Autoimmune diseases are conditions in which the body’s own immune system begins to attack healthy cells, like rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, scleroderma, multiple sclerosis, and Crohn’s disease. Statistics reveal that over 80% of those diagnosed with autoimmune diseases are women. But why is this? Scientists have long tried to figure out the factors that create this significant gender imbalance.
After 20 years of working with women worldwide suffering from various autoimmune issues, I’ve uncovered a crucial link.
In our contemporary Western culture, women are often trained from a young age to be “good girls” who are always kind, caring, and make sure everyone around them is comfortable and happy. However, society’s “good girl” blueprint subtly teaches us self-abandonment. After years of prioritizing others’ needs above our own, we come to diminish, or even forget, our own needs entirely.
By striving to emulate this idealized version of womanhood, we unintentionally inflict harm upon ourselves. The “good girl” mantra that tells us to be kind, pleasant, and put others’ comfort first, might paradoxically be the trigger point for autoimmune diseases.
In the holistic model I advocate, our bodies and minds are a unified system. By constantly demonstrating “good girl” behaviors and incorporating self-abandonment into our worldview, we instigate changes in our immune system. If self-abandonment is devaluing one’s own needs and prioritizing others’, autoimmune diseases mirror this at a cellular level. Just as self-abandonment represents an attack and devaluation of oneself, autoimmune diseases constitute a similar internal assault. Our immune system falters in caring for our own cells, just as we falter in caring for our own needs.
So, how do we begin healing? A significant first step is learning to establish boundaries. This means learning to say “no,” disappointing others, prioritizing your own needs, and acknowledging that adhering to the “good girl” norm can be harmful.
I advise you to practice self-care more assertively. Stop caring about others’ reactions to your actions. Ensure your own needs are fulfilled and you are comfortable before considering others’ feelings. Even though this seems like a significant shift, if you’ve been confined to “good girl mode,” being a bit more self-focused won’t transform you into a selfish person. You’ll just become someone who takes a moment to consider their own needs before attending to others.
This perspective shift and repair of cellular damage is integral to my client sessions. Using energy healing and coaching to reverse years of conditioning and associated dysfunction in the limbic and immune systems is essential for overcoming autoimmune diseases. If this approach resonates with you, I’d like to invite you to sign up for a consult call on my website. We can talk about your health issues and I’ll explain a bit more about how I work and what methods may be best for your next level of healing.
The human body is a complex, interconnected system in which the mind and body cooperate to sustain overall health. If you’re dealing with chronic illnesses, you may have come across the term ‘neuro-immune connection’. But what does it mean, and how is it related to your health journey?
The Neuro-Immune Connection Simplified
The neuro-immune connection describes the relationship between your nervous system—the command center of your body—and your immune system, your body’s defense force. These two systems continually communicate to respond to threats and maintain balance in your body.
When everything is in balance, this connection operates seamlessly. However, disruptions in this communication can contribute to chronic illnesses, highlighting the critical role this connection plays in our health.
The Impact of Stress on the Neuro-Immune Connection
Our modern lifestyle often exposes us to prolonged stress, impacting the neuro-immune connection. Chronic stress disrupts this delicate balance, potentially triggering or exacerbating chronic illnesses. Furthermore, if you’ve experienced childhood trauma or emotional neglect, your body may be ‘primed’ to be more susceptible to everyday stressors disrupting this balance. In my work, I’ve found that this is particularly true for people with freeze or appease stress responses.
Harnessing the Neuro-Immune Connection for Health
Fortunately, the neuro-immune connection is not immutable. Employing strategies such as somatic therapy, vagal toning, intuitive movement to music, Trauma Release Exercises (TRE), energy healing, mental practice exercises, and mindfulness-based practices can help positively influence this connection.
The Role of Holistic Care: Maggie’s Story
Maggie, a client of mine, came to me with several ongoing issues. She’d been struggling with worsening gastrointestinal problems and was now breaking out in hives all over her body. Despite various allergy tests and medication for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), her condition didn’t improve.
