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Stress You Experience Before You’re an Adult Can Have Massive Influence on Your Health

April 02, 2009 | 36,165 views
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teenager, stressStressful times during your teenage years exact a physical toll that can have implications for health during adulthood.

In a study teens who self-reported various negative interpersonal interactions, such stress was associated with higher levels of an inflammatory marker called C-reactive protein, or CRP. CRP has been identified as an indicator for the later development of cardiovascular disease.

The study looked at a total of 69 adolescents who completed a daily diary checklist each night for 14 days. In it, they reported any experiences of negative interpersonal interaction with family, peers or school personnel. Blood samples were obtained an average of eight months later and assayed for circulating levels of the CRP protein.

The researchers found that daily interpersonal stress experienced during the high school years was associated with elevated levels of inflammation, as measured by higher levels of CRP, even among normal, healthy teens.
 

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

In my experience with patients with serious chronic illnesses, the vast majority have previous emotional stress that contributed to their problem. And for most of the serious illnesses, the trauma stems back to their childhood.

It is important to understand this process actually starts even before you are born, while you’re still in the womb. The evidence is very clear, for instance, that infants whose mother’s were depressed while pregnant are more likely to be irritable and sleep erratically, show diminished responsiveness, and may develop problem behaviors during their early elementary school years.

I also believe that there is a link to the father's stresses, and these frequently are transferred to the child as well.

In fact, a major conclusion of the last decade of developmental neuroscience research is that the infant brain is designed to be molded by the environment it encounters. In other words, babies are born with a certain set of genetics, but they must be activated by early experience and interaction.

When a baby enters into a loving, caring environment with its mother particularly but also its father, this first relationship imprints the child’s nervous system for life.

On the other hand, a lack of stimulus and touch very early on causes the stress hormone cortisol to be released, which creates a toxic brain environment that can damage certain brain structures.

According to James W. Prescott, PhD, of the Institute of Humanistic Science, and former research scientist at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, sensory deprivation among infants deprived of their mothers results in behavioral abnormalities such as depression, a lack of impulse control, violence, substance abuse, and an impaired immune system.

Your Childhood and Teen Years Also Impact Your Later Health

Once you reach your childhood and teen years, your body is still rapidly absorbing the emotional experiences you go through. If those experiences are traumatic, it can negatively imprint you for life.

Women who were sexually or physically abused as children, for instance, may have alterations in their brain chemistry that make them prone to depression and anxiety. Researchers have also identified at least four abnormalities in the brain that are much more prevalent in adults who had been abused and neglected as children.

But as this latest study showed, it doesn’t take serious physical or sexual abuse to cause these changes. Even normal “everyday” emotional experiences, like fighting with your parents or peers or being teased at school, can shape your future health.

Teens who reported more of these types of stressful events -- the type nearly everyone goes through -- had higher levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker for inflammation that’s linked to an increased risk of heart disease.

Still, the more serious the trauma, the greater your risk as an adult becomes.

The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study, which is perhaps the largest scientific study to examine the relationship between childhood trauma and health, found that both the prevalence and risk increased for severe obesity, physical inactivity, depressed mood, and suicide attempts as the number of childhood exposures to trauma increased.

The study also found a significant relationship between the number of childhood trauma exposures and the following disease conditions in adults:

• Ischemic heart disease
• Cancer
• Chronic bronchitis or emphysema
• History of hepatitis or jaundice
• Skeletal fractures
• Poor self-rated health
In my experience, timing also plays a role, and the earlier the abuse occurs the more likely it is to have a negative impact on your health.

How to Resolve Your Emotional Traumas

Just because you had an emotionally trying childhood, or had some emotionally turbulent years as a teen, it does not mean your health is destined to fail. It does, however, highlight the importance of regularly dealing with, and healing, your emotions.

Your first instinct to resolve childhood trauma may be to see a conventional psychotherapist, but in my experience, while the therapists clearly mean well, most of the time they are not able to facilitate complete resolution of the deep wounding.

Doing this requires dealing with your emotions on a deeper energetic level, and actually repairing the damage that’s been done.

There are a number of very effective options that you can choose from. In my experience, though, one of the most effective techniques for doing this is called the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), which is an emotional version of acupuncture, without the needles.

Instead, you stimulate well established meridian points on your body by tapping on them with your fingertips, while voicing positive affirmations.

The idea is that negative emotions are caused by imbalances in your body's subtle energies (the Chinese call it Chi) and this tapping serves to restore that balance. Properly done, even the heaviest trauma becomes "just something else that happened.”

In minor cases, you can actually perform EFT on yourself, but in severe cases I would highly recommend you seek out a trained EFT professional. The official Web site for the Emotional Freedom Technique provides a list of certified EFT practitioners around the world, plus helpful advice on how to choose a practitioner that is right for you.

One of the major benefits to EFT is that once you learn it, you can use it daily, even multiple times a day, to handle any stress that comes you way. You can even teach your children to use it.

This way, you’re addressing your emotional stress head-on, instead of letting it linger and fester, and managing your stress regularly and often is one of the most important factors of optimal health.

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