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.