Following a move to a new city with her husband, her symptoms had significantly worsened. Suspecting mold, she had her new house tested, found several strains, and spent thousands on remediation. Despite all this, her health continued to decline.
Once we began working together, it became clear that Maggie was holding onto old trauma stories within her body. The added stress from the recent move was the tipping point—her neuroimmune system was on high alert.
Over the course of about six months, Maggie and I worked together twice a month, employing a combination of energy healing, somatic work, and trauma release. By the end of that time, her health had completely transformed. She no longer experienced rashes, and her digestion normalized. In her own words, “My digestion is better than I can ever remember, even when I was young!”
I hope this exploration of the neuro-immune connection emphasizes the importance of considering the body as a connected system, especially when dealing with chronic illnesses. For those navigating these conditions, understanding this connection and taking steps to balance both the underlying immune and nervous system is key.
If you’re interested in learning more about the neuro-immune connection or need help managing a chronic illness, reach out on social media or send me an email. I’m always here to support your journey towards dynamic, vibrant health.
After spending two decades in the field of health and healing, I have noticed an intriguing pattern: people with chronic or autoimmune illnesses frequently share three common characteristics. Far from being weaknesses, these characteristics are also inherent strengths once we understand how to navigate them. Transforming these maladaptive aspects into adaptive ones can lead to happier, healthier lives.
The Freeze or Appease Response
Under the pressure of stress, many individuals adopt one of two coping strategies: they either “freeze” or “appease.” Those in the “freeze” category might withdraw from stressful situations as a protective mechanism, they tend to walk away rather than get involved in an argument or confrontation. Those who “appease” may display an excessively accommodating nature, eager to diffuse conflict and maintain harmony even at personal expense.
This coping style can often lead to a person becoming an “internalizer” – someone more inclined to self-blame rather than attributing the issue to external factors. While this trait can foster a heightened sense of responsibility and introspection and lead to a lot of personal growth, when unregulated, it can also lead to undue self-criticism and anxiety.
High Empathy and Sensitivity
Another shared trait is a profound empathy, often present in those who are Highly Sensitive People (HSPs). This means they possess an extraordinary capacity to discern others’ moods through subtle cues, such as body language, tone of voice, or even energetic vibrations. You may not even realize you’re doing this and may think everyone has this ability, but I assure you, they do not!
However, being an HSP can make modern society’s demands challenging. HSPs often require more “tend and befriend” energy — nurturing and supportive environments — which our culture doesn’t always provide. While their heightened perception can make them excellent caregivers, educators, or counselors, the constant bombardment of stimuli can sometimes lead to overstimulation or emotional exhaustion.
Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE)
Finally, a surprising number of people with chronic or autoimmune illnesses have an ACE score of 3 or more. ACE studies refer to the exploration of how negative experiences during formative years can significantly impact a person’s health and well-being later in life. These adverse experiences range from emotionally immature parents to household dysfunction, such as substance abuse, mental illness, or parental separation.
A high ACE score often correlates with increased risk for chronic or autoimmune diseases. These experiences can alter immune and nervous systems, predisposing the individual to a variety of health conditions. Yet, understanding this link provides an opportunity for healing past traumas and working towards a healthier future.
Understanding these shared traits — the freeze or appease response, high empathy and sensitivity, and an elevated ACE score — can empower us to make essential changes. Recognizing these aspects within ourselves is the first step towards mitigating their potentially detrimental effects and harnessing their strengths.
Remember, we are not defined by our conditions or our pasts. We have the power to shape our futures, and by addressing these aspects consciously, we can influence our health positively.
Living with a chronic illness can be a daily challenge. But what if there were a way to ease some of this burden from within ourselves? Well, buckle up, because we’re about to dive into the world of meditation and how it can help you manage your chronic illness by shifting the function of both your immune and nervous system.
Meditation is a diverse practice, with various techniques that all aim to integrate the mind and body, cultivating a state of deep relaxation and mental tranquility. These techniques might include focusing on particular sensations, such as the breath, a sound, a visual image, or a mantra. The ultimate goal is to enhance both physical and emotional well-being.
