It’s fair to say that I gravitate towards tangible, actionable subject matter when it comes to improving my own and others’ health. Things like nutrition , fitness , sleep , hormonal responses, and supplement science may seem like a lot to chew on for the layperson, but these are my personal passions as well as my long-time profession.
And while these are certainly the big, actionable players in the game of health, I fully acknowledge there may be more lurking behind the scenes than we realize. A body that refuses to heal no matter how Primal you eat. Stubborn health conditions that simply refuse to fully go away, despite all the changes you make in your life. A propensity for disease that defies everything you’ve learned about ancestral nutrition and wellness. An intriguing new angle in the health sphere suggests the hurdle for some people may be embedded deeper than outer changes can access.
What Are ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences)?
Oddly enough, it all began with a weight loss program. Working out of Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, CA, Dr. Vincent Felitti was on a mission to get to the bottom of obesity. The problem was, the patients in his program kept dropping out, and he had no idea why. After a series of rather awkward and unintended questions, an interview with one obese woman provided the answer: Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).
It turned out that the woman had been sexually abused as a kid, and her weight gain was a way of disappearing; of minimizing her risk of further sexual assault. Felitti dug deeper, and discovered that of the hundreds in his weight loss program, at least half of his patients had suffered from some form of ACE. What those people had experienced in their childhoods was somehow systematically preventing them from losing weight. If they did manage to lose weight, they regained all of it in short order.
The findings couldn’t be ignored, and Felitti soon teamed up with Dr. Robert Anda from the CDC to delve deeper. Beginning in 1995 and running until 1997, the resulting ACE study was one of the largest of its kind, encompassing a whopping 17,000+ participants. What Felitti and Anda found not only verified the earlier links between obesity and ACEs, but amplified them exponentially. Adverse Childhood Experiences were a pivotal factor for many of the most common major diseases and health conditions of our time.
The findings were simple yet far-reaching. Through the use of an uncomplicated questionnaire and scoring system , each participant was assigned an ACE score. Each traumatic experience during their childhood would give them a point, with more adverse experiences equating to a higher score. These experiences included sexual, verbal and physical abuse, five forms of family dysfunction (alcoholism, violence, incarceration, divorce, or abandonment), and 2 forms of neglect. Someone who had been verbally abused and had an alcoholic mother, for example, would get an ACE of 2. Those fortunate souls without any adverse experiences sailed through the survey with 0.