How to Release the Hold Difficult and Destructive Emotions Have Over us

“We carry around with us a huge reservoir of accumulated negative feelings, attitudes and beliefs. The accumulated pressure makes us miserable and is the basis of many of our illnesses and problems. We are resigned to it and explain it away as the ‘human condition’. We seek to escape it in myriad ways.”

Dr David R Hawkins Letting Go (The Pathway of Surrender)

It would be the understatement of 2021 to say that January and February and most of March were tough months for our nation. There’s the usual January blues, when it’s dark and cold and everyone is a bit skint; but this year the individual and collective malaise was on another level.

Like most of the rest of the world, we were hit by another wave of the coronavirus pandemic, (over 127,000 families in the UK are mourning the loss of a loved one to Covid-19).

Now that we have emerged from the dire months of being cooped up indoors, (alongside the mental health implications of our covid incarcerations), the nation is tentatively looking ahead and the schools (thankfully) have now reopened. Many businesses were forced to close or operate at a reduced capacity. Income levels dropped off. Then there is the inevitable Brexit fallout hitting fisheries, imports and exports, and business in general, with untold damage to the economy – the full extent of which is yet to be truly calibrated.  

With so many triggers for individual and collective stress, I may not be the only one who went through the January blues on steroids!!

Some days I felt like I was wandering aimlessly in a spiritual wilderness and would never feel joy again.

Image by Tengyart on Unsplash

Deep in the doldrums…

Now that I am on the other side of that particular episode I can reframe the experience and feel a certain relief and detachment. Some unresolved trauma from my childhood came up, which unfortunately was compounded as it coincided with lockdown and home schooling.

I barely managed under the extra workload of full-time home schooling two secondary school Year 7 & 9 daughters. For the most part, my youngest remained motivated and conscientious, but her older teenage sister did not, and trying to help her was exhausting. She suffered from a lack of social interaction. Those two and half months tested my patience and perseverance to the limit.

I’m sure many parents of school age children with limited indoor space must at times have felt some level of frustration, fatigue, lassitude, vexation, overwhelm and anxiety.

Most days, between the learning, the laundry and the kitchen, there was no time or energy for anything else. On top of that I was going through an intense healing process.

I have to admit that during those first two months I resorted to comfort eating and doing less exercise, (although I normally love hiking, we had biblical amounts of rain), and for most of January I went into total hibernation. I think my brain is still catching up.  

I’ve had to forgive myself for my less than perfect attitude and cut myself some slack however, as these are unprecedented times. The accumulation of stress hit me like a volcanic eruption I couldn’t control. I just had to go with the flow…

I also watched, obsessed, as the geological equivalent appeared in Iceland, a short distance from where our family stayed in Grindavik during the summer of 2019. It would have been great to witness first hand.

Watching this amazing footage reminded me of Frodo’s quest to destroy the One Ring in the fires of Mount Doom…

At times the overloaded, antsy feeling on my Central Nervous System was acute and physically uncomfortable. At other times I felt suffocated by ennui, accompanied by a total loss of motivation. I caught myself thinking ‘what’s the point?’ I realise now that this thought (and others like it), had arisen from a feeling of helplessness and hopelessness.

I’m not seeking sympathy, I know many people have suffered over the winter and continue to do so; but I share this personal experience to illustrate that my months of introspection and healing did yield positive results.  

I needed to seek a solution; not just for me, but if it worked, to share with the wider world for anyone who continues to feel engulfed in an existential crisis, given all that we are dealing with.

What to do when you’ve sunk into a funk that you struggle to shake off?

I had to take it one day at a time. Deep breathing exercises and movement did help to calm me, as did meditation and practising gratitude. Even if it was only to appreciate that I had the opportunity to expunge some ‘dark’ emotional energy that was held deep in my body.

I realised I had to start small: I was only capable of making micro choices; which on a practical level helped me to regain some measure of control in my life. Focusing on the little steps and achievements built up my confidence and motivation bit by bit.

As I reflected on the difficult early months it informed my objectives for the rest of the year.

My main intention for 2021 is to live my life like a prayer. This is not a goal but a daily practice, and involves dedicating myself to being a servant of life in all its forms, appreciating the beauty of life, embracing a willingness to forgive shortcomings, to let go of the past (including resentments, negative emotions) and be a loving person.

Image by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

I’ve come to the conclusion that in the current global situation, being kind to one’s self and others, and a source of lovingness in the world is what will see humanity more serenely and successfully through this time. I knew I had to surrender my anger about the situation and the feeling of losing control of my life.

I rediscovered a book I bought a few years ago but hadn’t yet read: Letting Go – The Pathway of Surrender by Dr. David R Hawkins. I might have saved myself some anguish if I had, but they do say that when the student is ready the teacher will appear. Doc Hawkins has been a major influence in my life. I’m only a short way in, but already I have shifted my energy.

Fake thoughts!

