If you’re someone who struggles with depression, anxiety or mood swings, I’ve got some news for you.
Your struggles aren’t all in your head, in fact they’re most likely in your gut.
Recent research shows that 95% of our serotonin (the happy mood regulating chemical) is made by bacteria in our digestive system. Surprisingly, our gut microbiome is responsible for much of our mood cognition and mental health.
It turns out that the state of our intestines and the health of the critters that live in them (our bacterial and fungal microbiome) can affect everything from hormone regulation to our immune system and most notably, our mood and cognition. Research shows that fluctuations in our microbiome cause changes in all of these systems and severe fluctuations can even cause disease in the long term.
There have been multiple studies that show that chronic depression and anxiety are linked to what’s called “gut dysbiosis” or an imbalance in the type, number, and location of various microbiome species. When researchers provided treatment that balanced the microbiome, levels of anxiety and depression decreased.
What does this mean for you? If you’re someone that tends towards anxiety or depression, the cause may not be all in your head. Of course, our past experiences and daily lives can affect our mental health, but it appears that even those experiences and trauma reactions affect our gut microbiome as well. Our head brains and gut brains work as one system when it comes to mood and cognition. Changes in our mood or stress level alter the makeup of our microbiome, and those alterations can in turn affect our mood and stress levels. Like much of our physiology, it’s not so much cause and effect but rather homeostasis (or balance) that’s important.
How do I keep my gut critters happy?
Here are 4 ways to keep your microbiome’s critters happy and healthy:
- Eat lots of plants. Our gut critters need to eat, too, and their favorite foods are what are called “prebiotics” found in vegetables, grains, and fruits. Make sure you’re eating a variety of these foods so your microbiome will have plenty to chow down on.
- Eat or drink fermented or cultured foods. There are plenty of foods that contain the healthy bacteria and fungi/yeast we need. Things like sauerkraut, pickles, kimchi, kiefer, yogurt and miso are all good sources of bacteria that our guts love.
- Avoid preservatives, artificial sweeteners and food coloring. All of these have been shown to decimate our microbiome. When possible, avoid these additives in your food. Some common food preservatives to look out for on nutrition labels are: nitrates/nitrites, sulfites, parabens, cellulose, and MSG.
- Meditate regularly. The list of health benefits from meditation keeps growing! There’s a study that recently came out which shows that the gut microbiome of Buddhist monks was healthier than that of neighboring residents in the same town. (I want it noted that the study states that, “All samples were collected and measured by professionals,” meaning that someone had the job title of “monk poop collector” for the duration of this study.)
If you suspect that your mood issues are gut related and you’ve tried all of the above without success, you can always reach out to me. I’m always happy to answer questions, and energy healing is another great way to address microbiome issues. I have many happy clients who have balanced their gut health through our sessions.
One of the most common questions I get from potential clients is “Can you help me with X condition?” and the answer is most often, “Yes, I can!” The medical intuitive healing system that I’ve created works with your body’s own healing systems on all three levels of body, mind and soul. I meet you at the healing edge of what you’re ready to balance, release or heal next on any of those three levels, and we move forward from there.
Over the next few months, I want to share some case studies with you so that you can understand the power of medical intuitive healing. I’ve changed the names and identifying details of these clients for privacy purposes, but the symptoms, treatment and results are all directly from my client notes.
Julia came to me with severe food and environmental allergies. For years, she’d become increasingly unable to eat any foods without breaking out in a rash or having shortness of breath. When we first started working together, she was down to only being able to eat 5 foods. She couldn’t eat out or to a friend’s house for dinner without bringing her own food. She also was suffering from environmental allergies and sensitivities that made it difficult to be in many public places without developing shortness of breath and headaches.
When I asked what she most wanted from our sessions, Julia said that she wanted to be able to go to her daughter’s house and babysit her young granddaughter. In the past, Julia had been her granddaughter’s regular afternoon babysitter, picking her up from daycare and spending the afternoons with her while her daughter and son-in-law were still at work. In the last 12 months or so, Julia’s environmental and food allergies had become so severe that she hadn’t been able to be in her daughter’s house or prepare the foods her granddaughter liked to eat for afternoon snacks.
Julia and I worked together for about 4 months, slowly bringing her digestive and immune systems back into balance and addressing trauma held in her body from both her own experience of childhood emotional neglect and her contentious divorce 10 years earlier. We worked on everything from her gut microbiome to past life karma, and even epigenetic changes that were causing her allergies.
Slowly, she began to eat more foods. Slowly, she began to be able to go to shops and restaurants without allergic reactions to the chemicals in the environment.