The benefits of meditation extend beyond a sense of calm and balance. Interestingly, meditation can also influence the neuroimmune system, our body’s intricate network that integrates neural, hormonal, and immune communication. Meditation is thought to counteract the effects of the sympathetic nervous system, which increases heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure during times of stress. By reducing the stress response, meditation initiates beneficial effects throughout the body.
Research has found that mindfulness meditation affects two different stress pathways in the brain, changing brain structures and activity in regions associated with attention and emotion regulation. There’s also preliminary evidence suggesting that mindfulness could boost the immune system, potentially aiding in faster recovery from illnesses like the common cold or flu.
But how does this apply to chronic diseases? Well, meditation has been shown to help manage symptoms of conditions such as anxiety, asthma, cancer, chronic pain, depression, heart disease, high blood pressure, and irritable bowel syndrome.
A 2018 analysis supported by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) found that mindfulness meditation approaches were effective in managing anxiety, stress, and depression. Furthermore, meditation can strengthen the immune response, reduce anxiety, and improve sleep – critical components of self-care when managing a chronic illness. Mindfulness has also been shown to alleviate symptoms such as pain and fatigue in individuals with chronic pain conditions.
In fact, a research review published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that meditation was beneficial in relieving anxiety, pain, and depression, with its effect on depression being roughly equivalent to an antidepressant.
Although almost all types of meditation will be beneficial, if you’re looking to try a meditation that’s specifically for healing, I have one here that you’re welcome to try and see how it feels: Heal Your Health Issue Meditation by Megan Caper
So, there you have it – meditation might just be the key to unlocking a healthier, happier you and is a powerful tool for those managing chronic illnesses. And the best part? You don’t need any fancy equipment or expensive classes to get started – all you need is a quiet space, a few minutes of your time, and an open mind.
Western science is finally beginning to understand what holistic practitioners have been advocating about chronic illness for decades: the mind and body function as a single interconnected system, and a dysfunction in one can lead to a dysfunction in the other.
Contrary to what we learned in school, our brains are not simply the “controllers” of our bodies, with every bodily function resulting from a directive issued by the brain. Instead, recent findings suggest that the brain acts more like a relay station, receiving information from the body, interpreting and synthesizing it, and then sending it back to the body. This relationship between the brain and body is more of a cooperative partnership than a hierarchical model in which the body strictly follows the brain’s orders. (It’s worth noting that this misconception may have arisen from cognitive biases towards hierarchical models prevalent among the primarily white male researchers of the past century.)
When we experience physical or psychological stress, our bodies relay the message to our brains that something is amiss. In response, the brain activates “glial” cells, triggering an inflammatory immune response. This reaction sets off a cascade of changes, with the brain altering the quantity and type of hormones and neurotransmitters it produces. These alterations, in turn, instruct the body to heighten inflammation, immune sensitivity, and make changes in energy production and pain signaling.
The issue arises when this response becomes entrenched in the brain. If our systems do not receive the “all-clear” message once the stressor has passed, we may end up in a chronic state of brain inflammation and immune response. Over time, this can lead to symptoms such as chronic pain, fatigue, IBS, autoimmune diseases, chemical and sensory sensitivity, brain fog, and mood changes.
Fortunately, this condition is reversible. By applying neuroplasticity principles, we can help the brain exit its stressed and hypervigilant state. One study demonstrated the effectiveness of this approach, as 74% of chronic fatigue/ME patients experienced a reduction in core symptoms after receiving a drug that helped regulate neuroinflammation and immune cell function.
However, I believe that drugs are not the only solution. Instead, we can harness the brain’s innate ability to modify its functions in response to different inputs. By providing the brain with different information from the body, the cooperative partnership between the two can shift dramatically. As a result, many symptoms may dissipate on their own, and a new state of balance can become the new normal.
