woman who overcame trauma

How to Heal from Trauma with MCAS

I started getting major breakthroughs with my health when I started addressing Histamine Intolerance, Mast Cell Activation Syndrome, and Mold Toxicity. 

But another crucial step on my road to recovery was learning how to heal from trauma. 

You may be dealing with effects of trauma and not even know it. I didn’t. 

I had some childhood trauma. I had experienced some trauma as an adult, too. 

For a long time, I hadn’t addressed any of it. And it was part of what was contributing to my health problems. 

Despite all my nervous system rewiring, I was still having intrusive thoughts that I might be attacked. I’ll tell you more about how I was able to alleviate this later in this post.  

And I’ll share some simple tools you can use to rewire trauma to overcome the “overwhelm” and “freeze” responses. 

Did you know that trauma is not just psychological (of the mind), but it’s also physiological (of the body)? 

Learning how to heal from trauma made a big difference in my well-being. 

It might help you, too. 

Keep reading to learn more about: 

  • How trauma is defined (it’s broader than you may realize) 
  • Why some people develop trauma and others don’t 
  • The relationship between MCAS and trauma 
  • Trauma and the body 
  • Signs and symptoms of trauma
  • How you can heal from trauma 
  • Ways to overcome overwhelm and freeze responses 

First, let’s look at how to define trauma. 

What Is Trauma? 

In simple terms, trauma is an emotional response to an event or experience. 

Trauma specialist, Dr. Aimie Apigian, says that it helps to define trauma as how something is experienced, not just the event itself. 

Trauma is anything that overwhelms your system.

There are 3 main types of traumas: 

  • Acute – from a single incident 
  • Chronic – from repeated and prolonged exposures 
  • Complex – exposure to varied and multiple traumatic events 

Trauma may result from: 

  • Medical trauma 
  • Bullying 
  • Harassment 
  • Abuse 
  • Traffic collisions 
  • Childbirth 
  • Divorce 
  • Toxic relationships 
  • Losing a job 
  • Neglect 
  • Serious illness 
  • Loss of a loved one 
  • Assault 
  • Terrorism / war 
  • Natural disasters 
  • Witnessing a traumatic event 

You can have a traumatic response to anything, though. 

Remember, trauma is anything that overwhelms your system. 

To truly experience something as trauma, your nervous system will shut down.

It’s where your system experiences overwhelm. 

Some people use the term overwhelmed to mean they have a lot on their plate. And it’s stressful. But managing stress, even little by little, is different than overwhelm.

Overwhelm will often leave you completely frozen and unproductive. 

Anything can lead to overwhelm. 

For example, has your boss ever given you unexpected tasks to manage? What was your response? 

You might know how to handle each task and handle them well. 

But even so, did you shut down or become numb?  

Did you feel physical exhaustion and heaviness overtake you? Did you freeze up and become completely unproductive? 

You’ve experienced this stressor as traumatic. 

When you understand trauma from this perspective, you’ll see that trauma is more common than you might have thought. 

So, why is it that some people will experience an event as merely stressful, while others will experience it as traumatic? 

Let’s look at that next. 

Increased Likelihood of Trauma 

More and more, I’m seeing people who have sensitive systems experience situations as trauma more readily. 

It may be due to your system already being at its limits.  

How does this happen? 

It could be the result of a number of factors. 

Is Your System at Its Limits? 

Think of the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. Let me explain… 

If you have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Mold Toxicity, your nervous system may already be dysregulated. Your system is already overwhelmed.  

As part of this dysregulation, your sympathetic nervous system may be engaged even when it shouldn’t be. Your sympathetic nervous system response is also known as fight, flight, or freeze. It’s a response to danger. 

That’s a huge pile of straw weighing down the camel’s back right there. 

Now, add inflammation and histamine release. That’s what happens when the mast cells are activated. 

That inflammation engages your sympathetic nervous system further. Another huge pile of straw. 

If you add any type of stress to a system that’s already at its limits, you might experience that stress as overwhelming or unmanageable. In other words, you’ll experience it as trauma. It’s the final straw. 

There’s another factor that may play into this is. Once that threat has been dealt with, you should recover and enter the parasympathetic state. That’s the rest, heal, digest state. 

But trauma itself may also be taxing your system.  

To understand why trauma itself may be taxing your system, it may help to look at this by looking at a wild animal’s response to danger. 

The Lion and The Gazelle 

In the wild, if a gazelle is being chased by a lion, the gazelle will enter the fight, flight, or freeze state.  

But when the gazelle escapes the lion, it immediately starts to recover. It will tremble and shake. 

It’s literally shaking off the experience and entering the parasympathetic state. 