By the end of four months she was ecstatic — she could order food off of a menu and eat without fear! And she was able to prepare snacks for her granddaughter without getting a rash.
And best of all, Julia was back to babysitting again several times per week. I could hear the absolute joy in her voice when she told me about the games she and her granddaughter had played together that week. Julia was finally able once again to do the thing she loved the most, those things that brought so much meaning and satisfaction to her life.
I’ve had so many clients like this, who have suffered for years with unexplained allergies or sensitivities, which really can keep you from doing the things that bring you meaning and joy. If this sounds like you or someone you know, don’t give up hope! Energy healing can bring about healing that sounds miraculous, but is really just your body tapping into its own natural desire to be balanced and joyfully whole.
- Mindful awareness and communication
Your body has a ton of intuitive information to share with you, all you have to do is listen. But how do you do that? A big piece of that puzzle is learning how to bring your attention mindfully to that spot and seeing what arises. To do this, bring your gentle attention to the body part you want to talk to and notice what physical sensations or emotions come up. The key is to be still and notice without trying to interpret, figure out, or make a story about what is happening. Start to notice any sensations or feelings and simply watch them. If anything sticks out to you, you can open a communication about it by gently asking your body, “Tell me more,” and seeing if there is a response or a change.
- Ho’ponopono (forgiveness and gratitude)
There is a Hawaiian practice of forgiveness and gratitude that can absolutely change your relationship with your illness and the energy around it when you practice it on a daily basis. It’s a simple 4 sentence mantra that has profound power. When you are mindfully sitting with your illness say the following: “I’m sorry. I forgive you. Thank you. I love you.”
“I’m sorry” is about taking responsibility for the way we’ve mistreated ourselves throughout this illness. Perhaps we push ourselves too far, or don’t ask for help when we need it. Perhaps we blame ourselves for getting sick and our inner critic pops up and says things like, “If you’d only eaten better and exercised more, this wouldn’t have happened.” Regardless of what it is, this gives you an opportunity to make amends with yourself and apologize for being anything other than understanding and supportive of your body, whether it’s healthy or ill or anywhere in between.
“I forgive you” is about allowing yourself to feel okay about whatever you were sorry for. You are doing your best and learning as you go, and that’s okay. Forgive yourself for any way you have not treated yourself with the utmost care and respect.
“Thank you” can be used here to appreciate your body and all it’s doing. Even if you are ill, there are parts of your body that are working well and you can send appreciation toward those parts. And even the parts that are ill or out of balance are trying their best to heal, so send appreciation their way for all they do to try to bring you back to health.
“I love you” is all about sending unconditional love to our body, no matter what state it’s in. Just like I can be frustrated with friends or family but still love them, we can feel upset or frustrated with our body or illness and still love our body at the same time. When we sit in the energy of unconditional love, magical healing can occur.
- Look at your relationship with your illness
It’s almost impossible to have an illness or chronic injury and not have it affect your daily life in some way. We all develop coping strategies, feelings and make meaning out of having an illness in order to get by. In order to heal, we have to not only address the symptoms, but also let go of the coping strategies, emotions and other ways we’ve incorporated that illness into our lives. This may sound strange — who would want to keep the coping strategies and emotions around their illness? But our brains are hard-wired to stay with the familiar and avoid change, and if healing also involves a change to how we live our lives, there may be some resistance in our bodymind to that change. This is especially true if your income, type of work or relationships revolve around your illness. For example, if most of your close friends are also people with the same illness, what will that mean for your support system if you get better?
- Understand you’re part of a larger quantum field
There are numerous studies showing that when people become aware that they are not in this alone and that in fact they are part of a larger field of consciousness, miraculous healing can occur. Take some time to sit in the awareness that your body is not separate from all the energy of the universe, it’s a part of it. So, even if you don’t have all the answers, you’re connected to the “worldwide consciousness web” that has more wisdom than you do. Allow yourself to feel that expansion, feel how you are greater than just your mind and body.
One of the most important parts of healing is accepting where you are. If you can think, “This is where I am right now, how can I be more accepting and compassionate towards my body and illness?” it can do a world of good. We all know that no one ever makes lasting changes out of shame, guilt or feeling like they should be somewhere they’re not, and the same is true for your health. Practice having an intention of feeling better without attaching the desire to get there in any particular time or fashion. You are where you are, and you will probably be in a different place tomorrow, and the best thing you can do today, tomorrow or at any point in your life is to be compassionate and accepting, right now.
Before I became a medical intuitive, I was on my way to becoming a doctor. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that western medicine was lacking in some way, and it wasn’t until I found energy healing that I could see why. Now, don’t get me wrong, I use western medicine all the time. If I brake a bone, I’m heading straight to the ER and not to my acupuncturist. But you’d better bet that after the bone is set and the pain medication is in my system, my follow-up is going to be with alternative health practitioners who work with the body to help its natural healing process.
