Restoring Optimal Limbic System Function — Using Brain Science to Accelerate Healing: Part 3
The term “stress kills” is a cliché. And while we have known for some time that stress is unhealthy, we are just beginning to really understand why and what its effect is in our brains. For instance, an October 2019 study published in the British Medical Journal highlights a strong connection between stress-related disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and the subsequent risk of life-threatening infections. In that study, researchers found a 63 percent higher risk of meningitis among those with stress-related disorders — and a 57 percent higher risk of endocarditis compared with siblings who did not have any stress-related conditions.
In another 2019 study published in the same journal, researchers concluded, “Stress-related disorders are robustly associated with multiple types of cardiovascular disease, independently of familial background, history of somatic/psychiatric diseases, and psychiatric comorbidity.”
At the root of this understanding is the realization that the mind and body are more integrated than we have been led to believe. Our thoughts and feelings, and even our interactions with others, have a significant impact on all our body’s systems — including cardiovascular, respiratory, immune, digestive and excretory. And this connection between mind and body runs throughout the brain and nervous system.
In this three-part series, we are exploring this mind-body integration. In Part 1, “Integrating Implicit and Explicit Memory,” we explained how trauma (physical or emotional) causes the fragmentation of implicit and explicit memories, and how that fragmentation can negatively impact a person’s health and the ability to recover from illness. Only by integrating implicit and explicit memories can someone suffering from trauma — both physical and emotional — move past it and free the body to heal itself.
In Part 2 of this series, “Restoring Health Through the Vagus Nerve,” we took a closer look at how external psychological, emotional, and social stimuli manifest as physical dysfunction in the body, and how certain physical therapies can restore balance and healthy function to the body. This interaction between external stimuli and physical dysfunction can be explained through polyvagal theory, which we cover in that post.
Here, in Part 3, we introduce you to several treatments and therapies that may help to restore vagal tone, thereby strengthening the body’s ability to fight infection and heal itself while also restoring calm, confidence, and joy to a mind that has become hard-wired for fear, depression, and anxiety.
First up is osteopathic manipulative treatment.
Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment (OMT)
Here at Restoration Healthcare we recommend and provide Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment (OMT) — including cranial osteopathy — to restore vagal tone and rebalance mind and body, among other things. OMT can help correct nervous system dysfunction in the following ways:
- Massage (soft-tissue manipulation) relaxes the muscles.
- Fascial release tones connective tissue.
- Osteopathic joint manipulation mobilizes immobilized areas, reducing fluid buildup.
- Postural education reduces postural stress.
- Realignment of vertebrae reduces inflammation, alleviating the pressure on nerves that negatively impacts nervous system function.
Cranial osteopathy is a subtle form of OMT that uses very gentle pressure to encourage the release of stress throughout the body. It is called “cranial” because treatment often involves the head, although other parts of the body such as the spine and tailbone can also be involved.
During a cranial osteopathy treatment, our Co-founder & Medical Director — Dr. Sunny Raleigh — can feel the tiny fluctuations of movement within the body called involuntary motion. To Dr. Raleigh, this feels like a gentle expansion and contraction of all the tissues, occurring seven to 14 times a minute. This involuntary motion can easily be disturbed by any form of trauma, such as a difficult birth, a car accident, continued exposure to emotional abuse, falls, and general illness. Gradually, stress can build in the body to the point at which symptoms begin to appear.
Cranial osteopathy is suitable for patients of all ages and may be beneficial in treating many conditions. Becauseit is such a gentle treatment, it is even suitable for newborn babies and the very elderly.
In adults, cranial osteopathy — as well as OMT, which is offered by Dr. Walid Faraj — may be used in the treatment of a variety of problems, including head and face pain, stress, malaise, fatigue, and general ill health. In babies, cranial osteopathy is especially effective for treating the effects of a difficult birth, irritability, feeding difficulties, and disturbed sleep patterns. Some families choose to bring their newborn to see an osteopath soon after birth for examination and possible treatment.
OMT and cranial osteopathy is so gentle you may not even feel it or its effects until several days after treatment. Many people experience a sense of warmth and deep relaxation. Some people even fall asleep during treatment. You may not feel any better after leaving your session, but you are likely to feel much better a few hours later.