It’s important for the gazelle to enter the parasympathetic state so it can recover. As you might imagine, escaping from a lion takes a lot of energy! The gazelle needs to recuperate so it can be in peak shape again. 

Humans don’t do this as easily. Our brains are wired so that we remember stressful encounters. We dwell on them. We worry. We replay these situations over in our minds. 

We don’t shake it off. 

If we’ve experienced trauma, we can get stuck in the sympathetic state. We don’t enter the healing parasympathetic state. 

This can really put your system at its limits, too. 

Unfortunately, when your system is constantly at its limits, this trauma response can become your default way of coping.  

This is how trauma can tax your system. And how it can add to your mast cell activation. You can get stuck in a loop that feeds on itself. 

Let’s look more at that next. 

Trauma and Mast Cell Activation Syndrome 

Mast cells are part of your immune system. They are in almost every part of the body. Nerve endings, tissues, organs, and even your skin. 

Their job is to respond to everything inside and outside your body. 

There’s constant communication between mast cells, the immune system, the nervous system, and other parts of the body. 

Mast cells aren’t bad. They sense for safety.  

Are you safe from bacteria?  

Are you safe from harmful chemicals?  

Are you safe from mold?  

And even are you safe in your relationships? 

Do you feel safe with the health care you receive? 

In other words, trauma and even just stressful situations can keep your sympathetic nervous system engaged. And when that happens, your mast cells are getting signals that you aren’t safe. And they will respond.  

And when they respond, they release inflammatory chemicals which cause more mast cell activation.  

This activation and re-activation of your mast cells continues in a feedback loop until you can break the cycle.  

So, you can see that while trauma is defined as an emotional response, it has a lot of impact on the body. That’s why we now say that trauma is both psychological (mind) and physiological (body). 

Let’s learn more about trauma and the body next.  

Trauma in the Body 

Trauma leads to biological changes. You’ve read how it can lead to mast cell activation. And how it can factor into nervous system dysregulation. 

Here are other ways that trauma impacts the body. 

These biological changes trauma affects include: 

  • Limbic dysfunction – the part of the brain involved in behavioral and emotional responses 
  • Dorsal vagal response – vagal nerve system moves out of signaling for connection and safety and into signaling for protection and danger 
  • Disruption of pathways – that regulate the hormones which maintain balance in the body 
  • Hormone and neurotransmitter dysregulation – affects regulation of pain, emotion, reward, stress responses, motivation, drug addiction, and autonomic control  

All of these biological changes can affect your mind and body. They affect your nervous system, your immune system, your endocrine system. 

In fact, the more you look at the mind-body connection, the more you’ll see how interconnected everything is.  

There’s even a whole field of study about this. 

Have you heard of psychoneuroendicrinoimmunology?  

It’s a long name, but it breaks down like this:  

  • Psycho – relates to the mind 
  • Neuro – means nervous system  
  • Endicrino – involves your hormone system  
  • Immuno – relates to immune system  
  • Ology – means the study of these things 

Psychoneuroendicrinoimmunology is the study of how all of these systems work together and affect each other. 

Here’s how this relates to trauma. 

When your default response is the “freeze” response, the trauma response, your body is literally the one running that decision. That sounds strange, right?  

Surely your mind would be making decisions.  

But with trauma, your body is saying that it has assessed a situation, decided it’s too much, and shuts down to protect itself. 

You might even say to yourself, I can deal with this. This isn’t so bad. But your body starts shutting down. That’s when you can feel the exhaustion, you can feel the heaviness that kind of comes over. 

Have you felt exhausted, depressed, chronic pain, or inflammation? That’s all part of the trauma response. Those can be indicators that you have trauma patterns stored in your body. 

Trauma is not just in your mind or psychology. And that’s why you need to look at trauma from a body, or somatic, standpoint, too.  

You need to drop into your body and shift these states of your nervous system back into the parasympathetic state. 

That’s why to heal from trauma, you need to address the physiological (of the body) component of trauma, too.  

Before we get to how to heal from trauma, let’s look at how to recognize trauma. Look at signs and symptoms of trauma next. 

Signs and Symptoms of Trauma 

Reactions to trauma are wide and varied. 

For me, I often had intrusive thoughts.   

Sometimes, something would trigger these thoughts. 

For example, I might hear a loud noise. It could have been a door slamming or my husband dropping something. 

But my mind couldn’t process these possibilities. Instead, my brain would catastrophize it. I immediately “knew” it was an intruder.  

My muscles would tense up. My heart would start racing. I’d grab something I could use to protect myself.  

In other words, I instantly went into the sympathetic state, sometimes known as fight, flight, or freeze. 

