In the past 75 years, our world has witnessed an unprecedented rise in chronic illnesses and autoimmune diseases. Visionaries like Gabor Mate and Peter Levine have proposed that these ailments may be rooted in the accumulation of trauma and stress within our bodies and minds. The question remains, though, what is the precise connection? How do stress and trauma translate into long-term diseases?
Allow me to share my insights.
Over the years, I have had the privilege of working with countless individuals grappling with conditions such as Chronic Fatigue (ME), food intolerances, Lyme disease, MS, and, more recently, long COVID. A recurring theme has emerged from my energy healing sessions. When I establish an intuitive connection with my clients’ body-minds and inquire where the healing should commence, I consistently receive a message to harmonize the “Nervous-immune-digestive system.” Interestingly, this intuitive wisdom suggests that these are not three separate entities, as conventional medical science often assumes.
Conventional Western medicine divides our physiological systems into distinct categories, such as the immune system, the musculoskeletal system, the digestive system, and so forth. This compartmentalization is so deeply ingrained that we consult a different specialist for each system: a neurologist for the brain, a gastroenterologist for the digestive system, and a gynecologist for the reproductive system. Yet, our bodies do not perceive these as separate systems; rather, they are human constructs intended to simplify and classify biological information.
Our bodies comprehend that we are a single, interconnected living system, with every part dependent on the whole.
Thus, when I psychically received the term “nervousimmunedigestive system” from my clients’ bodies, I understood it as a call to view these three systems as one. This realization led me to delve into the intricate connections between the brain, immune system, and digestive system.
What I discovered was truly astounding.
Our brains, immune systems, and digestive systems are in constant dialogue, exchanging information through hormones, electrical signaling, and energetic pathways (such as meridians). They continuously monitor our health and relay any changes to the rest of the body.
Chronic illness arises from a disrupted communication system that remains stuck in a state of hypervigilance (fight/flight/freeze/appease). This dysfunction generates inaccurate messages that can alter hormone levels, immune system activity, emotional states, brain processing, inflammation, and more. For instance, in clients with chronic infections like long COVID or Lyme, I observed a hypervigilant body purposely clinging to low-grade infections to maintain surveillance, like a physiological version of “keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” Unfortunately, this vigilance comes at a cost: fatigue, brain fog, anxiety, depression, and a myriad of other symptoms. Only when we coaxed the “nervousimmunedigestive system” out of hypervigilance and into a state of calm safety did these symptoms subside.
The encouraging news is that by addressing the physiological changes within these three intertwined systems, we can heal the physical symptoms of chronic and autoimmune illnesses. I have discovered that once the “neuroimmunedigestive system” is healed, other symptoms dissipate naturally.
If this message resonates with you, I am developing a program in the coming months that unites energy healing, NLP principles, mental practice, somatic healing, and neuroplasticity to facilitate lasting healing for these conditions. If you are interested in joining the waitlist for this transformative program, please reach out, and I will ensure you are among the first to know.
You know how they say, “You are what you eat”? Well, there’s increasing evidence from the world of epigenetics and psychoneuroimmunology that “You are what you think and believe” as well!
Epigenetics, a rapidly growing field of study, is revolutionizing the way we think about the relationship between our emotions, belief systems, and physical health. Influenced by the work of researchers like Bruce Lipton, mind-body science is evolving, demonstrating the interconnectedness of our thoughts, feelings, and the cells in our bodies. Let’s explore the fascinating world of epigenetics, the impact of emotions and belief systems on our cells, and the connection to psychoneuroimmunology – the study of how the mind influences the immune system.
The Power of Epigenetics
Epigenetics is the study of changes in gene expression that occur without altering the DNA sequence. These changes can be triggered by various factors, including the environment, lifestyle, and even our thoughts and emotions. Through epigenetics, we are discovering that our genes are not set in stone; rather, they can be turned on or off, like a light switch, based on various factors and stimuli.
Bruce Lipton, a renowned cell biologist, has played a significant role in advancing our understanding of how emotions and belief systems affect cellular function. According to Lipton, the receptors on the surface of our cells are influenced by our thoughts, feelings, and beliefs, ultimately shaping our health and well-being.
Emotions, Belief Systems, and Cellular Receptors
Our emotions and belief systems have a profound impact on our overall health. When we experience positive emotions and maintain optimistic beliefs, our cells receive signals that promote healing, growth, and overall well-being. Conversely, negative emotions and limiting beliefs can send signals that contribute to stress, inflammation, and even disease.