Other Available Treatments and Therapies
Additional treatments are available outside Restoration Healthcare that are designed to take advantage of the brain’s neuroplasticity to restore vagal tone and the body’s ability to heal itself. (Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to repair itself, grow new neurons, and develop new connections between neurons in response to learning and experience.) These therapies include the Dynamic Neural Retraining System (DNRS), the Gupta Program, and Cereset, all of which are covered below.
Dynamic Neural Retraining System (DNRS)
Developed by a self-described limbic system rehabilitation specialist, DNRS is “a drug-free, neuroplasticity-based approach to rewire neural pathways in the brain that are associated with a maladapted stress response.”
According to its claims, DNRS can assist in relieving symptoms associated with chronic fatigue syndrome, multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS), fibromyalgia, chronic Lyme disease, food sensitivities, anxiety, chronic pain, postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), and many other conditions.
DNRS is said to integrate cognitive and emotional restructuring, neural linguistic programming, and incremental exposure and behavior modification therapy. It focuses on sharpening several self-regulatory skills including attention, cognition, and emotional distancing and regulation. Experiential and incremental exposure therapy are used to enable the mind to develop a more contextual evaluation of risk.
This approach to restoring vagal tone and the body’s ability to heal itself is work-intensive and requires a fair degree of dedication:
- 14-hour instructional video
- Five-day training seminar
- Interactive video set up to be completed over four days (but can be completed at your own pace)
- Practice one hour per day for six months to fully entrench skills
The Gupta Program is an online brain retraining course to aid in recovery from many chronic conditions, including chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), post-Covid-19 syndrome, fibromyalgia, multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS), mold sensitivities, chronic inflammatory response syndrome (CIRS), mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS), pain syndromes, anxiety/panic disorders, adrenal fatigue, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), small-intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), Lyme disease, postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), and other related conditions.
Drawing its inspiration from many areas of coaching and therapy, the Gupta Program includes elements of natural language processing (NLP), meditation, timeline therapy, breathwork, parts therapy, visualization, inner-child work, and many more. The course is mainly online (15 interactive video sessions), with a supporting book and floor chart sent by mail.
Cereset, which is short for cerebrum (brain) reset, is a non-invasive, in-office treatment that uses only brain-initiated sound to relax the brain, allowing it to reset itself and freeing it from fight, flight, or freeze states. Its purpose is to relax the brain to manage stress, restore hope, and achieve restful, restorative sleep.
Cereset’s patented BrainEcho technology uses sensors to detect brain rhythms, then correlates those rhythms with musical tones played back to the patient. The brain essentially hears itself, then naturally rebalances and repairs itself according to its own feedback loop.
According to a clinical study conducted by the Department of Neurology at the Wake Forest School of Medicine, study participants who received treatment reported significant reductions in symptoms of post-traumatic stress, insomnia, depression, and anxiety, with reduced symptoms lasting at least six-months. They also showed significantly different network connectivity on MRI brain scans following treatment.
Choosing the Right Treatment to Restore Limbic System Function
At the outset of this series, we asked our readers, How hopeful are you about your health? As it turns out, many of the patients we see at Restoration Healthcare have lost hope or are experiencing a serious hope deficit. That’s why we created this three-part series as a guide to understanding how optimal brain-body integration (which is directly tied to reasonable feelings of hope) is by supporting healthy limbic system function.
And all of the treatments/therapies mentioned here in Part Three of the series have the potential help to restore vagal tone and healthy limbic system function, which in turn support the ability of the mind and body to heal itself. If you are suffering from a chronic health condition, we strongly encourage you to add one of these treatment/therapy options to your overall treatment plan, regardless of whether you are one of our patients.
Physical treatments — including a physician approved plan of care that encompasses Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment, medical-grade supplements, changes to diet and activity levels, and so on — can be very helpful, but until you integrate the healing power of the mind, your treatment protocol may be missing a key component.
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Disclaimer: The information in this blog post about restoring optimal limbic system function, is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect current medical thinking or practices. No information contained in this post should be construed as medical advice from the medical staff at Restoration Healthcare, Inc., nor is this post intended to be a substitute for medical counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information included in, or accessible through, this post without seeking the appropriate medical advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a licensed medical professional in the recipient’s state, country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.