Critical Connections Among Embedding of Childhood Adversity and Adult Chronic Gastrointestinal and Genitourinary Disorders: A Review of the Literature

Wound Manag Prev. 2021 Nov;67(11):33-47.

Rebecca Bryan 1, Janice M Beitz 1


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Background: A gap in the literature exists demonstrating associations between adverse child experiences (ACEs) as potential a priori contributing factors and gastrointestinal (GI)/genitourinary (GU) disorders.

Purpose: A narrative review of the literature was conducted to explore critical connections between ACEs and GI/GU disorders with a working hypothesis of a dose-responsive relationship existing among them.

Methods: A literature search was conducted using MEDLINE, Cumulative Index of Nursing and Allied Health Literature, PubMed, and Web of Science using search terms adverse childhood experiences, childhood adversity, obesity, gastrointestinal disorders, and genitourinary disorders, and secondary searches of obesity and specific GI/GU disorders (eg, irritable bowel syndrome, pelvic pain). Duplicates and articles with inappropriate focus were discarded after review.

Results: A total of 58 articles were included. Research identified showed that ACEs do play a role in adult GI and GU morbidities in a dose-response manner, and selected factors such as socioeconomic status, race, gender identity, and physiologic state (eg, obesity) confer higher risk. Research also suggested that genetic/epigenetic mechanisms are at play in disease occurrence, and the impact of ACEs may be mitigated with positive life experiences.

Conclusion: Research on the relationship between ACEs and GI/GU disorders is heterogeneous, notably due to wide variations in how types of ACEs are defined and screening methods used. Despite this limitation, associations are demonstrated. Awareness of a possible correlation between ACEs and risk of GI/GU disorders has the potential to improve patient care, especially through trauma-informed strategies.

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