#write28days of Nervous System Regulation: Day 22: Danger
Welcome to day 22 of #write28days! It is good to have you here. Today’s focus word in the #write28days community is “danger.” I am going to discuss something I recently learned about: the Cell Danger Response.
The Cell Danger Response (CDR) is a universal cellular response to danger that happens in the mitochondria. Mitochondria are in every cell and they help create energy for your bodily processes to run. When they sense any “danger” in the form of genetic changes, toxins, stress, inflammation, behavior, memory, and more, there are chemical changes that take place in the mitochondria. These changes can do things such as alter gene expression, alter the rate of aging, signal the body to create a healing response, and change the body’s susceptibility to chronic illness.
When the Cell Danger Response is triggered, the cell is “told” to prioritize survival. It is responsible for many changes that all people feel in some way when under stress (whether physical or mental): troubled sleep, head, muscle and abdominal aches, changes in the microbiome, increased sensitivity, and more.
The trigger might not even be a real danger in some way. For example, say when you were young you heard your parents have a frightening fight while you were eating something new for the first time. Your nervous system can confuse the signals of the fight with the signals from the new food, and tell your body there is danger around every time you eat the new food, even though the food itself isn’t really the problem, it’s the cross wiring.
At a cellular level, the CDR isn’t turned off until the cell receives the final “all clear” signal. Until that happens, we remain in a loop that blocks further healing in an attempt to deal with the perceived danger. This can lead to chronic illness and other forms of long term suffering. Only when a cell perceives safety can it heal completely.
As the cell goes, so goes the whole body – only when we perceive we are in safety, can we heal completely. And trauma, especially childhood trauma, tends to create a perpetual subconscious feeling of danger. Try to lessen your exposures to toxins as best you can, but don’t forget the toxic burden of your conscious and unconscious perceptions of your world. This is why I feel brain retraining is so important, especially these days.
For a more complete article on this topic, see Perspective: Cell danger response Biology—The new science that connects environmental health with mitochondria and the rising tide of chronic illness from the journal Mitochondrion. (Warning, it’s kind of depressing.)