Lipton’s research suggests that our thoughts and emotions directly influence the receptors on our cells’ surfaces. These receptors act as gatekeepers, allowing certain molecules to enter the cell while blocking others. By altering the behavior of these receptors, our emotions and beliefs can directly affect cellular function, essentially “programming” our cells to respond to specific stimuli.
The Connection to Psychoneuroimmunology
Psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) is a multidisciplinary field that examines the interactions between the mind, nervous system, and immune system. It is a testament to the evolving understanding of mind-body science, as it delves into the ways our thoughts and emotions impact our physical health.
Epigenetics and PNI are closely intertwined, as both fields emphasize the role of emotions and belief systems in shaping our health. Research in PNI has demonstrated that stress, anxiety, and other negative emotional states can weaken the immune system, making us more susceptible to infections and diseases. Conversely, positive emotions and beliefs have been shown to strengthen the immune system, promoting healing and overall well-being.
The Evolution of Mind-Body Science
As our understanding of epigenetics and psychoneuroimmunology expands, so does our appreciation for the intricate connection between the mind and body. The idea that our emotions and beliefs can directly influence our physical health has profound implications for both medicine and self-care.
By harnessing the power of our thoughts and emotions, we can actively participate in shaping our health and well-being. Mind-body practices like meditation, mindfulness, and positive affirmations are becoming increasingly popular as people recognize the potential of these tools to improve their lives.
The fields of epigenetics and psychoneuroimmunology are revolutionizing the way we think about health and well-being. As we continue to explore the connection between our emotions, beliefs, and physical health, it becomes clear that the mind and body are deeply intertwined. By embracing the power of our thoughts and feelings, we can take an active role in our own healing through practices like meditation, yoga, and through holistic modalities like energy healing, EFT and positive psychology practices.
Migraines wreak havoc in people’s lives and are much more than a headache. Migraines cause pain (headache, or stomach ache in the case of abdominal migraines) and can also include symptoms like light and temperature sensitivity, dizziness, distorted vision or “floaters”, numbness in face or extremities, nausea, vomiting, and racing thoughts. Scientists are still unclear about what causes migraines, but current research points to a connection between serotonin levels and sudden changes in blood pressure and there appears to be a genetic component, as well.
However, the real reason for migraines isn’t just biological – people who are HSPs (highly sensitive people) and who tend to internalize stress and blame themselves (rather than blame the situation or other people) are the ones who will eventually develop migraines.
First, let’s look at the HSP link. People who fit the “highly sensitive person” profile are more finely attuned to both sensory stimuli and emotions. HSPs make up about 15-20% of the population and have brains that process more information than the norm and reflect on that information more deeply than others. HSPs tend to be more sensitive to sensory stimuli in their environments like flashing or bright light and noisy environments. They will often need to recharge with some alone time, preferably in a cozy Hygge-like environment. They also tend to pick up on details that others may miss – a brain that processes more information and reflects on it more deeply is not a bad thing after all, and can be a superpower. HSPs are good at seeing both the big picture and the little details, simultaneously. HSPs also have heightened empathic abilities as they are more aware of their inner emotional environment as well as the emotions of others. HSPs have more “mirror neurons” which are a type of brain cell that allows deeper social connections and greater awareness of the emotional state of others, which allows knowing more quickly and deeply what others are feeling, often more deeply than those others may know themselves.
As you can imagine from this description, HSP brains also tend to get overloaded more easily, and that’s when migraines can occur. If HSPs are constantly trying to operate in an environment or in social situations with high levels of sensory and emotional stimuli, it will eventually be more than they can handle. This tipping point of overwhelm is what can cause the neurological and blood pressure changes that can trigger a migraine.
But the overwhelm itself is not really the issue, it’s what we do with the overwhelm that matters.
There are two basic options for a brain that feels overwhelmed or stressed – we can blame the situation and other people (“That meeting was too crazy! I feel exhausted just from being in that room.”) or we can blame ourselves (“I should have been more prepared for that meeting. Everyone got upset and that probably could have been avoided if I’d had the information they were looking for beforehand.”) For those of us that tend towards the “freeze” or “appease” type of stress response, we usually will blame ourselves or put undue pressure on ourselves at work or school to try to avoid any feelings of shame or guilt. The changes in hormones and neurotransmitters caused by this type of self-blame, self-abandonment or self-gaslighting are the real culprits when it comes to migraines. When I made an effort to stop being a perfectionist (which is really a fear of the shame from disappointing people) my migraines reduced significantly.
When we can shift from thinking that there’s something wrong with us and we’re not doing a good enough job to realizing that our HSP sensitivity is just another type of neurodiversity (that is also a superpower) and that we are most likely doing plenty at whatever job or task is at hand, then our bodies will no longer have to stop us in our tracks with a migraine.
