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  • kristinacarlton

What's Your ACE Score?

Do you struggle with chronic health issues? Your ACE score may be the reason!

From 1995 to 1997, Kaiser Permanente conducted the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study. It is one of the largest investigations of childhood abuse and neglect and household challenges and later-life health and well-being.

When I first started getting sick, I didn't question why. I didn't ask why I suddenly had problems digesting my food, why I suddenly didn't sleep well, why I suddenly had fatigue, or why I had struggled with an eating disorder from a young age. Some doctors mentioned stress, but other people had stress in their lives, yet their bodies weren't suddenly deteriorating at a rapid rate and malfunctioning.

I saw doctor after doctor, and accumulated more diagnoses with each one I saw. I changed my diet (GAPS, Paleo, AIP, Low FODMAPs, Zero Carb...), I took supplements, removed toxic products from my home, got vitamin infusions, turned off my WiFi at night, made my own bone broth, sauerkraut, and kefir to help my supposed gut dysbiosis, did enemas and colonics, sat in saunas, and I kept getting worse. Does that sound familiar?

None of the doctors I saw ever asked me about my childhood, and to be honest, I thought my childhood was ok. I had a house to live in, I had food to eat, clothes to wear, I had friends, and I went to a great school. However, my childhood was not normal. I grew up in Germany and when I was 10 years old, my dad, who worked for a company with locations world wide, was transferred to Dallas, TX. Because my brother (12 years old at that time) and I couldn't speak English, my parents decided to move to the US on their own, and leave me and my brother with my mom's parents in Germany. We got to visit my parents in the US once a year every summer.

My grandparents were wonderful people, but they were 66 and 67 years old when we came to live with them. My grandfather had been a prisoner of war in Russia during WWI, and most likely had PTSD, but back then (early 1970s) nobody talked about PTSD. My grandmother was a worrier and very fearful. They loved us, but were unable to tell us, or show any kind of affection. In addition, they were unable to help us with school work, leaving us to our own devices. While we were taken care of physically, like I mentioned above, we had no emotional support, nobody to talk to about any struggles, which led to us repressing our emotions, and we basically raised ourselves.

We lived in a small, one bedroom, one bathroom house, which meant my brother and I did not have our own rooms. My brother slept on a sleeper couch in my grandparent's bedroom while I slept on the couch in the living room.

So my parents didn't abandon us in the true sense, but being left behind in a different country when you are 10 years old, must have felt like abandonment and rejection. Unfortunately I don't remember much of my childhood, but I know now that this abandonment, and the neglect, is what led to the eating disorder, anxiety, and depression which started at an early age, and to the physical illnesses I developed as an adult.

It wasn't until I started looking into mind-body medicine that someone mentioned the ACE study linked to below. Still, it was hard for me to believe that all the physical symptoms I had, could be from a rough childhood and repressed emotions. After all, doctor after doctor had confirmed that my body was "broken" in some way, but I kept pursuing a mind-body approach and started seeing results. I also read the book "Childhood Disrupted," which further helped me understand the link between adverse childhood experiences and emotional and physical illnesses later in life.

If you have been struggling with chronic pain or other chronic illnesses, take a look at the ACE study below. It also includes the ACE questionnaire, which serves as a guideline to see if your chronic health issues might be due to adverse childhood experiences. The good news is that mind-body illnesses can be overcome through knowledge that your body is not broken, and with the tools I mention on my here on my blog and on my Instagram (@kc_mindbody_coaching).

If you have any questions, please contact me at or leave a comment below.

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