Having let go of some heavy psychological baggage over the preceding weeks, I noticed, to my delight, that my mind was considerably quieter. The incessant yapping of my thoughts had abated. This has been quite a revelation for me!

Not having to waste energy fighting the negative voice that tells me I’m not good enough, or how tough my life is has brought some much needed inner peace.

According to Dr Hawkins, it is the accumulated pressure of emotions that sparks a myriad of associated thoughts. Painful and destructive feelings trapped unconsciously in the body foments unhelpful and negative thoughts.

As an example, just one painful memory from early life that proves too overwhelming to handle is subsequently repressed (buried deep), in the psyche, and over many years can generate hundreds or thousands of thoughts. Dr. Hawkins asserts that when we surrender the underlying emotion all of those thoughts disappear instantly.

The Gray-LaVoilette scientific theory integrates psychology and neurophysiology and their research indicates that feeling tones organise thoughts and memory.

Hearing a lot of negative inner chatter is a sign that there’s unresolved emotional material being held in the body. When an underlying emotion is buried, forgotten or ignored, and not experienced, a person may not understand the reason for their actions.

Dr Hawkins suggests a simple way to become conscious of underlying emotions behind any activity, by asking: What for? With each answer, what for? is asked again and again, repeatedly until the basic feeling is uncovered. To be effective this method requires self-honesty.

Another revelation was discovering that thoughts are impersonal. They arise from the attractor field that a person is aligned with at any given moment. Now I try to watch these thoughts scudding across the sky of my mind like jostling clouds, I just watch them come and go, I try not to identify with them. They are just thoughts.

“Thoughts are like gold fish in a bowl; the real Self is like the water. The real Self is the space between the thoughts, or more exactly, the field of silent awareness underneath all thoughts. Thoughts are like bait to a fish; if we bite at them, we get caught. It’s best not to bite at the thoughts. We don’t need them.”

Dr. David R Hawkins (Letting Go – The Pathway of Surrender)
Image by Kazuend on Unsplash

It is quite liberating to learn that thoughts emanate from unprocessed emotions. If we watch our thoughts we can ascertain the type of feelings that are responsible for them and begin the process of letting them go. 

The 3 major mechanisms for dealing with difficult feelings

Essentially we have three major ways of handling negative emotions: suppression/repression, expression and escape.

Repression/suppression

This is the most common way of dealing with strong emotions. We don’t want to be overwhelmed, we are not sure how to cope, so we just sort of muddle through. Repression is the unconscious pushing down of feelings and suppression happens consciously. How we sort what feelings are repressed or suppressed is influenced by the unconscious programmes we carry within us from our childhood, upbringing, social expectations and life experience.

Image by M.T. ElGassier on Unsplash

When a feeling is repressed it is usually because there is so much guilt and fear over it that it is instantly thrust into the unconscious.

In order to keep the repressed feeling at bay the mind resorts to denial and projection.

Instead of acknowledging or observing it, we deny the presence of an unpleasant feeling within us and project it onto the world and those around us. The feeling is eventually experienced as if it belongs to someone else. ‘They’ then become the enemy. Blame is placed on people, institutions, social conditions, God, luck, foreigners, ethnic groups (Brexit right there), and all other things outside ourselves. Through projection the individual maintains self-esteem at the expense of another.

Both methods carry psychosomatic consequences such as the manifestation of physical ailments and illness. If we don’t clear out this emotional garbage it impacts our lives down the road and weighs us down, limits our quality of life, relationships and inner peace becomes more elusive.

“The mechanism of projection underlies all attack, violence, aggression, and every form of social destruction.”

Dr. David R Hawkins (Letting Go – The Pathway of Surrender)

Expression

As the term suggests this method involves talking, venting and verbalising our feelings. This allows for just enough of the inner discomfort to be let out so the remainder can then be suppressed.

Dr Hawkins makes the point that many people in society, (me included, until I delved deeper into these mechanisms), believe that expressing their feelings frees them from the feelings. It has been shown that the expression of a feeling tends to propagate the feeling and give it greater energy.

Expressing in this way also allows what’s left to be suppressed out of awareness. The balance between suppression and expression depends on early training and the cultural norms of an individual.

A note on Freud…

Misinterpretations on the teachings of Sigmund Freud have resulted in the desire to express as a cure, because Freud identified suppression as the cause of neurosis. Freud suggested that the repressed feeling or impulse was to be neutralised, sublimated, socialised and channelled into the constructive drives of love, work and creativity.

Image by Kat Stokes on Unsplash

I regret the times I have dumped my negative feelings onto others, as now I know that they experience this venting as a form of attack – which they are then forced to suppress, express or escape. It is now thought that the expression of negativity results in the deterioration and destruction of relationships.

A better alternative is to take responsibility for our own feelings and neutralise them. This begins with developing awareness. If we can do this only positive, uplifting feelings remain to be expressed.

Escape

Diversion in one form or another helps us to avoid painful or scary feelings. Socially condoned activities like binge watching box sets, over-eating, drinking, sex and being a workaholic may help us dull things momentarily so we can cope in the moment, but are detrimental if used as a crutch long-term.