Here are 5 limitations of western medicine that I see after a decade of experience as an alternative healer:
- There’s very little awareness of the mind-body connection
It’s only been in the last 10-15 years that western medicine has got on board with what other medical and healing traditions have known for centuries — your mind and body are part of one system, and they can’t be treated as separate. For example, we now know that a great deal of our emotional regulation is done by the microbiome in our gut, and that the health of that microbiome can be a large part of our sense of well-being. We also know that when we dull pain receptors (with Tylenol) we also dull our ability for empathy. Mental and physical health are one and the same and separating them makes western medicine less effective.
- Only treats what it can observe
Western medicine relies solely on the scientific method and the scientific method is limited by what we can observe and measure. What this means is that if we can’t use a scientific study to observe and measure it, then doctors aren’t trained in it. For example, it’s hard (but not impossible) to observe things like meridians, chakras and other aspects of the energy body and so these are often dismissed by western medicine as “unproven” ways of healing. I don’t have any problems with scientific methods, but it often misses out on methods of healing that can’t be easily observed and measured.
- Medical science is evolving, and sometimes the treatments can do harm as well as good
In the last 170 years since the age of scientific reason started, science has “proven” a lot of things that have later been disproven or shown to not tell the whole story. For example, once antibiotics were discovered, they were given to people all the time. Twenty years ago, it was common to take a course of antibiotics 3 or 4 times per year for various infections. We now know that these antibiotics harm the delicate balance of bacteria that keeps our digestive system, lungs, reproductive systems and even our skin in healthy, working order.
- Western medicine operates within the limitations of the imagination of the human mind
One of my favorite quotes is from Hamlet, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in our philosophy.” Our human minds can’t possibly understand all the intricacies of the universe. Just like it would be impossible to teach a hamster calculus, there are things our human minds just can’t conceive of. So, if you’re relying on only your human mind and its ability to reason, then you’re missing out on a LOT of possibilities. Healing traditions that know this and defer to the body’s wisdom for healing, like energy medicine, acupuncture or craniosacral work to name a few, can achieve results that would be considered impossible for western doctors. But your body has knowledge that your brain does not — it’s connected to “all that is” and can operate with wisdom beyond that which our brains can conceive of.
- It has a one size fits all approach
If three people walk into a doctor’s office with gastric reflux, there could be three different reasons why. One may be an epigenetic issue causing too much stomach acid. Another may be anxiety causing peristalsis paralysis in the esophagus. And the third could be a malformed esophageal sphincter. But most often, the doctor will send all three away with a medication that reduces stomach acid. There’s a reductive approach to western medicine that says “If symptom A is occurring, then do treatment B.” But the complexity of the human system is too great for a reductionist model— it needs a model of emergence and constant change. This rigid reductionism too often fails the patient, and leaves them feeling like there’s no treatment option for them.
I’m about to tell you something that’s gonna upend everything you know about stress.
Recent research has found that stress can actually be good for you. And not just on an emotional level, stress can actually heal you physically, too.
The problem is we’ve been doing stress wrong.
We’ve been told that stress is harmful, that it puts us in fight or flight mode, which can cause long term health damage over time. This is true! However what researchers recently discovered is that there’s another mode we can go onto that’s not harmful and avoids the fight or flight reaction. In fact, this kind of stress can help heal our bodies and create a greater sense of well-being and self-esteem.
It’s called challenge stress.
Let me explain the difference. Here’s what we normally think of as stress:
Imagine you’re in a stressful situation and it feels out of your control. You don’t know how you’re going make it through, you don’t have the knowledge or skills to solve the problem, and you feel like you’re doing this on your own. This type of stress response is what causes us to go into fight or flight and yes, it is harmful to both our mental and physical health.
Now imagine the same situation, but instead of feeling out of control, you feel like it’s a challenge, and you feel sure you can figure it out. You may not know how to solve the problem yourself, but you know someone who would be a good resource and would be happy to help. You also feel confident that you can find information or solutions that will allow you to figure this out. You feel competent, confident and like this is a challenge you can handle. You also know that you have a support system of friends, family or coworkers who will support you as you deal with this situation, both logistically and emotionally. This is what researchers have named “challenge stress.”
Can you feel the difference in these two scenarios? The first scenario would cause all sorts of damaging changes in our hormones, heart rate, nervous system and immune system. The second scenario is quite different. It not only doesn’t damage our bodies, but when we experience this kind of challenge stress our bodies start to heal! Our immune systems go into a healthy mode, our bodies release happy chemicals like dopamine and oxytocin (the reward and bonding neurotransmitters), our heart rate becomes more healthy, and we gain feelings of self-efficacy and support from our tribe of fellow humans.
