Calming The Mind & Body- Feeding The Spirit
From Mitochondria to Major Organs, Calm Is The Name of the Game
Healing From Mold Protocol #7 - From the "Step By Step Protocol" To Healing From Mold
Calming the mind and Feeding the spirit is important for your physical state of health. When our body is under stress from a mental, emotional, or physical trauma such as toxins, the entire body goes into a stress state, and sometimes that stress state becomes chronic, and feeds on itself, like a snake eating it's tail, making it hard to heal. I am going to focus on one aspect of the stress state that has many consequences. I want to examine the autonomic nervous system and its relationship to stress, with a sidebar into how stress affects the mitochondria and why it ends up being so important to support these little energy makers.
The sympathetic system allows the body to react to a stimulating event or emergency situation, such as running from a cougar or fighting an attacker. However, it also goes into action when other stressors come up, such as near traffic accidents, or a stressful situation at work, school or socially. It increases the heart rate, constricts blood flow to most peripheral arteries and raises blood pressure. The point is to supply more blood to the brain, heart, and skeletal muscles by reducing blood flow to the skin and to the digestive system. The sympathetic nervous system causes dilation of the pupil, inhibits saliva production, dilates the bronchi, speeds up the heart rate, inhibits peristalsis, stimulates glucose production and inhibits urination. In western society, people often find themselves in some form of sympathetic mode during their day, and for some it is much of the day. This adds to the burden that leads to chronic disease. Without enough time in parasympathetic mode to rest and repair, things slowly go down hill.
The sympathetic system can also be triggered by activities, or stressors such as mycotoxins in the environment, or a pathogen in the body. Any time the body feels under attack or feels "stressed" the body will use epinephrine or norephinephrine to assist. In a situation where one is under chronic stress, this can create a chronic sympathetic tone to the body that is not healthy. Luckily, we have another body system that kicks in to balance the sympathetic tone called the parasympathetic system.
The parasympathetic system (or the craniosacral division) has a calming effect on the body. It is the “rest and digest, or feed and breed” response that is largely using the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, and is therefore also called the cholinergic system. When in a parasympathetic state the body is calm, and is able to rest and digest food, but is not prepared for action, stress, or danger.
The parasympathetic system is active during times of relaxation and digestion. It decreases the heart rate, and stimulates the digestive system. This part of the autonomic system helps you digest, metabolize and repair damage, and replace cellular components. The parasympathetic nervous system constricts the pupil, stimulates tear secretion, stimulates saliva production, constricts bronchi, slows down the heart rate, stimulates peristalsis, stimulates bile production and stimulates urination.
A big stress event will stimulate the sympathetic autonomic nervous system in a major way. This is most noticeable in individuals when they experience something big, something acute, that we will called a super stress inducer, such as a car wreck, or a head injury. In these situations, you get an immediately rush of adrenalin (AKA epinephrine from the sympathetic system). It puts your body into overdrive. Sometimes that overdrive can last much longer than necessary when you experience one of these really huge stressors, or it can become chronic, although usually at a lower level. I see many "mold" people experience some type of major inciting stressor that sets them off into a path of ill health. Sometimes it is a huge mental/emotional stressor rather than physical.
Chronicity of sympathetic overdrive can also be observed if you are experiencing chronic smaller stressors from your environment such as are found in a water-damaged building. When the nervous system is in a sympathetic mode it is reacting to stress and prepared for danger, but it is unable to carry on processes for growth and repair which takes place in parasympathetic mode. This causes the body to break down eventually.
Fight, Flight Or Freeze
You might remember that when the sympathetic nervous system arouses the body to action there is a “fight, flight or freeze” response. When the fight or flight response is not working, this other reaction takes place which is to freeze. It has long been known that this reaction takes place in high stress , acute situations, but it can take place in chronic stress also. We can see this reaction to chronic stress at a mitochondrial level in the cell. The mitochondria go into a freeze state called "cell danger response (CDR)". (refer to Naviaux's research for details on CDR) In this situation all the cells of the body slow down due to lack of energy being created. (need that ATP the mitochondria make) This sets the stage for decreased cellular activity and repair. To come out of this state, the body needs to feel calm, safe and supported.