You are a sensitive soul, with the ability to think more widely and deeply than most, and that is a superpower. You are enough, and in fact people admire you and want to have you around just because you are you.
If you can start believing these two things, your migraines will diminish and you’ll find yourself on the road to true healing.
PS: This post was by request! When I talked about digestive issues last week, someone asked if I could do one on migraines. So, if you have a medical issue that you’d like me to write about please let me know and I’ll make a future post about that topic.
I see a lot of clients that have digestive issues and so I want to address what I’ve seen as the common emotional correlations for issues with the stomach, small intestine and large intestine. What does it mean when you’re having issues with your digestive system?
Stomach: If you have issues with your stomach like gastric reflux, ulcers or stomach cramps it can be helpful to think of the saying, “I can’t stomach that.” Stomach issues often come up when we aren’t living in alignment with our ethics or values and we’re being asked, or are asking ourselves, to do something that we don’t feel good about. For example, maybe you have a job with a company whose corporate culture is toxic. Or maybe you’re in a relationship where you’re putting up with a lot of BS from your partner and you know you need to do something about it, but you haven’t. In Chinese medicine, stomach issues represent over-worry or stress, so what is it that you’re stressed about but haven’t done anything about yet?
Small intestine: The job of the small intestine is to figure out what parts of our food are nutrients to be absorbed and what parts are indigestible waste that needs to be passed on to the large intestine. Issues with the small intestine like leaky gut, food allergies, or issues with slow or fast digestion come from having difficulty with discernment around if things in your life are good for you (nutrients) or something you need to get rid of (indigestible waste). I see a ton of my people pleasers coming in with small intestine issues because they have trouble discerning what’s actually good for them and what they are doing so others stay happy. They take on (or absorb) everything for everyone. If you are someone who says, “I love making other people happy!” and you have digestive issues, then this may be an issue of discernment. The way to heal this issue is to practice having better boundaries around what is emotionally healthy and good for you, and get better at saying “no” to the things that are draining or consistently center others’ needs over your own. On the other end of the spectrum, I also see people coming in who do the opposite – instead of absorbing everything, they are too rigid and controlling and don’t take the chance of opening up to (absorbing) anything in case it might hurt them. The way to heal this is to work on feeling safe around other people.
Large intestine: Let’s talk about how you handle your $h!t. Are you someone who is able to let emotions come up in real time and process them? Or are you someone who is always on the ball, productive and damn near perfect but then needs a glass of wine at the end of the day to come down from the stress? The large intestine is all about how you handle being upset, disappointed or stressed and whether you hold on to these emotions or have healthy ways of addressing them. If you don’t have a healthy way of handling these as they come up, the energy in your large interesting can get backed up and that’s when trouble arises. The physiological function of the large intestine is intertwined with water balance – too much and you have loose stool, too little and you’re constipated. Emotions and water are BFFs, water is one of the main ways emotions move through our bodies. So if your water isn’t moving well, I can almost guarantee your bowels won’t be either.
If you’ve been working with digestive issues for a while and still aren’t seeing the progress you’d like, feel free to contact me and we can set up a call. Also, if you liked this article and you want to know more about the emotional connection with other body parts or systems, reply and let me know which ones! If there’s enough interest, I can make this into a series.
There is mounting research showing the massive effect on our health of a well-balanced psychosocial ecosystem. A psychosocial ecosystem includes things like our roles, our social connections, and our daily routines. If we are feeling stress or imbalance in any of these areas, it hampers healing, especially of chronic conditions. Let’s look at these three areas and how they impact our health and bodymind.
Our roles are the “parts” we play in our lives. If you think about the credits at the end of a movie where it says “mother” or “bank teller” and then lists the actors’ names, this is like the roles we play in our lives. We all have multiple roles, like “friend”, “daughter”, “co-worker”, “employee”, “crafter”, “film buff” and many more. Each of these roles brings some sort of meaning to our lives and each of them is fulfilling in a different way (some more than others!) The key is to look at where the stress lies. Which of these roles are stressful? Are there any of these roles that we simply hate? If there are roles that are causing you stress or unhappiness, then it’s important to look at how to modify them or get rid of them all together. For example, if being a “daughter” is stressful because your parents are toxic, how can you lessen the time and energy you spend on being with them? How do you lessen the role of “daughter”? However, if a role brings you calm and joy, then look at how you can increase that role in your life. For example, if your favorite part of your job is being a “co-worker”, how can you increase opportunities to interact with others at work?