But how can we shift from traditional stress to challenge stress?
Next time you’re feeling stressed, here are 4 ways you can move out of unhealthy stress and into healthy “challenge” stress.
- Come back to the present moment. So much of our stress response is really about what we fear happening in the future because of our current situation. We play out all sorts of ways that the stressful situation could go wrong. I call this “the rolodex of catastrophe.” When you start to ruminate about how your stressful situation might turn out badly, gently and lovingly remind yourself that you actually don’t know how this will play out. Then, come back to this present moment and think about what you can do now to move forward in a positive way.
- Change your POV on the situation. One of the most interesting ideas to come out of these studies is that our thoughts about stress actually affect our physiological response to stress. If you think stress is harmful, it will be. However, if you think stress is more like a challenge or problem that you can solve, it will lower your risk of harmful effects. Kelly McGonigal writes that “High levels of stress increased the risk of dying by 43 percent. But—and this is what got my attention—that increased risk applied only to people who also believed that stress was harming their health. People who reported high levels of stress but who did not view their stress as harmful were not more likely to die. In fact, they had the lowest risk of death of anyone in the study, even lower than those who reported experiencing very little stress.” So next time you feel stressed say to yourself, “I can handle this! I just need to take it one step at a time.”
I saw this meme a few months ago and I think it illustrates this so beautifully. It’s actually not that hard to change our POV on life’s stressors (or in this case, life’s banalities) and create a whole new set of feelings of excitement and joy where we were once feeling stress, boredom or anxiety.
- Take stock of your resources. One of the hallmarks of shifting to challenge stress is the awareness that you have the resources to find a solution. This means not only resources or solutions you already know, but also cultivating more resources. So, when you feel stressed think about two things: how can I find more information about possible solutions? And who do I know that may have some answers (or be able to point you towards answers)? If you feel resourceful in the face of stress rather than ineffectual or overwhelmed, it will help shift you into challenge stress mode.
- Reach out to your support system. If there’s one thing we’ve collectively learned from the pandemic, it’s how important our support systems can be. There are so many studies that show the beneficial effects of reaching out and feeling supported. Having a good support system can prevent depression, lengthen life span, and of course, make stressful situations easier to manage. When you’re in a stressful situation, reach out to your support system for both practical and emotional support. This causes all sorts of positive physiological and hormonal changes in our bodies that promote health, happiness and healing on a cellular level.
I hope these strategies give you a new way to approach stress. And even if you don’t implement them, simply having the knowledge that stress isn’t harmful will help your health! How about that? You’ve just increased your lifespan simply by reading this post.
Take good care and have fun with your side quests today.
When I first started the study of energy healing, I took a course on the Chinese 5-element theory. The 5 elements represent a cyclic, spiral growth cycle that you can see everywhere around you, from the cells in your body to the creation of new galaxies. Each of the elements (fire, earth, metal, water, and wood) has different qualities attached to it and one of those qualities is that each has a unique emotion.
Fire —> Joy
Earth —> Contentment
Metal —> Grief
Water —> Fear
Wood —> Anger
After we learned about this cycle, my teacher, Ka’imi, asked us, “What do you think is the most spiritual emotion?”
As dutiful students of spiritual growth, we all answered, “Joy!” or “Contentment!” for these are what we are often (mistakenly) told are the signposts of a highly evolved life.
Our teacher paused and said, “I disagree. The most spiritual emotion is anger.”
We were all confused. Anger? How can that be spiritual? Wars are started by angry men. Our society is divided by people who are angry with “the other side.” How can anger be the most spiritual of all the emotions?
He went on to explain, “Our job here as spiritual beings having a human experience is to grow. We are here to experience change over the course of a lifetime, to continue through this cycle over and over again. Anger is what we feel when something gets in our way, or blocks our path forward, and therefore it causes us to take big action. Anger has the most forward motion of any of the emotions in this cycle. Anger is what generates the most growth in the shortest amount of time.”
I think he was right. If we take a look at how the 5-element emotional cycle works, we can get a more clear view of how this works.
We’ll start with contentment. Let’s say you’re in a good place, and nothing in your life is really going wrong at the moment. You have a place to live, food to eat, good people in your life and a way of making money that isn’t making you feel terrible all the time.
But then, something changes and with change, there’s always grief and loss. Maybe your best friend moves to a new town. Or you hurt your knee and can’t do your favorite activity anymore. Or maybe you get a new boss at work who starts to micromanage you. You feel the sadness of losing something that had brought you joy. Things have changed and there’s a part of you that misses the way they were before.