A Calm Mind And Body Will Put You Into Parasympathetic Mode And Help You Reset Your Freaked Out Mitochondria
Mitochondria make energy for our cells and are the primary defense mechanisms of the cell. Without them, we are literally nothing. We would not have the energy to get out of bed in the morning. When they put out the extracellular signalling molecules that coordinates "cell danger response (CDR)" due to a toxic or infectious assault, metabolic function lowers to a crawl. It is thought that the mitochondria do this as a learned response as part of a cellular protection mechanism against invaders. It is triggered by encounters with chemical, physical, or biological threats that exceed the cellular capacity for homeostasis. When the threat is gone, normal business takes place. However, in chronic illness this mechanism gets stuck. The situation is continually sustained by "purinergic signaling", which involves cells throwing off purine nucleotides ATP and ADP into the extracellular space. ATP is made by the mitochondria and needed in the cell for energy, but when it begins to concentrate in the extracellular environment it becomes an important signalling molecule. When the CDR gets stuck , the entire bodies metabolism is decreased and the gut microbiome is disturbed, the activity of multiple organ systems is impaired, behavior is changed, and chronic disease results.
This systemic form of the CDR, and the "purinergic life-threat response", are getting their cues from ancient pathways in the brain that are coordinated by centers in the brain stem.
Unsticking The Danger Response System Of The Mitochonria
The mitochondria do well when we have healthy habits and a healthy lifestyle.
- Remove all causes of inflammation to the body.
- Eat well - Colorful fruits and veggies/high mineral vegetables/healthy protein and fats/seaweed
- Remove food allergens or other allergens
- Support your parasympathetic system.
- Remove yourself from toxic environments.
- Remove toxins from your body and pathogens that are making toxins.
- Find things that give you joy.
- Consider adaptogen herbs which will support the mitochondria.
- Exercise as able
Mast Cells And Their Relation To Mitochondrial Cell Danger Response
Toxins cause mast cell activation through the same process that causes the mitochondria to react. Those things that initiate mast cell activation will increase the "cell danger response" as mast cells also release ATP into the extracellular milieu, thereby perpetuating the ATP-activated purinergic signaling and increasing the cell danger responses. (You can see how this could go on indefinitely as they feed each other.) You have to break the cycle.
It is noted in folks with toxin issues that they may start having excess mast cell activation responses. If so, consider modalities used to decrease mast cell activation. Some of these modalities are the same as those that would be used for treating CIRS folks any way, so even if you don't address mast cell activation direction, you might find it just disappears. Here are a few examples though.
Chinese Sage - Salvia miltiorrhiza
This herb contains Salvianolic acids, which are anti-platelet agents that block the purinergic receptor P2Y12. Salvia constituents called tanshiones have been shown in vitro to inhibit mast cell degranulation.
Chinese skullcap - Scutilleria baicalensis
Chinese skullcap contains baicalin, which inhibits the P2X3 purinergic receptor, and was found to mediate myocardial ischemic injury and accumulation of extracellular ATP.
Quercetin is a well known mast cell stabilizer. Though currently unconfirmed, Quercetin is a probable candidate for inhibiting the binding of v. Quercetin acts by inhibiting the uptake of calcium in mast cells. ATP binding of purinergic receptors enables calcium influx, which leads to a process of degranulation.
Kaempferol is a bioflavonoid found in foods like cruciferous vegetables. It was studied as a purinergic receptor antagonist in HIV-1 target cells. Kaempferol inhibited or antagonized P2Y2 purinergic receptors on target cells, leading to reduced HIV-1-induced cell death and infection.
For more information on mast cells and mast cell stabalization, check out the article on "Mast Cell Activation".
Rather than making a list of things you can do to support mitochondria, I will tell you to look to the lifestyle factors, herbs and supplements used to support the person with mold related illness in the other protocol articles on this website, as these also support the mitochondria. Some specific items to consider are supporting glutathione, use of alpha-lipoic acid, resveratrol, adaptogen herbs specific to the individual, molybdenum if needed (too much can be toxic), Cruciferae plants in diet, magnesium, b vitamins, vitamin C, sunlight to the eyes, some minerals such as copper, manganese and zinc may also be necessary if needed. Additionally, the mitochondria need the biotransformation pathways working. All of them even though methylation is the only one that people seem to usually pay much attention to.
How To Support The Parasympathetic System For Rest And Repair
- Deep, slow belly breathing - exhale longer than you inhale
- Loud gargling with water
- Loud singing
- Chanting - research on chanting OM, but most meditative, vibratory chanting will work
- Qi Gong
- Tai Chi
The best thing a person can do to support the parasympathetic mode in their daily life, is to take time to meditate/pray or invest their time in a contemplative activity, such as gardening or a walk in the woods. Any time you want to emphasize the parasympathetic nervous system, take some slow deep breaths. You can do this almost anywhere at any time and it works like magic.
