Trauma Informed Nutrition (TIN)


(509) 962-7515

Outline of a human head with a depiction of a brain with the word 'TRAUMA' written on it

What is Trauma?

Trauma can be both an emotional and/or physical response to a terrible event. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, traumatic events are marked by a sense of horror, helplessness, serious injury, or the threat of serious injury or death. According to the American Psychological Association, longer term reactions include unpredictable emotions, flashbacks, strained relationships, and even physical symptoms.

When children experience traumatic events, it is called Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are traumatic childhood events that can result in prolonged toxic stress. In children, this prolonged toxic stress can lead to damage of their developing body and brain. It can also affect their overall health, and cause long-term health problems including: chronic health problems, mental health illness and substance misuse in adulthood.

What is Trauma Informed Nutrition?

Trauma Informed Nutrition recognizes that ACEs plays a vital role in a person’s life, it recognizes symptoms of trauma, and promotes resiliency. Being informed in Trauma Informed Nutrition means that you have an understanding that unhealthy dietary habits, chronic disease, and poor health outcomes could be a result of adverse childhood experiences, and not necessarily individual choices. It recognizes that trauma can impact the way our mind and body react to food. A lack of food security and/or lack of access to nourishment can increase the risk of negative relationships with food. This in turn can lead to poor nutritional health.

Trauma-Informed Nutrition
Recognizing the relationship between adversity, chronic disease, and nutritional health

Physically or emotionally harmful or life-threatening event that can have lasting adverse effects on an individual's health and well-being, including the individual's relationship with food and their risk of developing chronic disease.

Historical trauma results from multi-generational trauma experienced by specific cultural or racial/ethnic groups. It is related to major oppressive events such as slavery, the Holocaust, forced migration, and the violent colonization of indigenous people.

Systemic trauma refers to the contextual features of environments and institutions that give rise to trauma, maintain it, and impact post-traumatic responses.

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)
ACEs are potentially traumatic childhood events that can result in toxic stress. Prolonged exposure to ACEs can create a toxic stress response, which can damage the developing brain and body of children, affect overall health, and cause long-term health problems.
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Physical (including food restriction)
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Household Dysfunction
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Untreated mental illness
Substance abuse
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Domestic violence
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Family separation
Other Forms of Adversity
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Bullying & violence
Natural disasters & war
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Infectious disease outbreak/ pandemic & medical trauma
Involvement in child welfare

Source: California Department of Health, California Department of Social Services Essentials for Childhood Initiative June 2020

View Full Trauma-Informed Nutrition PDF

Adverse Food Related Experiences

Trauma, and any form of toxic stress while growing up, can be disruptive to biology and can create an unhealthy relationship with food. Trauma can affect the way you eat, causing adverse food-related experiences, including, but not limited to:

  • Unpredictable meals
  • Restriction or control over food
  • Body shaming
  • Loss of food traditions
  • Punishment or rewarding with food
  • Shame or stigma when using food assistance programs

Potential Food Behaviors

When trauma is present, a person can develop certain behaviors when it comes to food. These behaviors can include:

  • Hoarding of food
    • Binge eating or compulsive eating
  • High fat, sugar or salt diets
  • Dependence on convenience foods
    • Junk food or overly processed foods
  • Eating disorders or food addiction
  • Making food choices to meet short-term needs instead of long term
  • Shame or stigma when using food assistance programs

Interested in Learning More?

KCPHD has a Trauma Informed Nutrition presentation and will gladly share information with your organization. To request a presentation, email, or call (509) 962-7515.