In the depth of this grief, you start to feel fear. What if I never find a friend with who I can have the same type of close relationship? What if I’m stuck in this job I don’t like anymore because I need the paycheck? What if I can never do long hikes again because of my knee? We become afraid of never feeling happy again and we worry that we’ll be stuck here in this unhappy new reality forever.
This is where a lot of people get stuck, bouncing back and forth between sadness and worry. We feel the loss of what we once had, and then get stuck in the fear of never having it again, or that things will get even worse from here and we’ll never get back to contentment again.
But if you can harness that fear and sadness, if you can look at the parts of yourself with which you’re discontent and say, “That’s it! I’m not going to take this anymore! I don’t know how, but I’m going to make some changes so that I can get back to feeling joy!” then you, my friend, have accessed sacred anger.
For many of us, it was unsafe to express anger in our families of origin and so we check ourselves when that starts to bubble up, and revert back to fear and sadness. For others, we learned how to access the surge of energy and emotion that comes from anger but we don’t know how to do the deep shadow work to move from anger to joy, so we stay stuck bouncing between anger and fear.
So here’s how to do the hard part, friends. Here’s how to move from fear and anger to joy.
Most of the elements of this cycle happen without our input — we’re coasting along (contentment) things change (loss), and then we worry that we’ll never feel safe and happy again (fear), then we feel disgruntled at this new unhappy reality (beginning of anger). Those all happen without much energy or planning on our part.
When you find yourself stuck in worry, fear or discontentment, you need to do 2 things:
- Look at where you’re feeling the loss. What emotional nutrient are we lacking that’s making us sad? It may be something we had and lost, or something we never had in the first place but have always longed for. Some examples may be love, care, safety, inspiration, joy, unconditional positive regard, or zen.
- Give yourself permission to feel worthy of this emotional nutrient. This is where shadow work and reparenting can be particularly effective. (I teach a whole class on this If you need more strategies here!)
Here’s a little science secret about your nervous system — you don’t actually get the most happiness from having what you want (contentment). You feel the most happiness when you are working to reach that goal (joy). This is why in the 5 element theory joy is the “fire” element— it’s the period where we’re using that inner fire to create better circumstances, develop better relationships, and allow ourselves to know through our own actions that we’re worthy of this type of abundance.
Once we have identified the loss and given ourselves unconditional permission to have an abundance of whatever we deeply need, then we can tap into anger and joy. The anger is that unwillingness to stay in fear or sadness and the joy is the fire we use to make the changes we need to get back to place of contentment.
Okay, confession time — I really should have said there were three things you should do to get out of worry, fear or discontentment. But this is where the fire metaphor becomes complicated.
Yes, we need fire to grow. Fire is a key component of life. But fire also destroys. And the hardest thing we must do in moving from anger to joy is realize that to get to a new level of joy, we might have to burn it all down.
The third thing you need to do to get out of worry, fear or discontentment is to embrace Kali energy.
Kali is a hindu goddess, often called “the goddess of destruction and creation.” The idea here is that nothing new can be created until the old has been destroyed to create space for the new. Just as the new leaves on a tree cannot grow in spring until the old ones have died and decomposed in autumn and winter, we cannot invite in new joy until we have destroyed the old patterns that no longer serve us. This is exactly why anger must precede joy — we have to become SO ANGRY at how things are, that we’re willing to burn it all down to find a new way of being. But burning it all down is terrifying (I mean, just look at the depictions of Kali. Yikes!) and we can’t harness that amount of courage from a place of fear, we must harness it through anger. We have to use the fire of anger to move forward, to a new more advanced way of being and accept the destruction of anything that no longer serves us in the process.
Many of us take that anger and try to move backwards, to the last time we were content. But growth doesn’t happen backwards, and true courage isn’t about fighting for what feels familiar, it’s about fighting for what you need for your next level of evolution.
Remember, the Phoenix only rose from the ashes after the fire had killed it. Kali only destroys things so that new paradigms and new ideas can grow in that place. Anger only works if we are willing to dive into the unknown, the darkness, and trust that our next level of joy will come from what we find after we’ve totally transformed our way of being, destroying what no longer serves us in the process.
Remember, “everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear,” and anger is the sacred fuel to get you there.
So, what’s so important to you that you’re willing to go into the shadow to get it? What circumstance, belief system, or way of being is having you become so sick that you’re willing to burn the whole thing down so you can find out what will grow there instead? What artifice of safety, security or familiarity are you willing to let go of so you can find your true self, your eternal self, in the place beyond?