Your brain is like the maestro of an exquisite symphony that is your body, with the limbic system holding the baton. This key player, responsible for our emotions, motivations, and memories, plays a significant role in the harmony between your brain and immune system.
Welcome to the Limbic System: The Command Center of Emotions & More
The limbic system is made up of several brain structures, including the amygdala, hippocampus, hypothalamus, and cingulate cortex. Each member of the team plays its unique part:
- Amygdala: Meet the brain’s security guard. Its job is to protect you, keeping a keen eye out for danger and playing a big role in processing emotions, especially when fear is knocking at the door.
- Hippocampus: This one is your personal historian, responsible for creating new memories and linking emotions and senses to these memories. It helps you remember the good times (and the not-so-good times).
- Hypothalamus: The hypothalamus wears many hats – it keeps tabs on your hunger, sleep, body temperature, hormones, and also plays a part in emotions and memory. It’s your body’s personal assistant, always juggling multiple tasks.
- Cingulate Cortex: This cerebral team member helps in managing your emotions and pain. Consider it the sensible voice in the crowd.
The Neuro-Immune Connection: A Two-Way Street
The relationship between your brain and your immune system is indeed a complex one, and it’s more interactive than you might think. Think of it like a two-way street or an ongoing dialogue where one impacts the other and vice versa.
One fascinating aspect of this neuro-immune connection is how the immune system communicates with the brain, particularly when it’s activated. Let’s say, for instance, that you’re fighting off a particularly nasty cold. Your immune system goes into high gear, sending out an army of white blood cells to battle the invading germs.
As part of this immune response, your immune system releases cytokines. These tiny proteins act like messengers, sending out distress signals to your brain. This is your immune system’s way of saying, “Hey, we’re dealing with a situation down here. Can you help?”
Your brain, always willing to lend a hand, responds to these distress signals. It activates the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, leading to the release of cortisol, our primary stress hormone. Cortisol, in turn, is meant to suppress the immune response and limit inflammation.
But here’s where things can get tricky. If your immune system is consistently activated—due to chronic stress, past trauma, poor sleep, unhealthy diet, or persistent infections, for example—then those distress signals to your brain become more like a constant alarm.
This can lead to a chronic state of inflammation in your body and result in a perpetuating feedback loop of stress and inflammation. Your brain, in an effort to manage the constant “distress calls,” can end up maintaining a heightened stress response. This persistent stress state can exacerbate the immune response further, leading to even more inflammation.
This is where the concept of limbic retraining comes in handy. By working to retrain your limbic system, you’re essentially trying to teach your brain to better regulate the stress response, helping to break the cycle of chronic inflammation.
So, it’s not merely a one-way conversation from the brain to the body or the body to the brain, but an intricate dialogue between the two. The key lies in ensuring that this dialogue remains balanced and that neither the brain nor the immune system is constantly shouting over the other.
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.
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.
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.
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.