitalized with a range of autoimmune disease increase by 20 percent.

I have an ACE score of 3 (recurrent emotional abuse, emotional neglect and a chronically depressed, undiagnosed bi-polar parent). I also have RA, vitiligo and IBS.

My biomarkers - I may have low CRP and other inflammatory markers (definitely due to diet changes, meditation and let’s hope those expensive psychotherapy sessions helped some) but I still seem to have some sort of “cortisol steal”. Getting my hormones in balance has been nearly impossible. I can easily tip over into over-stressed mode and it takes me way too long to recover. So, as I was reading, I was also thinking maybe that brain-body stress cycle set up in childhood might be the culprit.

And here’s what sparked something for me. Nakazawa wrote that her meditation instructor asked her to focus in meditation on, what is that rising thought about? Is it a habit of mind? Label the associated feeling.

I labelled my persistent thoughts with the word “plan” because they were mostly “I need to remember to...” during my morning meditation. Why? Because it gives me a feeling of being in control. That was my ah-ha moment. I am a planner. Every day, I have the plan for the day. If I don’t have a plan, I feel anxious. Because I will no longer be in control. My outward response as an adult was to become the uber-planner, the overachiever, and haunted constantly by perfectionism.

Here’s the kicker. I have worked on some of my childhood related habits of mind (perfectionism in particular), but I never touched on the deeper habits of mind that have been trying to keep my world from spinning out of control. And those untouched habits of mind point squarely at my ACEs.

If you have an autoimmune disease, and especially if you are a woman with AI disease that seems stubbornly stuck at some level, this book could very well have information that might shed new light for you, as it did me. If you think ACE couldn’t apply to you (hey, we all had tough childhoods is what I used to think), here is what one of the researchers said,
“The ACE Study participants were average Americans. Eighty percent were white (including Latino), 10 percent black and 10 percent Asian. They were middle-class, middle-aged, and 74 percent were college-educated. Since they were members of Kaiser Permanente, they all had jobs and great health care. Their average age was 57.” As Anda has said: “It’s not just ‘them’. It’s us.”
Here’s a good intro to this study.

http://acestoohigh.com/2012/10/03/the-a ... ty-clinic/

So, I’m going to clear the decks a bit, and focus on healing more habits of mind born of my childhood that most likely still have a chokehold on my health. I’ll be checking in to the forum from time-to-time but probably just not be as active for awhile.

ACEs is about me to paraphrase Dr Anda, and it might be about someone else in our community, and I hope my post might help that someone else who might be stuck.
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Julie G
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Re: Another thing to consider on our quests to stay healthy.

Post by Julie G »

Really interesting, Susan. The mind/body connection is incontrovertible. I score a 3 as well. Most in my helping profession joke that we are wounded healers. You've given me another avenue to explore- thank you. I hope you stay in touch, my friend. I'm sending good energy.
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Re: Another thing to consider on our quests to stay healthy.

Post by Julie G »

Bolstering this theory, CNN just put this out:

Spanking the gray matter out of our kids
http://www.cnn.com/2014/07/23/health/ef ... dium=email
Science tells a different story. Researchers say physical punishment actually alters the brain -- not only in an "I'm traumatized" kind of way but also in an "I literally have less gray matter in my brain" kind of way...

What is spanking associated with? Aggression. Delinquency. Mental health problems. And something called "hostile attribution bias," which causes children, essentially, to expect people to be mean to them.

This bias makes the world feel especially hostile. In turn, children are on edge and ready to be hostile back. Over time, across cultures and ethnicities, the findings are consistent: Spanking is doing real, measurable damage to the brains of our children.
...and yet institutionalized corporal punishment is legal in nineteen states :shock:
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Re: Another thing to consider on our quests to stay healthy.

Post by Gilgamesh »

Julie, thanks for the link, and, Susan --
SusanJ wrote:We tend to talk a lot about genetics and diets here, but we also know that some folks with not so nice genes and diets stay relatively healthy. Heads up, this is another long post....
No heads up or "buts" needed! Another great, long, explanatory SusanJ post! Your MTHFR thoughts sent me back to the woodshed, where I will remain for at least another few weeks as I do research. I think it's back to the woodshed for me on autoimmunity, as well.

I've had a lot of autoimmune-related conditions -- though never anything really serious, or never anything that's more than a mild variant of such a cond.: CFIDS, but mild. Crohn's: had only the first flare-up, then went on CR, and have been essentially symptom-free and med-free since [2014-09-15 edit: oops. I spoke too soon: one recent flare-up.]. Borderline Sjögren's syndrome. Very minor Raynaud's, etc.