I can't emphasize enough how powerful it is to use this simple protocol of slow, deep breathing, and how it can take you out of a sympathetic dominant state into a parasympathetic state. I should mention that if you are in an acute crisis your body will over-ride most things you do to go into parasympathetic mode. This is because your body knows it has an emergency situation going on, and it is going to continue to pump out norepinephrine, and epinephrine to assist you. For example, immediately after a severe head trauma, a person feels utterly overwhelmed and pumped up from the "adrenalin" surge. The mind is racing and the body feels like it could go run a race if not for the pain (they don't always feel the pain in this state though) and damage to their head. They are acutely sensitive to everything around them with light, sounds and smells seeming extremely intense, and overwhelming to them. This hyper vigilant, and sensitive state is great if they need to get away or fight an opponent, but the initial trauma is over and they are now dealing with a bruised, inflamed body that needs to heal. Healing best happens in a parasympathetic mode. Deep, slow breathing may help these people, but their mind is going at break-neck speed and usually it won't be enough. Using it in conjunction with something to distract their mind and calm it can be helpful. That might be, someone taking them on a mental journey by sitting with them, and helping them to visualize, or imagine a calm, restful situation that they can project themselves into. Very quiet relaxing music may help. Getting their mind to focus on something relaxing can be key to getting them into a parasympathetic state. At the same time using the deep, slow breathing technique should continue. You can really help them through this acute state by continuously reminding them to pay attention to breathing deep and listening to your relaxing message, or a meditation tape. Ask them what usually relaxes them. The repetition of the activity or the message will eventually get through to them. Getting their body to sleep is helpful. Keep in mind that you need to help their body realize the threat is gone and they are now safe and being cared for. All is well. All is well. All is well should be the mantra.
Although, the assault of toxins in your environment is not as acutely traumatic, or noticeable as is a sudden head trauma, you do have constant low level trauma taking place. Until, the exposure is gone, using techniques to bring you into a parasympathetic mood through-out your day can be ever so helpful. You need something to counteract the constant threat. Let your body know you are aware of the issue and you are taking steps towards a healing, safe environment. Do things that make you feel safe, secure and well cared for. If not for you, for your mitochondria. If you don't feel safe and secure, neither do they, and you need to interrupt the "cell danger response".
Meditation or prayer before sleep will help put you into parasympathetic mode and you will sleep deeper, longer and be more refreshed upon awakening. Using the slow, deep breathing will also help. If you have an inspirational book you enjoy reading this will also support parasympathetic tone and if read before bed, will help with deeper sleep. Anything that relaxes you will decrease sympathetic tone, and enhance parasympathetic tone.
Through-out your day notice if you are feeling stressed or on edge. If so, stop and take a moment to do the breathing exercises. If you have time, taking a meditative relaxing journey in your mind or use suggestive visualization to consciously relax most of your voluntary muscles in your body.
How To Do A Relaxing Visualization
Lay down somewhere comfortable. Start at one end of your body - either the feet or your head, and simply note how that area feels. For instance starting with your head, you can note how your entire head feels. Notice the skin, the eyes, the forehead, the ears etc., and imagine the skin on your face bathed with sunshine, and imagine the sun soaking into your skin, your eyes, your nose, your lips, your forehead, your chin etc. Lay there feeling and experiencing how your skin would feel bathing in the sun, how your muscles would relax, and all thoughts, and worries would simply disappear as you enjoy the deep, relaxing rays of the sun. It is just you and the sun basking in the glory of its light. Next move down to your neck, and throat, and continue on down the body. This takes some time but will take you from sympathetic to parasympathetic mode. As people practice this process they find they can go through the process quicker, and more easily each time they do the visualization.
YouTube has various videos where people will talk you through a relaxing visualization, and these can be very useful.
While in a relaxed state, spend time imagining your body in a state of radiant health and enjoying life. Give it as much detail as possible. Do this with joy and a smile (smile even if you don't feel like it, as it changes your mental/emotional state to smile) and realize you are seeing yourself in a future state. Tell your future self that all is well and that you are going through a healing process.
Techniques To Retrain You & Leave Your Hyper-Sympathetic Mode In The Dust
There are people using a variety of different techniques to help people stuck in sympathetic mode reactions to learn how to retrain themselves. Some of those retraining methods include such simple methods as I just gave you to use. You will find these techniques can be quite complicated and costly to quite simply things you can implement easily in your life. Start with the easy ones and if you don't get the results you wish, there are many more options to choose from. Everyone is different, and there is no one technique that fits everyone.
