Gut Microbiome and Trauma
What is the gut microbiome?
The gut microbiome encompasses all microorganisms that inhabit our gastrointestinal tract from mouth to anus and includes their collective biochemistry functions and genetic material. The gut microbiome has become one of the most studied topics in science today because of the implications for health and disease.
How do individuals differ in their gut microbiome?
Each person’s microbiome is unique to them. The first exposure occurs in the womb and at birth. Early life events, including our mothers’ health, how we entered this world (birth route), first life feeding, and exposure to medicines, antibiotics, surgeries, and traumas, yes, traumas all have a profound impact on gut microbiome development. Dysbiosis is an unhealthy gut microbiome, and gastrointestinal dysbiosis is one of the most prevalent health concerns of today.
What is trauma from the nervous system perspective?
Trauma is the reaction our bodies undergo when we experience distress, the tightening of muscles, the use of shoulder and neck muscles to breathe, the dilating of our pupils, and increased alertness and adrenaline that runs through our veins. This reaction is normal and even healthy. Our bodies are designed to peak at this level of attention to fight or run from a given threat. Our bodies and brains must also learn to come down from this alertness level and reassess our environment as safe to overcome the stress response. Trauma is, in essence, the inability to comprehend or appreciate safety once the stimulus is gone.
What is PTSD?
Post-traumatic stress disorder is the phenomenon of a traumatic reaction to a stimulus that gets repeated even though the actual threat is no longer there. Meaning, our body relives the traumatic stress response with the memory of a sight, sound, smell, feeling, social interaction, relationship drama, or object. These are called triggers, and even though a threat may no longer exist, our bodies remember the association of stimulus = stress response and never fully learned or felt the come-down and safety. What goes up must come down, including your stress response, to heal this type of reaction.
How are trauma and microbiome connected?
Gut bacteria are sentient to the human release of stress and adrenaline hormones. Researchers observed that after a traumatic car accident where someone broke their femur, that within 4 hours of this event, the gut and body opened up its gut wall and blood vessels to allow bacteria generally found in the gut to enter the bloodstream. The bacteria that entered the bloodstream also seemed to change. The bacteria mutated and altered it’s DNA such that it could become more infectious or virulent. The bacteria also released toxins that killed off other microbial species. The opening up of the intestinal cell layer of the blood vessel cell layers is called increased permeability. It implies your tightly held together cell walls break open and become a sieve for toxins, microorganisms, undigested food particles, and other biological debris to cross the barrier it usually would be held at bay.
Science has shown us that the microorganisms of the body are entangled with your autonomic nervous system state. They sense through the same receptors that our body shares. Every hormone- sex hormones, metabolism hormones, stress hormones, and your immune system are all intimately connected and inter-dependent. These microorganisms know when you are calm, relaxed, and safe. They also see the body is triggered to flight, fight, or freeze states. The communication between the nervous system and microbiome is the hallmark of the gut-brain axis relationship and the mind-body connection.
What can you do to keep your microbiome and gut health intact?
Practice self-awareness such that you know your reactions to stressful stimuli.
Observe, breathe, connect, and feel yourself to safety.
Practice self-preservation and listen to your bodies needs. Thirst, Hunger, Temperature, Rest, Play, Creativity, Connection, Intimacy, Pleasure
Drink water, plenty of it.
Rest. Exercise. Breathe. Move. Connect.
Eat colorful plants, whole grains, legumes, and fermented foods.