But my triggers weren’t always external. 

Sometimes, I’d suddenly start replaying details of past traumatic experiences. And when I had these traumatic memories, I’d start to feel exactly how I did when the traumatic event happened. 

With trauma, you may experience initial responses and delayed responses. That means you might experience some of these signs right away. And/or you may experience these signs later. 

Common Signs of Trauma

Here are some of the most common signs of trauma: 

  • Agitation 
  • Anger 
  • Anxiety 
  • Avoidance of emotions or activities  
  • Confusion 
  • Depression 
  • Difficulty concentrating 
  • Difficulty regulating emotions 
  • Disorientation 
  • Exhaustion 
  • Fatigue 
  • Fear 
  • Feeling disconnected or numb 
  • Flashbacks 
  • Guilt / shame 
  • Hopelessness 
  • Hypervigilance 
  • Intrusive thoughts 
  • Irritability 
  • Memory loss 
  • Mood swings 
  • Negative emotions 
  • Nightmares 
  • Not feeling safe in your body 
  • Recurrent memories 
  • Sadness 
  • Sleep disorders 
  • Withdrawing from others 
  • And physical symptoms related to the: 
    • Gut 
    • Heart 
    • Brain 
    • Muscles 
    • Lungs 
    • Skin 

So, how do you heal from trauma so you can heal your health? 

Let’s look at that next. 

How Can You Heal from Trauma? 

The healing process for trauma recovery will look different to each person. You might need professional help. 

You may need to reach out to your healthcare professional, or mental health professional. 

But here are some things you can consider as part of your self-care in healing from trauma. 

Talk Therapy 

There are 2 ways to participate in talk therapy.   

A support group is one way you can find help and develop a sense of security. And feeling safe is a big part of healing from trauma. 

Or you may prefer to work one on one with a psychotherapist. Both can be good forms of talk therapy. 

Talk therapy can teach you some great coping skills. It can also help in validating your experiences.  

But what you want to be very careful about is re-triggering the trauma response. 

See, the limbic system doesn’t differentiate between an event happening presently or the telling of a story recounting an event. And you’ll often get those physical symptoms related to trauma the same as if you were experiencing it for the first time. 

For some people, if they start with talk therapy without any other somatic (body) therapies, this can make them worse. 

Instead, I recommend starting with somatic therapies first. Especially if you are sensitive. 

Somatic Therapies 

Somatic therapy is a form of body-centered therapy. It can use psychotherapy (talk therapy), but it will also employ physical therapies. 

Gentle body work tends to be the most effective for those just getting started. 

This body work helps release trapped emotions from the tissues. 

See, emotional information can get stored in your fascia.  

The fascia consists of connective tissue that surrounds your organs, blood vessels, bones, nerve fibers, and muscles. It helps keep everything in place. 

The fascia should be very supple and flexible. But it can become hardened as a result of physical or emotional trauma. 

This can happen because of a stuck nervous system pattern.   

Related Post: Nervines and Adaptogens: Boosting Resiliency

This hardening can limit movement and lead to muscle imbalances resulting in pain and spasms. 

With somatic therapy, your therapist can help you focus on releasing this information that has been stored in your body.  

Your therapist will pay attention to your physical responses during your sessions. And they can help you identify when you start to have a trauma response. Then, they can guide you through your response.  

Somatic therapy techniques may include: 

  • Deep breathing
  • Relaxation exercises 
  • Meditation  
  • Dance 
  • Exercise 
  • Yoga 
  • Vocal work
  • EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) 
  • Tapping 
  • Somatic focusing 

These are just a few techniques to help you start thinking about your next steps. 

But the good news I want you to remember is that trauma can be reversed.  

And you can get the help you need to do it.  

Interested in learning more about somatic therapies? 

Keep reading to learn about a free master class that will give you some of the tools you need to create a sense of emotional safety for yourself. 

Can Trauma Be Reversed? 

If you have a sensitive system, you may need to address trauma as well as some of your underlying root causes. 

But when you address trauma, you can start to see some big improvements in your health. 

I’ve come a long way on my own health journey. 

And I’ve seen how interconnected the mind and body are. 

When I started doing work on my nervous system, I started getting new improvements in my health. 

And when I started addressing trauma as part of this work, I saw even more improvements in my physical health. 

I want to share more with you how you can begin your own healing. And right now, I’ve got 2 ways you can do that. 

First, I’d like to invite you to join me for a special Facebook Live. 

1. Facebook Live with Dr. Aimie Apigian 

Check out this interview I did with trauma expert, Dr. Aimie Apigian. We talked about:

  • How trauma affects the nervous system and your biology 
  • What emotional safety is 
  • Talk therapy vs somatic therapy 
  • Free mind-body practices to help calm your nervous system 
  • What support systems are helpful in healing from trauma 
  • Ways to overcome overwhelm and freeze responses 

>>>Click here to watch! 

