Trauma and Your Health – What You Need to Know



Proactive Health

By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder

Trauma, whether in our past or our present, is one of those health risks that we need to talk about more. Current research suggests that trauma does not impact only our emotional state but can, and often does, negatively impact our physical health for years. In short, trauma may increase our risk for a wide variety of chronic health conditions. Before talking about them and how we can be proactive to reduce these risks, it is a good idea to first define what we mean by “trauma.” 

What exactly is trauma?

According to the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, “trauma is an event, series of events, or set of circumstances that is experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or threatening and that has lasting adverse effects.” These include, but are not limited to, physical, sexual and emotional abuse; negative family dynamics such as mental illness, interpersonal violence, parental loss or substance abuse; personal experiences of racism, discrimination or crime. It’s important to keep in mind that what may not be traumatic to one person may be to another and vice versa. How we experience trauma and how it may affect us is unique to every person.  

Trauma, if left unaddressed, can increase our risk for some of the most preventable diseases. These include heart, lung and kidney disease, obesity, dementia, chronic pain, autoimmune diseases, depression, cancer, stroke, chronic lung disease, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic fatigue and type 2 diabetes. Credible research suggests that if we don’t appropriately address the underlying trauma, any efforts at disease prevention or treatment may not be as effective as they could have been. Childhood traumas can impact our health decades later and increase the probability that as adults, we will participate in higher-risk behaviors such as smoking, drug use or unprotected sex. All these health risks are usually associated with physiological changes caused by the trauma. 

Be proactive to help recover from trauma.

The good news is that there is a lot we can do to help recover from trauma, even trauma that may have happened years ago, to better protect our health today.  

  • One of the most important is to not isolate ourselves from friends, family and others who can help us heal. These include psychologists/therapists, self-help groups and trusted members of your local faith community. Just remember that there are no quick fixes when it comes to recovering from trauma, so be patient and gentle with yourself.
  • Exercise is a proven way to help you heal from trauma. This does not need to be anything dramatic or especially intense. The idea is to just get moving and not sit on the couch all day with your thoughts. Find something you enjoy and then stick with it. I would suggest that taking walks outdoors to enjoy nature is a great starting point. Go with a friend, and it’s even better!

  • Being good to yourself is another thing you can do. While this will mean different things to everyone, I would include in the list resting when you can, doing things that bring you joy, getting enough sleep, meditating, taking up a new hobby (or revisiting an old one) or reading or doing crossword puzzles.
  • Be careful with alcohol or other medication to “take the edge off.” Using substances or engaging in risky behaviors to help you “escape” may bring some immediate relief, but it is only temporary. In the long run, they won’t help you heal and can even hinder your recovery.

Of course, don’t overlook the importance of nutrition for supporting your recovery from trauma. A proper diet with a sufficient intake of essential nutrients, like vitamins and minerals, may help you feel better. It is also much better for your overall health. Some suggestions include the following:

  • Avoid unhealthy comfort foods and opt instead for those that will boost both your mood and health.
  • Stay away as much as possible from inflammatory foods and consider a primarily plant-based diet full of fruits and vegetables.
  • Look for foods that have no or minimal processing (think “whole” and “organic”) that will provide your body with the most natural nutrients that it can readily use.
  • Consider plant protein, for example from beans and nuts, rather than depending completely on animal protein.

It’s also important to take a nutrient test to determine if you have a nutrient imbalance or deficiency that may impact your emotional health. If you do, you can work with a competent healthcare professional who may suggest changes in your diet and/or recommend that you take  good quality supplements.


Enjoy your healthy life!


The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses, and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products, and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.


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