Social connections are the people we have in our life. This could be family, friends, co-workers, pickleball buddies, online gaming friends, or our favorite waiter at that restaurant we go to – anyone who you know and have some sort of connection to. It’s been shown many times over that the quantity AND quality of these connections is incredibly important for our health. So, even if you don’t feel like you have a ton of good quality relationships right now, you can start chatting with folks at the dog park or in line at the store and even that will have beneficial effects, as the quantity and quality of social interactions are both health-promoting. When you make that connection with another person, even a short interaction, it starts a cascade of healing chemicals in your body that positively affect your nervous system, immune system, mood, and more.
Our bodyminds love routines because they love familiar things. We love to feel the calm predictability of something that we know is going to work out in the same way it did before. Bonus points if we know it’s something that will make us happy or fulfilled. Routines can range from where we drink our morning coffee or tea to what aisles we go down first in the supermarket to our daily yoga or meditation practice. When our routines get thrown off, we often become stressed because we don’t know exactly how things will unfold. So take a look at your daily routines at home and at work. Which ones bring you joy? What is it about them that makes you happy? Can you bring more of that into your life? And if there’s some part of your day that seems to feel chaotic or unpredictable, can you bring a routine to it so that it feels more predictable (and therefore less stressful)?
Where can you make some changes to your roles, social connectivity and routines in your life? Remember to start small and build from there, even small changes can make a big difference over time and we only start making bigger changes by starting small, getting positive feedback, and then wanting more.
What one thing can you change today?
There’s an unspoken epidemic happening right now and I want to address it. You’ve probably heard of long Covid, which is when people have lingering symptoms after a Covid infection, but I’m seeing a deeper and more complex story with my clients than is not generally being reported in the news.
Long Covid is one of many “post-viral” syndromes that can cause a whole host of issues that may seem unrelated. Post-viral syndromes have been around for years, they’re what cause Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (aka chronic fatigue), and are suspected as one of the factors in other diseases as well. Long Covid and other post-viral illnesses happen when the body still has some of the virus circulating in a small amount, or when the body gets stuck in a cycle of inflammation from fighting off the illness, or both.
This is why you can have long Covid even if you never actually “got” Covid – we’ve all probably been exposed to the Covid virus at this point, and while some people didn’t get exposed to enough virus particles to cause full-blown Covid, they did get enough to cause long Covid. These people probably never tested positive for Covid because you need a certain amount of antibodies to test positive, and their antigen/antibody levels were too low to detect.
In addition, I think that the same people who have a higher risk of autoimmune issues from being in the freeze/fawn (aka people pleasing) nervous system response are also at a higher risk of getting long Covid. This is borne out somewhat by the data, which shows that the rate of long Covid among those that tested positive is 10.1% of men and 17.9% of women (women tend towards freeze/fawn more than men.) Although, I think the rate is even higher when you take into account that people can get long Covid without ever testing positive for Covid.
The symptoms of long Covid are varied and can look different in each person. Post-viral syndromes often have a few things in common, like fatigue and brain fog, but because Covid is an RNA virus and can cross the blood-brain barrier, there are a host of weirder symptoms that doctors may not think of as the typical post-viral issues. (If they even know about post-viral issues at all! This has historically been an area where medical gaslighting is rampant.)
Here are some of the symptoms of long Covid:
- Tiredness or fatigue that interferes with daily life
- Symptoms that get worse after physical or mental effort
- Brain fog (trouble thinking clearly or finding words)
- Short or long-term memory issues
- Depression or anxiety that often comes on quickly and then leaves
- Chills and night sweats or other sudden changes in body temperature
- Sleep problems
- New allergies to foods or your environment
- New sensitivities to odors, chemicals, light, touch, or noise
- Change or decrease in taste and smell
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, especially when climbing stairs or hills
- Fast-beating or pounding heart (also known as heart palpitations) that comes and goes
- Muscle weakness and joint pain
- Pins-and-needles feelings in your arms and legs
- Warm or swollen legs or feet (if this is the case, please see a doctor immediately, it could be a blood clot)
- Digestive issues like diarrhea, stomach pain, or acid reflux
- Changes in appetite or types of food you crave
- Menstrual cycle changes
- Hair loss
- Weight gain or loss
- A general feeling of being “inflamed”
Obviously this is not an exhaustive list, but if you’ve noticed any of these popping up in the last 3 years, it could be long Covid. Since long-covid affects so many body systems, I’d suggest finding a holistic practitioner to help you out, like a functional medicine doctor, a naturopath, or an energy healer (like me!) There are steps you can take to improve your symptoms and get your body into a better balance so that it can oust the Covid virus and start the healing process.