If you’re interested in learning more, I will be offering a course soon to explain the underlying science behind this phenomenon and teach techniques for utilizing principles of neuro-immune plasticity to reverse brain inflammation and restore your health. If you would like to join the waitlist and receive more information, please feel free to send me a note.
Your gut brain (or “enteric nervous system” if you want to be all sciency about it) is a whole other brain that exists in and around your digestive system, in the walls of your intestines and the surrounding tissues. This “second brain” is incredibly powerful, with 100 times more neurons than your spinal cord. It regulates many functions including immune function, quality of digestion, hormones and mood. In fact, your gut brain is largely responsible for the production of 95% of the serotonin and other “feel good” chemicals in your body.
Maintaining a healthy gut brain is crucial! Here are five things you can do today to take care of it:
- Eat whole foods. The more you can make whole foods a part of your diet, the more you’re giving your gut brain the fuel it needs to function well. By whole foods I mean minimally processed and resemble their original form: vegetables, fruits, meat, fish, nuts, grains, and even some dairy. So, olive oil is closer to a whole food than an oreo, for example. Whole foods contain not only the nutrients that our gut brains need, but also other important chemicals like phytonutrients and anti-inflammatory compounds. In addition, whole foods already contain these nutrients in the amounts and ratios that our bodies need to optimally process them.
- Avoid preservatives and food coloring. This is important for two reasons. The first is that foods with preservatives and/or food coloring are less likely to be whole foods. The second is that preservatives and food coloring are toxic to your gut brain and your microbiome. Think about it – if you’re eating something that contains a preservative that’s supposed to inhibit bacterial growth in your food, wouldn’t it also inhibit bacterial growth in your gut? And we NEED bacteria in our gut! That serotonin I talked about that’s produced in your gut? It’s made by gut microbiome bacteria that’s being directed to do so by your gut brain. Food coloring has been shown to be a neurotoxin in many studies, so it kills the cells of your gut brain.
- Keep your mucosa healthy. A significant portion of your gut brain resides within two layers of your intestines, called a “neural plexus.” These layers go all the way from your esophagus to your large intestine, the entire length of your digestive system. So, it’s important to keep these layers healthy! A good way to do that is to make sure your gut mucosa is vibrant and healthy. The gut mucosa is a layer of mucous (eww, I know!) that coats your intestinal tract and keeps the food from reaching those plexus layers. The good news is that eating mostly whole foods will provide you with what you need for a healthy gut mucosa. But if you want to supplement, some helpful things you can take include: L-Glutamine, zinc carnosine, immunoglobulins, polyphenols, and amino acids including L-proline, L-serine, L-threonine, & L-cysteine. Of course, always check with your doctor before adding any supplements. (Side note: Am I the only one that looks at the word immunoglobulins and reads it as immunogoblins? I always imagine these microscopic goblins running around in my immune system.)
- Promote the serotonin cycle. When we give our brain and nervous system certain input, it actually changes the structure and function of it to create more of that same thing. So, for example, if I live in war zone and am often anxious and afraid, the structure and function of my brain will change over time to one where anxiety and fear are the default state. However, the same is true of happiness as well. If you “feed” your nervous system with things that promote joy, the structure and function of your brain will change to a default state of joy. Since our gut brains produce most of the happy chemicals in our body, it’s important to give it happy chemicals to prime it to make more. So, spend some time doing things that make you happy! That could be dancing to your favorite music, spending time with happy memories or envisioning your dreams coming true in the future, or hanging out with friends doing fun activities. Try to spend at least an hour a day doing things that increase your happy chemicals and over time, you’ll see a change in your baseline emotional state.
- Gut massage. The movement of food and other substances through your gut (called “gut motility”) is an important part of the health of your gut brain, too. Since your gut brain produces neurotransmitters, hormones, immune cells and other substances that are vital to health, it’s important to keep things moving along. Here’s a link to a great handout from the NHS on how to do abdominal self-massage: https://www.wchc.nhs.uk/content/uploads/2019/12/Self-abdominal-massage.pdf
I hope you found this information helpful and as always, if you have any questions or comments, feel free to reach out and I’d be happy to chat more.