In order to heal your chronic conditions, you have to heal the overstimulation of
your survival stress responses in your central nervous system.
There are always the latest medical buzz words floating around and the “I have received this bombshell diagnosis” statements. Lately in my clinic I have been seeing an influx of people diagnosed with mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS), an under-active vagus nerve or (idiopathic) functional neurological disorder (FND). When they ask me do you have experience with these syndromes or disorders, can you help me? Well the answer to be honest can range from yes, yes, and no never heard off but yes. You see, the diagnosis is not really the point, great starting point but we have to get beyond the diagnosis in order to heal chronic conditions. The point is what caused your nervous system, immune or hormonal system to (over) react that has caused this overstimulation of stress responses in your body? My answer to that question: Chronic conditions are triggered and held in place by an overstimulation of the stress responses in the nervous system and a hyper sensitive and hyper reactive brain and here is the bombshell – this can lie below the level of your conscious awareness.
So yes, we may have symptoms like chronic aching bodies, painful muscles, over-acidic bodies, sleeping problems, high blood pressure, neurological problems, light/noise/food sensitivities, tinnitus, asthma, addiction, auto-immune system disorder, anxiety, depression, neurological disorders or digestive problems but it is our nervous system and our brain that regulates our physiological changes and symptoms. This seems to be overlooked in the medical health model. It is the central nervous system that runs our internal show, sending messages from the body to the brain in a bi-directional communication loop and driving most of our symptoms on a physical, mental and emotional level.
Let’s have a closer look in detail.
The number one priority our body has is our survival and secondly procreation in order to keep the species going. Neuroception means our autonomic nervous system is always scanning our external and internal environment for cue’s of safety or danger, be if physical, mental or emotional, in the drive to survive and the longing to connect. Neuroception operates below our subconscious mind, meaning it lies outside the realm of our awareness as it accesses information without involving the thinking parts of the brain. When cues are picked up as threats, a cascade of cleverly orchestrated physiological wired-in stress and survival responses occur in the body. Some stress responses we may become aware of in the form of physical symptoms, others we don’t become aware of as they remain below our level of awareness, until overload hits and the body crashes. Neuroception answers to the question: Am I safe or in danger right now?
Interoception means the ability to perceive sensations of the internal state of the body. Interoception helps the brain to identify how you feel both physically and emotionally, as it collects all the feelings from inside the body and uses this information to respond accordingly, this is important for self-regulation. For instance, are you hungry, is your heart beating fast, are you are hot or cold or thirsty, do you need to use the bathroom, are you in pain or are you angry? Some people do not have a clear recognition of their bodily signals or how or what they are feeling. Their interoceptive awareness – the ability to identify, understand, and respond appropriately to their internal signals is off balance and they may not be able to realise that they are anxious or angry as they don’t recognise that their muscles are tense, their breathing is shallow or that their heart is racing. Interoception answers to the question: How am I feeling?
Through neuroception, the brain receives signals up the chain of commands, that there is a threat. This threat can be real or just perceived as real, it can come from people, family members, work stress, pressure, overwhelm, overload, anxiety or from emotional concepts like loneliness, boredom and abandonment, as those concepts can also threaten our existence, our survival and our social connections. The brain thinks: what do I need to do to survive and responds by triggering a targeted set of defensive mechanisms in our nervous system, hormonal system or immune system to counter attack the perceived threat and ensuring our survival. The brain answers to the question: What do I need to do to survive?
In past blogs I have written about our nervous system and its 2 branches – the sympathetic (fight and flight) and the parasympathetic (rest and digest) branch. (blog) When we are in a state of stress our sympathetic branch is activated, we are in fight/flight and respond to danger. We are ready for action, wired, fearful, and we have a hard time to relax, as if we are waiting for something to happen and on alert. This can lead to an over triggering of stress response leading to an over triggering of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline and/or an over triggering of the immune response.
On a physiological level it leads to oa:
Putting it all together
Our symptoms are deeply shaped and influenced by our brain and nervous system, due to acute stress, long term toxic stress or (childhood) trauma. Survival stress is held in our central nervous system, in our physiology, in our tissues and our cells as our reactions to physical, mental or emotional stress are primarily bodily ones and lie as the root cause behind chronic conditions. When the brain learns to be in long term survival mode, it will be operating on a hyper vigilant and hyper reactive level. An over reactive brain is more primed to be on the lookout for danger and in a state of hypervigilance for any physical, mental or emotional stress and the brain eventually gets stuck in that hyper mode.
People can have faulty neuroception, where they are no longer able to read the cues adequately in their environment and are unaware of their external and internal triggers leading to things like anxiety or depression. We often see this in trauma as trauma reshapes body and brain, as the brain and nervous system keeps triggering, even when threats are not present.
People can have a compromised functioning interoception, where there is a disconnect between the body’s signals and the brain’s processing of those signals. Here people are unable to read their own internal cues adequately of how their body is feeling or what their body needs ie not drinking when thirsty or sleeping when tired or relaxing when wired. This can underlie anxiety, depression, panic attacks, addictions, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Feedback loop is on stuck and in a maladaptive vicious cycle
When an over triggering of responses continues, the nervous system and the brain gets stuck and wired to be in the on-mode and things become more chronic.
This maladaptive vicious cycle, where the body is caught in a loop and cannot reset or switch off properly, feeds the chronic conditions. The body has upgraded itself in this new stuck position and it may even start to feel normal and part of the fabric of who we are and perhaps despite many medical interventions, we are just not able to overcome our symptoms or regulate our physiological processes.
Enter: Craniosacral Therapy
Craniosacral therapy (CST)
Craniosacral Therapy is a powerful physical therapy to reset your central nervous system. To work with chronic conditions, you have to work with the brain and the nervous system on a physical, mental and emotional level, as well as enhancing your neuroception and interoception. This therapy packs a punch and its subtle touch belies its power.
Five core reasons why Craniosacral therapy needs to be included in the treatment
of chronic conditions – chronic pain, trauma, addiction,
complex illness and diseases.
CST is proven to: