While trauma is one of the primary contributors of toxic overload in the body, this connection is often overlooked, misunderstood or understated.
Trauma exists when any unresolved nervous system response stays in the body. What this means is that past, unhealed trauma makes us more susceptible to future nervous system dysfunction; our physical and emotional resilience is directly tied to our self care and a devotion to healing.
When we think of trauma, we typically associate it with emotional or psychological pain. But we also experience physical trauma throughout our lives, even if we’re fortunate enough to never sustain a major injury. For example, the experience of birth is a trauma that occurs with our very first introduction to the world. And many of us have injured ourselves as children while playing a sport or falling out of a tree; while the memories of this pain have long since faded, the physiological impact can linger for many years after the injury has healed.
As the major stress hormone, cortisol is released to activate the nervous system in stressful situations and traumatic events. Cortisol turns off biological functions that are nonessential to the immediate response in order to utilize energy most effectively and reduce reaction time. It suppresses the digestive system, impairs the immune system, and impacts the reproductive system. This is a normal, healthy biological response designed to keep us safe, but when this process carries on for a prolonged period of time (or if we don’t properly heal the trauma we’ve experienced), this protective mechanism begins to impair the healthy functioning of our cells.
The long-term impacts of trauma
Trauma and chronic stress contribute to widespread inflammation and affect regions of the brain responsible for regulating mood, fear and motivation. It affects the relationship we have with ourselves and others and leaves us feeling disconnected from the body as well as the outside world.
Anxiety, depression, agitation, insomnia, dissociation, anger, pain and confusion are some of the most common symptoms that follow exposure to trauma. But what happens to the body long after the threat is gone?
The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis is a neuroendocrine mechanism that functions to maintain physiological homeostasis. The HPA axis is the body’s central response system and the mechanism that connects the nervous system and endocrine system. When we experience highly stressful or traumatic situations, the HPA axis responds by stimulating the adrenal release of cortisol.
Under normal circumstances, the HPA axis can achieve homeostasis; however, with trauma or chronic stress, excessive levels of cortisol are released into the body and can become toxic, ultimately leading to illness like heart disease and depression. In addition to the immediate and enduring physiological impacts of trauma, the sadness, low energy, unstable moods, anxiety and fear we experience as a result can lead us toward unhealthy coping mechanisms, putting further strain on the body and causing increased inflammation.
The connection between trauma and toxicity
When we look at symptoms of toxic overload, you can see a direct correlation to trauma-related symptoms. Some of these include:
- brain fog
- sleep issues
- severe PMS
- memory impairment
- sinus issues
- digestive disorders
- frequent illness or infections
- hormonal imbalance
In addition to the inflammation caused by chronic stress and trauma, the body is also taxed with the load of environmental toxins and hidden infection (typically found in the mouth). If we don’t stay committed to self care and healing, the result is systemic inflammation that can lead to a host of issues and illnesses.
Over the years, we are exposed to an incredible amount of toxins from our environment – through pollution in the air, our water systems, and within household and beauty products – as well as from the food we eat. Heavy metals (primarily lead and mercury), mold, and glyphosate are just a few examples of environmental toxins the majority of us have had significant exposure to. We clean our houses with toxic products and use skincare, makeup and hair care products on our bodies that are rife with harmful chemicals. On top of this, our food and water systems are also guilty of exposing us to toxicity, not only through overuse of preservatives, synthetic chemicals and hormones in meat, and genetic modification, but also within dietary sugars, grains, and bad fats.
Considering what we’re up against here, it seems nearly impossible to avoid toxic overload. Some of the effects of neurotoxicity are fast-acting while others become more apparent after years of bioaccumulation. Either way, the result is inflammatory dysregulation.
Upstream vs. downstream detox
Symptoms of toxic overload can present in a number of different ways, but they typically stem from the same root cause: inflammation. Conventional allopathic and alternative detox treatments usually take a downstream approach, which is essentially centered around symptom management and most often focus on liver detoxification.
When we take an upstream approach to detox, we’re investigating the underlying cause for illness rather than simply addressing the symptoms. For example, many people will take probiotics and digestive enzymes to deal with a microbiome disruption, but their symptoms begin to creep back in after a period of time. Toxicity can take years – even decades – to accumulate, and can be challenging to treat with just one or two supplements.
Whole body detox incorporates more than supplementation – it’s a systematic approach to getting well at a cellular level through diet, nutrition, and lifestyle practices, alongside treatments and supplements that target the different detox pathways in a number of phases.
How does an upstream approach to detox differ from symptom management?
Our naturopathic physicians take a whole body, systematic approach to getting to the root of toxicity and creating a cellular environment that encourages deep healing and vitality.
First, we have to remove any potential sources of toxicity in the body that are currently present (perhaps through eliminating any toxic products in your home and diet, undergoing amalgam filling removal with a biological dentist, or pursuing chelation therapy, etc.), while improving our natural cellular detox pathways; we ensure we open the downstream detox pathways of the liver, gut, lymphatic system and kidneys to encourage proper elimination throughout the entire detoxification process.
Next, we need to heal and support the cellular membrane to allow for proper functioning, adequate absorption of nutrients, and efficient waste removal. As vital nutrients begin to flow more freely into the cell, we’ll achieve higher production of ATP, which is the energy-carrying molecule in the cell responsible for fuelling other cellular processes in the body. This process will help to downregulate inflammation and upregulate our cellular detox pathways.
As the we support the cell and the body becomes more adept at combating inflammation, it’s critical that we practice healthy lifestyle habits and maintain a diet that supports optimal health and increases resilience (we offer in-depth tips, practical tools, and balanced recipes to support you with this in our detox programs at Divine Elements). We also focus heavily on the mindset aspect of healing and detoxification so we can address those emotional and psychological blockages that cause congestion and inflammation.
Finally, we focus on restoring methylation, which is a biochemical process that’s essential for normal detoxification and hormone balance, as well as contributing to the proper functioning of our nervous, immune and cardiovascular systems.
The foundation of a supportive and sustainable detox process is making healthy lifestyle and dietary choices, and tending to our mental health to create more resilience in the body. There is no quick fix, and your habits, thought patterns, and the things you put in (and on) your body will have an enormous impact on your ability to detox.
We’re very excited about our new and improved Detox Fix program starting this September!
Join Drs. Nick and Sonya Jensen, ND along with Registered Holistic Nutritionist, Melissa Alonso for a life-changing experience that will not only offer an effective detox now, but will also set you up with the tools to continue a healthier, more balanced lifestyle after the program finishes. Spots are limited, so we recommend registering for this exciting new program early to ensure you don’t miss out. Don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter for important updates and special offers!