It is common knowledge that experiencing trauma can have significant repercussions on one’s health. However, these repercussions are also associated with mental health, such as anxiety and depression. So, which comes first? Trauma or tummy trouble? The answer is complicated.
Trauma affects your brain; we know this with certainty by diminishing the hippocampus, the emotional memory receptacle of the brain. Trauma also affects other organs because the brain and the body are in constant communication.
It turns out that there is a connection between experiencing trauma and the well-being of your gut. The source of the disruption by trauma lies in your gut.
The microbiome of bacteria helps your body to break down food and absorb nutrients. But when that process is disrupted, it can have a significant impact on your body.
Here are six ways trauma can disrupt your gut.
1. Developing Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
According to research, people who have been through trauma are also more likely to develop irritable bowel syndrome or IBS. IBS causes you to have pain in your belly, as well as other symptoms. For example:
Stress hormones are often the culprits. When they are released due to your exposure to trauma, they can harm your gut biome.
2. A Weaker Immune System
Another way that trauma affects your gut is that it affects the levels of certain kinds of bacteria in your gut. These include:
Why are these bacteria important? Because they play an essential role in controlling your immune system. Researchers have noted that people who experienced PTSD also have trouble with their immune system. They additionally would develop inflammation. They are not 100% sure if there is a connection between the two. However, when you have an immune system that is compromised, it’s much more difficult for your body to fend off disease and infection.
3. A Loss of Working Capability
Trauma can also destroy the bacteria in your gut; leading to less diversity in the number and types of bacteria in your microbiome. Why is this a problem? Because your body needs different kinds of bacteria to process foods and retrieve nutrients. Also, as mentioned above, these bacteria play different roles in helping to regulate your body’s other functions, such as the immune system. The simple truth is that with less variety and numbers of bacteria, the less capable your body is able to function.
4. The Effect on Other Body Systems
The microbiome in your gut also influences other systems in your body. For example, the following are impacted:
- The endocrine system, such as your thyroid and the adrenal glands
- Your central nervous system
- The metabolic process
You need these systems to survive. They are responsible for essential functions such as transmitting information from the brain to the rest of your body. Or processing molecules to be converted into energy, such as with the metabolic process. So, what happens when they are disrupted from trauma. Your body can’t take care of itself, let alone help you heal from the trauma you experienced.
5. Early Trauma Can Have a Lasting Effect
Researchers found that if you have experienced trauma early in your life, the effects are carried with you long after the incidents have occurred. For example, one study researched children who experienced disruptions in caregiving and were placed in orphanages before adoption. Some of the results included:
- Those children who had been put up for adoption had less diverse microbiomes than those children who had been raised by biological parents.
- Children in the adopted group struggled with problems such as stomachaches, nausea, and vomiting.
Although the researchers could not be conclusive, the thought was that having these problems early in life could affect the capacity of the children’s brains.
6. The Microbiome and Depression
Experiencing trauma early in life not only leads to a disruption of your microbiome. It also can cause you to develop depression. This would be a big problem, especially if you were exposed to trauma when young. Depression can interfere with healthy brain development and your ability to cope with stress when an adult. It’s as if you are being set up for failure while still a child.
There is a connection between emotions, the brain, and the physiology of your body. None operate separately from the other. Indeed, they are all interconnected. If one is not functioning correctly, then that will affect the other systems as well. Indeed, working with a physician will be important for addressing your physical concerns. However, a therapist will also be crucial for resolving these issues too.