Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and Impact on Physical Health

The hidden impact of your childhood on your health right now…

Most of us are not aware how Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) can have powerful and lasting impacts on adult health. These experiences include physical, emotional and mental traumas, as well as persistent, low-grade exposure to stress and unhappiness during childhood. In later years, acute and chronic physical illnesses become apparent – in a cluster of common symptoms that can be directly linked back to early childhood trauma. So, how does this happen?

Why ACEs Affect Your Health Now

ACEs create physiological changes (particularly neurological – or to do with your nervous system and brain function) during childhood. These changes, while minor at the time, set the stage for progression throughout the remainder of life. Like a large ship setting off for a destination in a far away land, any small course direction change at the beginning has a marked impact on the final destination – so too it is with fragile young brains – changes in function and effectiveness of the brain and the body’s neurology in early childhood completely changes the direction of overall health. The result? A range of specific, identifiable illnesses and conditions later in life – in other words – pain, anguish and trauma during childhood could be making you sick right now…


What are ACEs

Adverse Childhood Experiences (or ACEs for short) are a collection of traumatic events that children experience. They can include such major issues as Sexual Abuse, Physical Abuse, and Emotional Abuse by a parent or other person. They can also include subjectively powerful situations such as a divorce in the family, a move, a death in the family, or bullying at school. In addition, relatively minor but persistent stressors can have an accumulative effect – and these can also be classed as ACEs (such as an unhappy parental dynamic in the home, or persistent physical illness on the part of a family member).

Important Statistics on the Impact of ACEs

The impact of ACEs is very real and very powerful. If we look to data collected about this condition, you’ll see how pervasive and detrimental ACEs are in the lives of those who have had them. In one famous study conducted by the US Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 17,000 people were studied. Of the female participants, 27% had experienced physical abuse, 25% had experienced sexual abuse, and 13% had experienced emotional abuse. For the males, 30% physical abuse, 16% sexual abuse, and 8% emotional abuse.

When the researchers then examined the health of those who had suffered these Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), they found some alarming – but highly correlated conditions (which means that many people who had ACEs had similar symptoms):

  • ACEs lead to seven out of the top 10 causes of death.
  • Obesity, Diabetes, Heart Disease and Cancer were significantly higher in the ACEs group in comparison with the non-ACEs group.
  • Autoimmune and Gut Conditions were more prevalent among ACE sufferers.
  • Depression, Suicide Attempts, and Sexually Transmitted Infections were also very much higher in the ACEs group.

In terms of statistics, for those with ACEs, there was 12 times the risk of suicide than the non-ACEs group; 2.5 times the risk of cancer; 4.5 times the risk of depression; and 2.5 times the risk of stroke or heart attack.


Key Points About ACEs

Firstly, it’s important to understand that ACEs are a powerful determinant of who we become as adults – in behaviour and in health.

Secondly, the more ACEs a person experiences, the greater the impact later in life. This is due to the cumulative impact of such traumas. This means that the higher the ACEs score a person has, the greater the risk of them developing more, and more serious, health conditions later in life.

So, many chronic diseases adults experience have their origins in childhood.

Autoimmune diseases, cancer, heart disease, stroke – as well as mental health conditions and risky behaviour can all be traced back to ACEs for many people.

So, you can see, ACEs have a real, profound and lasting impact on health – but I hear you ask, ‘How does this happen?’

Let me explain what happens in the body of someone who has experienced an ACE…

How ACEs Cause Illness Later in Life

ACEs create illness later in life through a three-step process.


Firstly, TRAUMA occurs in the life of a young person – physical, emotional, sexual, or mental.

Secondly, NEUROLOGICAL CHANGE occurs in the brain. You see, when a trauma happens, the body reacts – it may be Fight, Flight or Freeze. This reaction causes chemical changes in the brain and body – and the emotional trauma is locked into the neurology of the body.


Thirdly, HARD WIRING occurs. Once the initial trauma or shock has been established in the nervous system and brain, when similar situations happen over and over again – the body ‘cements’ this chemical and neurological change.

This makes the nervous system highly reactive. This reactive state of the brain is known as ‘Limbic Kindling’ and it can set the stage for lasting, negative results in the health of a person.

The outcome over time is that the body’s systems become impaired – less blood flow (so less nutrients) and nerve conductivity, as well as reactive muscle tension – have profound impacts on the development of the young person’s body. Reactive states are established in the immune system. Inflammatory compounds are continually released as the body reacts to other potential traumas. This continual state of ‘over-readiness’ on the part of the immune system and the challenges in dealing with chronic inflammation finally wear out the body’s systems – and illness sets in…

Heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity, adrenal and other hormone disorders, autoimmune disease and mental health issues all start to rise in prominence. And the more ACEs a person has, the more illnesses and the more severe those illnesses can become.

What Can You Do About ACEs?

ACEs-beyondgoodhealth-what-you-can-doWhat if you suspect that you have experienced an ACE? What if you believe that you’ve had numerous ACEs? And what if you believe that they are having an impact on your life right now – what can you do?

Step One – get help. At BGH, I can help educate you about ACEs and their impact on health. Together we can conduct an assessment of your ACEs as well as a life history to determine the degree and impact of ACEs on your health.

Step Two – work together to acknowledge and address ACEs. There are many useful ways to emotionally address the effect of ACEs in a person’s life and start the process of undoing the ‘Limbic Kindling’ effect. Counselling, Art Therapy, Journaling, and Group Work, as well as other approaches can assist with this.

Step Three – address the physical impact of ACEs. Together, we can work at identifying the physical impact of ACEs on your health. We’ll then develop a Treatment Plan that works to roll back the physical health issues you’re experiencing. We’ll address inflammation, gut health, immune issues and hormone problems. As we do so, your body will become less reactive. Coupled with the other emotional work you’ll be doing, you’ll be able to minimise the impact of ACEs on your health.

As we do this together, please remember that ACEs may have exerted a powerful impact on your health, and it will take time and effort to address this. Improvement won’t occur all at once, and it won’t occur in a steadily improving pattern – there’ll be stops and starts – and there’ll be two steps forward and one step back at times. But, please realise that we at BGH will be there to help you – every step of the way.

If you’d like to make an appointment to see me to examine the potential for you to be suffering from the adverse effects of ACEs, please call 1300 853 006 to make an appointment to see me. Together we can work to improve your health and give you back the life you want – and deserve.

Facebook Videos and Posts

 It’s important to me that all my patients have as much effective information about health topics that are important to them as possible. So, I’ve been posting on the Beyond Good Health Facebook page videos and informational posts that deal with a range of important health issues – including about ACEs. If you’d like to learn more about such topics, please go to the Beyond Good Health Facebook for videos and other health information posts by clicking on:


Yours in health

dr. dzung price

Dr Price (Integrative Doctor, Naturopath, Herbalist, Nutritionist)

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