Stress can be a good thing. In can cause us to stretch and grow to learn new skills and handle conflict effectively on our own. Without reasonable, normative stress in our lives, authentic accomplishments would be much fewer.
But heavy, chronic stress can be debilitating, especially when it’s a ongoing circumstance in a child’s development. Scientists are calling these early toxic stress episodes Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACES.
We’ve known for some time about the impact of these experiences on a youngster’s emotional and psychological development. What is new is the research linking Adverse Childhood Experiences to chronic illnesses in adulthood, illnesses like heart disease, cancer and a whole range of autoimmune diseases.
According to our guest on this program, science journalist Donna Jackson Nakazawa, Adverse Childhood Experiences set the intensity of a youngster’s “Fight or Flight” response (including a chemical component called the “inflammatory response”) to “High,” and it stays there. There is no “Off” switch. As Donna explains in this interview and in her book, Childhood Disrupted: How Your Biography Becomes Your Biology and How You can Heal, just about any stress can bring on an extreme reaction, while the inflammatory “cocktail,” still set on “High,” begins to create damage to the youngster’s health and vitality. The picture of their health just a few decades later is often not a good one. (Scientists are now calling this the psychosocial “Theory of Everything.”)
But, thankfully, there is reason for hope and recovery. With therapies and activities available today, as well as changes in pediatric medicine, the inflammatory response can be brought back under control. Donna is here to share this good news, also.
Donna Jackson Nakazawa is an award-winning science journalist, public speaker and author of The Last Best Cure, a book in which she chronicles her own year-long journey to health. She’s also the author of The Autoimmune Epidemic. Donna lectures nationwide and has appeared on The Today Show, National Public Radio and ABC News. Her work has been featured on the cover of Parade and in Time Magazine, USA Today Weekend, Parenting, Psychology Today, and many other popular blogs and magazines. (25:41)
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