Are Celiac Disease, Autoimmmune Disorders & Trauma Related?
Trauma comes in many forms: it can be ongoing abuse that we experienced as a child, it can be a single horrible incident like an accident or a disaster, it can be a surgery, and so on. There’s even a thing called trans-generational trauma, in which we kind of ‘inherit’ the unresolved issues of our ancestors.
- Celiac Counsellor’s Corner* is a place where Sherry Scheideman, M.A., Registered Clinical Counsellor, responds to your questions about the emotional and social issues that celiacs face. Diagnosed with celiac disease herself in 2001 in Victoria, BC, Sherry draws upon personal experiences and a Master’s Degree in Counseling to support you in transcending this ‘life transition’ and turning it into an opportunity to live your best life – ever.
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Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder, and autoimmune disorders are linked with trauma.
In general, trauma enters the picture when things happen that we can’t deal with, so our nervous system goes into fight / flight / freeze mode. Afterwards, our nervous system may realize that we survived the danger, and it may go back to normal, allowing us to relax and carry on with our healthy life.
Or, our nervous system may stay stuck in danger mode, making our body feel like there’s an emergency while we’re trying to live a normal day-to-day life. Inflammatory stress hormones run through our system, we’re hyper-alert to danger all the time, we feel a sense of dread or shame or self-loathing, we go numb, and so on — even though it’s just an ordinary day. This is trauma, and after a while it feels normal to us – but it doesn’t feel good. Eventually it can become chronic anxiety, depression, addiction, and other conditions, including autoimmune disorders.
Fellow celiacs, I think that since we have an autoimmune disorder, it’s worthwhile for us to consider the possible role of trauma in our own experience. If you notice that you do have unresolved trauma – that maybe your nervous system is stuck in disaster response – don’t despair! There are ways to treat it and restore the nervous system to healthy functioning, which can really change the way we live in the world. We might still have celiac disease even after resolving our trauma (since celiac disease is thought to be a life-long condition once it starts), but we’ll be better equipped to deal with it — and with everything else in our life.
Three Ways of Treating Trauma
According to trauma expert Bessel van der Kolk, there are three main ways of getting unstuck from trauma, and restoring a healthy balance:
1) through the mind, with talk therapy;
2) with medicines and other technologies such as neurofeedback; and
3) through the body, with counselling techniques such as Somatic Experiencing and with other techniques such as yoga, tai chi, drumming, and partner dances such as tango. (These last ones sound like strange therapy! But they work to bring us back to feeling like our body is a safe and enjoyable place to be.)
Each of these ways is valid, and the best way for you to deal with unresolved trauma may be any one of them or a combination, depending on your unique scenario. Please keep in mind that it’s best to do these treatments with a professional in order to do them safely, and reduce the risk of getting re-traumatized.
If we deal with our own trauma now, we can free ourselves from it and we can stop it from getting passed down to the next generation. Thank you, Celiac Disease, for helping us become aware of the work that we need to do.
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“Life happens! Why not love it?”
“Being diagnosed with celiac disease and going gluten-free has challenged me to develop inner resources that I never knew I had, and I’m grateful for that. As a counsellor, I love to help other celiacs find their own gifts within the challenges of the disease, and to facilitate healing. Why not let your celiac disease motivate you to be your best self?”
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- *Information and perspectives provided in Celiac Counsellor’s Corner are intended to provide general information, without independent verification on the part of The Celiac Scene for the accuracy of the information provided to it. The information is specifically not intended to be a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment by your physician or other health care professional. You should always consult your own physician or other health care professionals about any medical questions, diagnosis, or treatment, especially before trying any diet. The Celiac Counsellor’s Corner does not accept any liability for any injury, loss or damage incurred by use of or reliance on any content contained herein.