This is why I did 23andMe: to see what genes were contributing to or causing these problems (then I found out about this ApoE thingie...). I do have some funky immune-related genes, but others in my family with the same genes are fine.

My ACE score is hard to calculate, because there were a few incidents/situations that are borderline or that happened in my mid-teen years, when they probably wouldn't be as determinative. But whatever the actual number is, I definitely experienced things that would make the effect the equivalent of an ACE score of 2 or so, I'd guess. That's not really high, but it might be enough to explain why my not so great immune-related genes were switched on.

So much to think about here. I think I'll buy the e-version of the book right now, download it to my smartphone, and head to the park to read!

GB
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Re: Another thing to consider on our quests to stay healthy.

Post by circular »

SusanJ thanks for this, and Juliegee for that article. I had downloaded the Kindle version some time back and read the beginning, then not had time to finish it. I am at least a three. Need to get back to finishing that book.
ApoE 3/4 > Thanks in advance for any responses made to my posts.
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Re: Another thing to consider on our quests to stay healthy.

Post by Doctor Lost »

wow, this explains a lot. Thanks Dad.
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Re: Another thing to consider on our quests to stay healthy.

Post by sarahb12 »

I think these brain changes are at least partly due to methylation under stress. My hope was that since the genes can be toggled off and on, that we would be able to figure out how to undue methylation damage. In the case below, they found one way. Don't know if it is fit for humans. I knew I had read it, but it took me a while to find the article. Luckily, I had posted it on facebook.

http://discovermagazine.com/2013/may/13 ... your-genes

"Once a pup had grown up into adulthood, the team examined its hippocampus, a brain region essential for regulating the stress response. In the pups of inattentive mothers, they found that genes regulating the production of glucocorticoid receptors, which regulate sensitivity to stress hormones, were highly methylated; in the pups of conscientious moms, the genes for the glucocorticoid receptors were rarely methylated." “It was crazy to think that injecting it straight into the brain would work,” says Szyf. “But it did. It was like rebooting a computer.”

......

"To test that possibility, Meaney and Szyf took yet another litter of rats raised by rotten mothers. This time, after the usual damage had been done, they infused their brains with trichostatin A, a drug that can remove methyl groups. These animals showed none of the behavioral deficits usually seen in such offspring, and their brains showed none of the epigenetic changes."
E3/E4
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SusanJ
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Re: Another thing to consider on our quests to stay healthy...

Post by SusanJ »

Reviving this thread for two reasons.

Nakazawa has a new book called "Childhood Disrupted", which is a more general (and less personal look) at how childhood stress sets one on a path of adult disease. Much more information about the science and strategies to reverse the damage. I highly recommend it over her "Last Best Cure" book.

Second there is a new study in Clinical Epigenetics looking at what pathways get torqued by childhood stress.

High cortisol in 5-year-old children causes loss of DNA methylation in SINE retrotransposons: a possible role for ZNF263 in stress-related diseases
http://www.clinicalepigeneticsjournal.c ... 1/abstract
Our results show that stress in preschool children leads to changes in DNA methylation similar to those seen in biological aging. We suggest that this may affect future disease susceptibility by alterations in the epigenetic mechanisms that keep retrotransposons dormant. Future treatments for stress- and age-related diseases may therefore seek to target zinc-finger proteins that epigenetically control retrotransposon reactivation, such as ZNF263.
The thing that makes me sad is some doctors don't believe in the adults effects of unpredictable stress in childhood. A friend of mine and I have been talking about this topic lately (she read the book) and when she mentioned it to her Dr. Daughter-in-law, Dr. DIL she said she didn't believe in the impact of anything from someone's childhood. Sigh...
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Re: Another thing to consider on our quests to stay healthy...

Post by marthaNH »

Good grief, sigh, indeed! (Is someone in denial?)
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Re: Another thing to consider on our quests to stay healthy...

Post by Gilgamesh »

Susan, thank you so much for introducing (and now re-introducing) me/us to this topic. I've done a couple informal online tests of my childhood stressors and got a mixed result: loving integral family, but something very bad in my late pubescent years. Everyone in my family has now done 23andMe. No serious immune/autoimmune SNPs. My Dad has minor grass allergies, my Mom minor rheumatoid arthritis, but otherwise my parents have no immune problems. Yet my sister and I are health disasters. My sis also had trauma in early teen years. I sometimes think good psychotherapy might be the best thing I could do for my physical health, since it could have such a powerful epigenetic effect. But if there's a pill that effectively targetted "zinc-finger proteins", I'd take it!

GB
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