Remember, if you have stressors that are taking you back into sympathetic mode, those stressors need to be dealt with. You can retrain your body to hang out more in parasympathetic mode, but if your surroundings keep sending you into sympathetic mode, you need to change your surroundings rather than yourself. Both the outer and inner side of stress needs to be attended to, both the cause and the reaction. Your body can only over-ride a stressful environmental situation to a certain point. However, if a cougar is getting ready to pounce on you, your body is not stupid enough to let you hang out there, and do deep breathing exercises. Time to ramp up the sympathetic system and take action. (I did find myself staring at a cougar in my back yard 6 months ago, so not a totally unlikely scenario.) My point is that sometimes you need to change the environment/stressor, sometimes you need to change your reaction to the environment/stressor or your continuous ongoing chronic reaction after the stress is gone. Most times, you need to change both the stressor and your reaction.
Meditation And Prayer
These are powerful tools to put you into a parasympathetic state. Plus they usually inspire a life of contemplation, mindful watching and help one to become the best version of themselves possible. Prayer and meditation bring us into active communion with the Divine Power. It is a space where we can reshape ourselves and refocus. We can ask our higher-self for guidance, and learn to trust that we are cared for and we can heal in a space of love and safety.
Watching ourselves as we go about your day is a useful behavior. We learn how we interact with the world, how we react to the world, and notice behaviors that are more, or less productive, and more, or less healthy. We can get an idea by what we do, and what we say, and how we react to activities, thoughts, or behaviors that may be supporting sympathetic, or parasympathetic activity. Once we note anything that incites sympathetic mode, we can examine how that took place, and make changes in how we react when the situation comes up again, or change the situation. Stopping negative thoughts and emotions are integral to getting well again. Simply note them and tell them to stop. Tell your body new ideas immediately about how much you love your body, are protecting your body, taking steps to heal the body and let your mind and body know that you will be relentless in your quest for health and making sure your body is safe from now on. Imagine yourself in full radiant health and let your body know this is the new reality. If you have trouble with negative thoughs interrupting your day, simply tell them to stop, replace them with positive ideas and keep your mind preoccupied so it can't keep replaying old negative thoughts. Don't get upset at yourself. Simply note that the thought is untrue, not helpful and stop it and replace it. You will need to do this over, and over again until you retrain your mind and body to play positive thoughts. It is really as simple as reptatively doing this over and over until the mind and body learns the new system and it becomes a subconscious activity just as the negative thoughts were.
Additional related information on this website
Sleep Is An Important Part Of Relaxing And Healing
Restful, deep sleep, and getting enough sleep is important. In mold related illness, insomnia is the norm. So, I tend to use tryptophan, or 5-HTP, or melatonin. Lack of melatonin can be caused by the low MSH levels that biotoxin illness is associated with.
There are a variety of things that can interphere with melatonin levels and you can read about them at "A Good Nights Sleep With Melatonin".
These people start out on 3 mg of melatonin at bedtime, and increase it up to 10mg if needed. As they start to feel better, I have them lower the dose slowly back down. I also find for some people, giving them 5-HTP at the same time can be beneficial in conjunction with the melatonin. I start them at 50mg at bedtime. For most this is all that is needed along with the melatonin. If these two do not do the trick I have have found adding tryptophan may work better than 5-HTP. I realize that tryptophan turns into 5-HTP that turns into serotonin, that turns into melatonin and so it seems taking melatonin should do the trick, but in real life this is how it plays out. All I know is if an individual has a low melatonin issue, some mixture of these three will almost always do the trick.
Melatonin has been shown in animal studies to provide some protection against damage from the mycotoxins called ochratoxin, and aflatoxin. It may be due to it's antioxidant capabilities. Mycotoxins cause terrible oxidative damage.
How to naturally raise melatonin levels
I find meditation that focuses on the heart and pineal gland can be helpful to enhance levels of melatonin naturally in the body. Any meditation will be helpful. There is a need for regular periods of mediation of an hour or more for this to work for most people. I suggest meditating for one hour or more each day. Before bed is the best time, but it helps at any time of the day.
- Melatonin is protective against ochratoxin A damage to kidneys and testes.
- Melatonin is protective against aflatoxin B1 damage to liver.
For more details on melatonin check out "A Good Nights Sleep With Melatonin".
Nervines And Hypnotics
There are of course a variety of herbs that are useful in people with insomnia and it can be helpful to add in those specific to the individual you are working with. This could be any of the relevant nervines and specifically hypnotics that fit the individual you are working with.
Next, read "Additional Protocols You Should Know About".
When These Tools Do Not Work & Anxiety & Hypervigilance Remains
There are some training programs that have helped people when nothing else has worked. Sometimes people need someone to guide them. Two guidance programs used commonly are:
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