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What does it mean to be 'Trauma Informed'

Updated: Nov 27, 2022

The concept of healing through food and lifestyle- which is the core principle of nutritional therapy- to me, even now is astounding. How natural chemicals in food beautifully compliment the natural rhythms and processes in the body to potentially reverse damage and promote healing, is thought provoking and literally life changing. It is why I do what I do.

I thought this was all there was to it and that I would have the answers for anyone coming to me for support with their health. I soon discovered however, that this is not the case. It was in student clinic, during my final year of studying nutritional therapy, where I met a lady who came to see me with chronic (long term) pain, constant fatigue, feeling stiff and achey all over. Nothing she was trying was helping. On paper ironically she was the epitome of health, eating very nutritious foods and exercising with yoga for a few hours, daily. My mind was boggled and at the time, apart from a few suggestions with how she was cooking and small changes she could make in the home, there was nothing I could offer her as I didn't understand what was causing her symptoms. It was baffling and frustrating.

It was when I came across trauma informed coaching years later, that I understood that it was very likely she was struggling with the events from her past that hadn't been properly addressed. Events that she had talked about during her consultation, but were not within my remit at the time to evaluate and address with her as part of her healing.

Most people don't make the connection from things that happened to them long ago and how they feel in the present. What does something that happened in the past that may even be forgotten, have to do with how you're feeling now?

Interestingly, there are certain tell tail signs that are often ignored or mis-understood, even under intense medical examinations that don't show damage or results on a test to explain otherwise debilitating symptoms for a person.

Signs such as ongoing pain, continual infections, fatigue and low mood, depression and anxiety, weight and metabolic issues, can all be linked to a painful event from the past that the body continues to struggle with.

It can also be linked to certain traits in behaviour, such as resorting to certain foods and alcohol for comfort, staying in unhealthy relationships and overworking, to mindset and attitudes like low self-esteem, feeling guilty or unworthy, not prioritising your own needs, and as a result feeling burnout and confused about who you are and what you stand for.

Difficult relationships can be an indication of historic ACE’s (adverse childhood experiences) and trauma. If interactions with partners, bosses, colleagues, friends, parents, siblings, or your own children feel strained, awkward or volatile and trigger strong reactions, we likely dismiss it being the fault of the other person, or part of your norm that you have no control over changing, which keeps us 'stuck'.

When those frustrations persist, it impacts our wellbeing. So much of this goes amiss in consultation rooms and people struggling with their health are left to feel as though they have no option but to grit and bear it, which can be heartbreaking.

In 1998 a ground-breaking study carried out by Dr Vincent Felitti and Robert Anders clearly demonstrated the inextricable link between the level of adversity and trauma experienced in childhood and the illnesses that emerge in adults. Further studies have shown the direct correlation between the number of childhood stressors and unprocessed traumas to be accurate predictors of major illnesses, such as heart disease, strokes and cancer as well as being linked to a much higher incidence of auto immune conditions and misunderstood multi -faceted illnesses that include Chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia.

If we have had a childhood, we have experienced adversity.

A coach or practitioner who is trauma informed means that the understand the correlation between events from the past and how they may be linked to symptoms, distress or confusion in the now. We forget that each of us are a product of our past and how much that past plays into who we are today. While this can vary from person to person, for some people who feel lost and desperate to understand their body and mind better, this can provide much needed answers and inspire further action towards getting the right help in order to facilitate change and heal.

The word 'trauma' can sound a little heavy, but there are many forms of trauma, from bereavement, moving home, to abuse and feeling overwhelmed, misunderstood or lost as a child. At the time we aren't aware of how to cope and as a way to protect ourselves, the body holds onto these feelings and repeats the same reaction when we are triggered, recalling how you felt at the time of the original traumatic event.

Growing up and living in an environment where this is not corrected, creates a low level of ongoing toxic stress, which affects how we see ourselves in the world, whether we feel confident to try new things or hold ourselves back from. It also determines how easy or challenging we find our close relationships, change, disagreements, work load etc.

How common are ACE’s?

70% of adults have experienced ACE’s and a large proportion of those affected live with the impact every day, experiencing struggles with procrastination, difficulty in relationships with families and significant others. Unprocessed grief, trauma and adversity impacts every aspect of who we become as adults.

This has taken some time to filter through into our healthcare services, which are based on an acute disease model. This conventional model tends to focus on treating physical symptoms rather than exploring the underlying and often hidden causes of ill health.

The great news is that whole nations are now becoming ACE and Trauma aware to intercept the damaging effects that manifest in adults decimating health. The movement started in America and is spreading worldwide. In the UK, Scotland is a leading ACE aware nation, which has created a totally integrated approach to its citizens health with regard to their ACE history. This has infiltrated the fabric of their nursery, primary and secondary education sector, health and social care, NHS provision and their policing and legal sector. Being an ACE aware nation is legislated for at government level, which has meant that children and young people can be fully supported and provided the tools to help overcome these adversities for a better future and healthier society.

This is leading the way for providing a 21st century approach to the welfare of our people.

I am a trauma informed Wellbeing Coach, myself. To find out more about how I can help you overcome adversities and better understand your health, get in touch now to book a free discover call

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