You don’t need a Facebook account to watch.  

TIP: If you don’t see us at the top of the page, refresh it until you do.  

This is a free presentation! And you’ll learn more about how healing from trauma can help you heal from MCAS, too. 

Learning how to create emotional safety for yourself is so important. 

It helps you get out of the stuck NS response that may be overwhelming your system. 

Interested in even more in-depth learning? 

You won’t want to miss this second resource, Dr. Aimie’s 21 Day Journey.  

2. Dr. Aimie Apigian’s 21 Day Journey  

Investing in your health is one of the most valuable forms of self-care you can do. 

With Mast Cell Activation Syndrome, there are often a lot of pieces you have to sort out. 

But you can do it. You just need to take it one step at a time. And you need the right programs that won’t overwhelm your system even more. 

Have you only done talk therapy in the past? 

If so, did it work? Or did you still feel like something was “stuck” within you? Did you still struggle with overwhelm and freezing up? 

Did you know that all trauma gets stored in the body on a cellular level? 

The good news is there is a simple, step-by-step process for effectively addressing this stored trauma in your body.  

Are you ready to start the process? That’s where Dr. Aimie’s course can help. 

In Dr. Aimie’s 21 Day Journey, you’ll: 

  • Be safely guided step-by-step through the essential process for addressing stored trauma in your body 
  • Learn how to shift your emotional state and address stored trauma 
  • Experience somatic therapy exercises 
  • Be empowered with the essential sequence of healing designed to safely address stored trauma 
  • Have access to mentoring from alumni of the 21 Day Journey program 
  • Get access to the exclusive Facebook group 

This program is a combination of recordings and live sessions. But don’t worry if you can’t make it live each day. I’ll come back to that in a minute.  

But first, here’s what you can expect from the 21 Day Journey: 

  • A new somatic exercise each day 
  • Daily live group learning sessions with Dr. Aimie 
  • Music selections for each day of your journey 
  • Daily bonus article/video 
  • Access to a private online community 
  • Ongoing access to course materials and session recordings 

Now, let me get back to the live sessions. There are a couple things I think you’ll be really happy to hear about these.  

The first is something Dr. Aimie addressed in our interview. 

She knows a lot of people get nervous when they hear about meeting in a group session. So, she wants to let you know that she and her team have put in place a lot of safety measures to help create the safest space possible for you. 

In fact, many people have let her know that these group sessions were the first time they felt safe in a group and how meaningful that was for them. 

Now, this isn’t a group session like a talk therapy group session. So, if you have concerns about that, let me put your mind at ease. 

In these sessions you’ll do somatic exercises together as a group.  

Dr. Aimie led us in a somatic exercise during the Facebook live interview. She even shared how we could do it discreetly anywhere out in the world when we need to create a sense of safety for ourselves. 

The exercises are accessible for a wide range of abilities. 

The second thing you’ll want to know is that you don’t have to attend every single live session. 

Dr. Aimie says what matters is that you just show up to whatever degree you can. And that will be good enough for what you need at that moment in time. 

There’s no pressure. And you always have access to your recordings to come back to anytime. 

I did the program and it was worth it! You can learn more and sign up for the waitlist for the 21 Day Journey here.

For so many people with Mast Cell Activation Syndrome, healing trauma is a big step toward recovering. 

I hope this program will help you on your own journey. I would love to have had this kind of step-by-step, somatic work much earlier in my own healing process. 

And I’m definitely going to take advantage of it when it comes around in July! 

I’ve done some work to address trauma. But I know I can always learn more. 

>>>Learn More About the 21 Day Journey!  

Sign up now to reserve your spot. 

I had a lot of trauma stored in my body. It affected my body in so many ways. When I worked to release this stored trauma, I made big improvements.  

I hope you will see your own healing, too.  

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Apigian, A. (2022, August 10). 21-Day Journey Q&A with Dr. Aimie Apigian [Video]. Health Means. https://mastcell360.com/TraumaSummit 

Apigian, A., & O’Hara B. (2022, June 2). Why Trauma is a Trigger for Mast Cell Activation Syndrome [Video]. Health Means. https://mastcell360.com/TraumaSummit 

Apigian, A., & O’Hara, B. (2021, October 25). Trauma and Mast Cells: an interview with trauma expert Dr. Aimie Apigian [Video]. Facebook. Retrieved April 12, 2023, from https://www.facebook.com/MastCell360/videos/584760175906361/?__tn__=%2CO 

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