Can We Undo Generational Trauma Once and for All?

Generational trauma. I see it as both a global crisis and a mass-need to create self-awareness in our society. 

The typical scenario in the US? Inherit trauma at birth, live through it as a child without the proper ability to make sense of it, have it influence your relationships and ability to learn in school, drown it in your 20’s with drugs and alcohol, be tormented in your early 30’s, and by 35 realize it’s due time to undo what’s been done.

So how can we become aware of transgenerational trauma earlier?

Until recently, this type of trauma was considered extreme, a direct result of PTSD (think the Holocaust, Civil-War slavery era, or pregnant women who survived the 9/11 attacks). However, epigenetic trauma can creep through in many different ways that aren’t catastrophic — perpetuating cycles of poor parenting communication for decades (which has been shown to leave an imprint on the epigenome). 

A study published in Neuropsychopharmacology conducted at the University of Zurich showed behavioral symptoms associated with trauma in male mice and their offspring can be undone through environmental enhancement. Traumatic symptoms removed and reversed were found to be linked to the epigenetic regulation of the glucocorticoid receptor gene. The study aimed to prove that inherited epigenetic and behavioral consequences of trauma could be reversed. 

But why is this significant? 

Despite children never having experienced trauma firsthand, the evidence that children manifest physiological symptoms inherited from their parent’s previous undone trauma has been detected in a child’s epigenome.

Study scientist, Katharina Gapp is thought to be the first to show significant epigenetic evidence. She believes that when we’re stressed we produce significant levels of catecholamines and cascade of glucocorticoids (think flight or flight hormones, cortisol, insulin changes, etc.) and that the increased glucocorticoid receptor expression is due to epigenetic dysregulation of the gene responsible for glucocorticoid receptors, resulting in stress-hormone binding issues. 

A recent, telling study from Tufts University demonstrated that early trauma in male mice lead to epigenetic changes in sperm miRNA resulting in poor mental and physical health of their offspring. Researchers suggest the same may be said for humans. 

In order to create a new story to pass along generationally we need to lean on our medical system so heavily that they begin focusing on mental-emotional wellbeing from day one. We need to attend conscious parenting classes so that new parents are committed to self-awareness. And we need to dig into our own DNAs to help determine what lifestyle and environmental shifts we can make to enhance our epigenome. 

Have you identified and broken the cycle of generational trauma? Please share your stories with the fullest community here! 

Christine Dionese, co-founder of flavor ID is an integrative, epigenetic health and food therapy specialist, as well as a wellness, lifestyle, and food writer. She has dedicated her career to helping others understand the science of happiness and its powerful effects on everyday human health by harnessing the power of the epigenetic landscape. Christine lives, works, and plays in Southern California with her daughter and husband. Her fullest produced podcast, Well Examined explores the depths of personalized wellness and sovereignty for modern living. 

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