- Camille is 38 and has experiencing unexplained joint pain, fatigue and generally not feeling like herself.
- Blood tests revealed an elevated ANA but that could mean many things and doctors were unable to give her a diagnosis.
- Further bloodwork pointed to an issue with thyroid and inflammation.
An elevated ANA can mean a lot of things but generally it indicates that there is an autoimmune issue which could be lupus, scleroderma, Sjogren’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, or a variety of other diseases. However, a positive ANA is not considered enough to diagnose any of these. In Camille’s case, I could see from the additional blood work I ran that there was more to this story; that there was perhaps more than one puzzle piece missing to complete this picture.
Dr. Keesha Ewers is an integrative medicine expert, a popular speaker, and the best-selling author of Solving the Autoimmune Puzzle: The Woman’s Guide to Reclaiming Emotional Freedom and Vibrant Health. She’s board certified in functional and Ayurvedic medicine and the Founder and Medical Director of the Academy for Integrative Medicine Health Coach Certification Program.
Holistic Medicine Includes the Mind
When we are dealing with a physical ailment, like Camille was, we assume that the cause of the issue is entirely physical. However, as Dr. Keesha explains, we need to look at these issues from a holistic perspective. Our emotions send signals to our mind which can create a biochemical reaction. We’ve discussed in past episodes how long held beliefs can manifest into physical ailments (see episode 007) and this is certainly the case with autoimmune disease.
How Emotions Affect Us Physically
Dr. Keesha conducted a study in 2013 called the ‘Healing Unresolved Trauma Study” aslo known as the HURT study. In this study she found that young brains that are not fully developed (up to the age of 26) are affected by any kind of trauma (emotional and physical) that they encounter. These traumatic experiences can be as innocuous as feelings of rejection or being not good enough. Young minds try to make sense of these experiences by creating stories around them to give them meaning. These become beliefs. In turn, the young mind develops an adaptive strategy (to avoid future negative emotional experiences) which becomes hardwired into the brain and we carry that with us into adulthood. When we experience a similar emotion as adults, without knowing it, our brain references back and triggers a response.
What’s Happening in the Body During Fight or Flight?
We’re all familiar with the fight or flight response but Dr. Keesha explains that the brain can trigger this response even when there is no real danger as a result of these early emotional experiences. The physical response is however the same even if the trigger isn’t a tiger but something like rejection. The brain sends a message to our adrenal glands to release cortisol. This sends oxygen to our muscles, raises our blood pressure and our heart rate (all thing needed for fight or flight). At the same time it shuts down the unnecessary systems including fertility, sexual desire, and digestion. It also changes the way we take in information – it shifts our focus away from the now to the future (or from here to there – where safety is)
Our hormones are not designed to be continually in that mode. Eventually, we run out of cortisol. This causes a new chain reaction (because your body is still in fight or flight) so the body starts to steal your progesterone stores from your reproductive organs. This creates a hormone imbalance.
The Root of the Root Cause
I talk a lot about getting to the root cause of the problem on this podcast, but often it can be tricky to see the root of the root. We might be able to trace the issue back to a hormone imbalance (and correct that) but we need to keep digging to see what caused that hormone imbalance. This can be a very challenging thing for people because we tend to not tie our physical condition to long held beliefs or emotional triggers from our youth. And, often we feel that this ‘new’ problem can’t be related because it came on ‘all of a sudden’. However, it’s more likely that the condition or symptoms were the result of a system breaking down after long-term stress.
Capital T vs. Small t Trauma
Many people think of trauma in the sense of what Dr. Keesha calls capital T trauma like sexual abuse, abandonment, PTSD, domestic violence, neglect, or psychological abuse. However, research shows that lower case t traumas does that exact same thing to your hormones, biochemistry and brain function. Dr. Keesha says that everyone experiences some form of lower case t trauma in their life.
Is Autoimmune Your Fault?
Dr. Keesha is adamant about shifting this paradigm of blaming ourselves for developing an autoimmune disease. Yes, our brains may be the cause but we were never in control of how our brains are wired as a result of our childhood experiences. That’s biological. Blaming and shaming is not going to fix the problem. Instead, she believes that we need to face these old traumas. Ayurvedic medicine says that autoimmune is undigested anger and so, we need to digest our anger, emotions, feelings, memories and experiences from our past. This often requires some professional help.
Can Autoimmune Be Cured?
Dr. Keesha is an example of how dealing with old emotional wiring can change your physical health. She had rheumatoid arthritis and was able to reverse it through counselling and adjusting her diet. Remember, it’s a holistic approach. It’s not just the mind but the body too. She says that dealing with autoimmune is like taking the hero’s journey. Once you acknowledge the challenge, you need to find a mentor to help you develop the skills that will help rewire your brain and response to emotional triggers. You’ll also want to work with a holistic nutritionist and or a function medicine doctor. Dr. Keesha also shares her top three tips for anyone dealing with autoimmune in the podcast.
This holistic approach worked for Camille. First I introduced her to technique called T.R.E. which stands for Trauma Release Exercise (more on this in an upcoming episode!). Next, I worked with her on her diet to balance her immune system and lower her inflammation. She also worked with a reputable counsellor to deal with her emotional triggers (which were not related to any big T traumas and she had no idea were the source of her physical issues). Within 6 months, her ANA results were negative and she no longer presented with autoimmune issues.
Eliminating Health Mysteries
For Camille we were able to find those hidden missing pieces of her health puzzle and help her turn her day to day well being around. Could past traumas be the missing clue for you or someone in your life?
Thanks to my guest Dr. Keesha Ewers. You can connect with her on her website here: https://www.drkeesha.com/ and through Facebook and Instagram. Dr. Keesha has is also offering you her Autoimmune Blueprint for free. Click here to grab it.
Immune Mod A
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