Does Early Life Adversity and Past Traumas Cause Stress?

Are your problems coming from past traumas or your parents? And/or could they be coming from the environment you lived in? 

Did you ever think that the problems you have in your life now may be coming from your mom, your dad, both of your parents, and/or the way you were brought up? We are quick to blame our parents, but we may be a little right? Did you know that the imprints from your parents, or more specifically the imprints from the people that nurtured you when you were young, can be passed on to you and influence your life now? Imprints and past traumas such as: 

  • Scarcity of food or abundance
  • Worrying, anxiety or happiness about the state of their environment, the world, and their actions
  • Disillusion or fulfillment
  • Emotionally absent or great nurturer
  • Etc…

The way your parents or others see all areas of their environment (relationships, family, love, money, work, food, pollution, war, etc.) has the potential to be imprinted in you from conception and on, and it will create the life that you are living now.

Can you change it if needed?

Yes, there is possibility for you to change it, but it takes work.  All these things are part of your epigenome. So what is the epigenome?  One example that is mentioned quite often when explaining genes and epigenome is the story about computers. 

The Epigenome is Like a Computer

Think of your genes (DNA) as the hardware of your computer and the epigenome (all the environment inside and outside of you) as your software. The software that you will install is unique to you. It will have similarities to others, but ultimately, nobody will have the same exact experience that you have with life.  

You will start installing software right from conception. Your early experiences in the womb and early in life will produce the foundation for your life. If your mother is under stress, goes through a traumatic event, is overworked, or lives in a very warm or cold country will produce biochemical messages to your genes and therefore will become true for you. It will show your genes what the environment is about.

Is it about chaos, scarcity, abuse, uncertainty, desertion, abandonment or is it about abundance, ease of living, and/or privilege? 

All of these will be the software which will influence the way your genes see the environment and they will organize themselves to get ready for this type of environment. The mindsets which will be imprinted, the programs that will be installed will come from the way your mom and dad interacted and saw their environment, how they dealt with it, and how you were nurtured. 

computer software equals epigenetics

The Epigenome and its Influence on our Life

Dr. Moshe Szyf, world-renowned epigeneticist, and his team from McGill University have pioneered incredible research regarding the epigenome and its influence on our life. 

One of his colleagues Dr. Michael Meaney, a Professor of Medicine in the Departments of Psychiatry and Neurology & Neurosurgery at McGill University, has shown that rats, like humans, lick their pups in very different ways. Some do a lot, some very little, and some in-between. After following the pups of these different mothers into adults, he found that they were completely different animals. 

A study in rats

The rats that were licked and groomed heavily were not stressed. They had different sexual behavior, and they had a different way of living than those that were not treated as intensively by their mother.

After another 10 years of research it was found that there is a cascade of biochemical reactions by which the care of the mother is translated to biochemical signals that go into the nucleus and into the DNA (genes) and program it differently. Then, the child can prepare itself for life.

What is very interesting is that it is not only the biological mother that produces these biochemical signals to tell the DNA what the program/software is. It is the mother/father/person who took care of the child by nurturing it a lot, that is causing this change in the DNA and creating the mindsets/patterns for this child to live its life. This study was about little mice but do human react the same? The answer is “Yes”. 

2021 Meta-Analytic Review

In 2021 there was a meta-analytic review of the evidence supporting the idea that natural disaster-related prenatal maternal stress influences the child’s development. What was looked at was the type of stress that the pregnant mother lived through.

The types of stress were categorized as:

  • objective stress
  • psychological stress (anger, moodiness, depression)
  • cognitive stress (brain fog or cognitive overload), and
  • diet stress (like eating unhealthy food).

The types of disasters included ice storms, floods and cyclones and the children were from a very young age to over 10 years old.

What was found was that the higher prenatal mother’s stress was associated with:

  • Longer gestation
  • Larger newborns
  • Higher BMI and adiposity (fat) levels
  • Worse cognitive outcome
  • Worse motor outcome
  • Worse socio-emotional outcome
  • Worse behavioral outcome

This demonstrates how a mother can pass on stress factors and past traumas to her baby. All this programming to the new baby biochemistry has the possibility of creating, much later in life, the nasty chronic diseases that are plaguing human beings like cancer, mental health diseases, cardiovascular issues, diabetes, immune diseases etc. 

Can we change some of that programming? 

Yes we can! With a deeper understanding of the workings of your immune system, and through proper lifestyle changes, supplements and Neuro Emotional Technique (NET), great results can be achieved most of the time. 

What have we learned and what is the reflection we should have?
  • What is epigenome, identifying past traumas, and how it works with our genes.
  • We learned that nurturing the children in our world can have immense positive repercussion for our society
  • How important our environment (inside and outside of our body) is crucial to our development.
  • The importance of our health/life history along with the one from our parents and ancestors
What should we reflect upon?

  • How should you nurture yourself?
  • How should we nurture our children and the children of the world? What do you think is the worth in nurturing them?
  • How should you treat/nurture others? 
  • How should we nurture the earth?
  • What does it mean for our society, our world and for the evolution of human being?

A New Mindset

This is definitely a new mindset but one that we can’t ignore. There is a lot of research being done in that field bringing even more strength to this concept.  And these results help to explain many of the results achieved with my clients. 

I think that ultimately this concept about the importance of nurturing and how we are programmed by it can bring us hope for the future and make us reflect on our own actions. 


Moshe Szyf’s Ted Talk:

Weaver, Ian C. G., et al. “Epigenetic Programming by Maternal Behavior.” Nature Neuroscience, vol. 7, no. 8, Aug. 2004, pp. 847–54. PubMed,

Szyf, Moshe, and Johanna Bick. “DNA Methylation: A Mechanism for Embedding Early Life Experiences in the Genome.” Child Development, vol. 84, no. 1, 2013, pp. 49–57. PubMed,

Meaney, Michael J., and Moshe Szyf. “Environmental Programming of Stress Responses through DNA Methylation: Life at the Interface between a Dynamic Environment and a Fixed Genome.” Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, vol. 7, no. 2, 2005, pp. 103–23. PubMed,

Weaver, Ian C. G., et al. “Reversal of Maternal Programming of Stress Responses in Adult Offspring through Methyl Supplementation: Altering Epigenetic Marking Later in Life.” The Journal of Neuroscience: The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience, vol. 25, no. 47, Nov. 2005, pp. 11045–54. PubMed,

Cao-Lei, Lei, et al. “DNA Methylation Mediates the Effect of Maternal Cognitive Appraisal of a Disaster in Pregnancy on the Child’s C-Peptide Secretion in Adolescence: Project Ice Storm.” PLoS ONE, vol. 13, no. 2, Feb. 2018, p. e0192199. PubMed Central,

Lafortune, Sandra, et al. “Effect of Natural Disaster-Related Prenatal Maternal Stress on Child Development and Health: A Meta-Analytic Review.” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, vol. 18, no. 16, Aug. 2021, p. 8332. PubMed,

Full article:

Lax, Elad, et al. “A DNA Methylation Signature of Addiction in T Cells and Its Reversal With DHEA Intervention.” Frontiers in Molecular Neuroscience, vol. 11, Sept. 2018, p. 322. PubMed Central,

Champagne, Frances A. “Maternal Imprints and the Origins of Variation.” Hormones and Behavior, vol. 60, no. 1, June 2011, pp. 4–11. PubMed Central,

Powledge, Tabitha M. “Behavioral Epigenetics: How Nurture Shapes Nature” BioScience, Volume 61, Issue 8, August 2011, Pages 588–592,

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