“We can avoid our own inner selves and keep our feelings from emerging by an endless variety of pursuits, many of which eventually become addictions as our dependency upon them grows.”

Dr. David R Hawkins (Letting Go – The Pathway of Surrender)

Shifting to the perspective of the witness…

Feelings are transient by nature; the important thing is to know that you are not your feelings, but that the ‘real’ you is merely witnessing them. When you become the observer you can cease identifying with negative feelings. Becoming more aware of your internal landscape is a progressive undertaking that enables you to become the witness rather than the experiencer of phenomena.

It’s not possible to both ‘watch’ and ‘resist’ a strong emotion at the same time. Resistance doesn’t serve you. It is resistance that keeps a feeling going. A feeling that is not resisted will disappear as the emotion behind it dissipates.

In other words, to some degree, it’s wise to wear your heart on your sleeve. You can only do something that doesn’t serve you if you do it unconsciously.

Stress

What causes you stress?

Image by Ben White on Unsplash

To attribute stress to outside factors is the projection of repressed feelings. Repressed feelings make us vulnerable to external stress. The word ‘stress’ is a bit ambiguous. When we say we are stressed, it covers a multitude of deeply held emotions!

Dr. Hawkins explains that the real source of stress is internal. Using the emotion of fear as an example, one might react to stress with fear if it is already present within to be triggered by an event. And let’s face it, there are plenty of ‘events’ going on around us at the moment. The more fear we hold inside the more the world appears to be a terrifying place. To the angry person the world is chaos, a mingling of frustration and vexation. The inner state influences the outer state.

Essentially, what we are holding inside (resisted emotions), colours our world…

Next time I feel stress I will see it as a warning sign that there is an accumulation of pressure from supressed and repressed feelings. Understanding that the havoc wreaked by stress is the result of our own hidden emotions puts us in control of handling it more effectively.

The energy of emotions

Emotions emit a vibrational energy field (I will cover more on this in a subsequent post), which in turn influences what kind of people are in our lives. All living things are connected on vibrational energy levels so our basic state is picked up and reacted to by all life forms around us.

It’s quite a wake up call to understand that our basic emotional states transmit themselves to the universe.

I like to imagine a pebble being dropped into fresh water and sending ripples out in concentric circles to the shore.

“The mind has no dimension or size and is not limited in space; therefore, the mind transmits its basic state via vibrational energy over an unlimited distance. This means that we routinely and unwittingly affect others by our emotional state and thoughts.”

Dr. David R Hawkins (Letting Go – The Pathway of Surrender)

The mechanism of Letting Go

This short video (with text taken from Letting Go) explains the basic premise of the technique:

I feel this erudite Beatles song sums up the optimal state of allowing-ness and acceptance of all our emotions, without judgement:

Handling major crises

The Letting Go technique is very helpful in daily life, but it is also fundamental to shortening and alleviating extreme suffering when one is going through a crisis.

In such a situation it is easy to become overwhelmed by strong emotions, when we are vulnerable to be triggered by one of the major areas of supressed or repressed feelings. In this instance the main problem is not so much identifying the emotion as handling the overwhelm.

The three mechanisms the mind consciously employs to process emotions that were mentioned earlier – suppression/repression, expression and escape can be employed in a deliberate manner. They are only harmful when used unconsciously, if the person is not aware of what they are doing.

In an overwhelm, it is advisable to use them consciously. This is done so that the sheer intensity and quantity of emotion can be disassembled and let go bit by bit. By holding at bay the bulk of the emotion we can deal with as much emotion as we are capable of in that moment.

In this situation sharing the strong feelings with close friends or mentors reduces its intensity and the act of expressing the feeling releases some of the energy behind it. It is also advised to consciously use the escape mechanism to create some distance to the emotion, such as walking the dog, socialising, going to the movies (whenever that may be allowed), watching TV or making music.

When some of the overload has abated it’s easier to start to let go of small aspects of the situation. As we come out of overwhelm it is wise to recall that a certain portion of the emotion was purposefully suppressed or escaped. This is a good time to re-examine the feeling so that it does not cause residual harm, such as bitterness, unconscious guilt or lower self-esteem.

Doc explains in his usual easy going and pragmatic way how to handle major crises:

There is much more detail in the book, it really is one of the few manuals for life you’ll ever need. I hope to have relayed a valuable kernel or two of the profound teachings inside.

Letting go is a lifelong process, but it gets easier the more you do it, as you begin to feel lighter and happier in the aftermath of releasing.

There are no short cuts to emotional mastery; letting go and surrendering is the most direct route, as long as we are willing to explore the shadow aspect of our psyche and by doing so, shine the light of consciousness into the darkness. It can be a turbulent ride, but as Dr Hawkins asserts, you only ever have to handle the energy behind the feeling – which is finite and eventually runs out.

If every human being learned to effectively process their emotions the world would be a happier and less violent place. However, we are all at different points in the evolution of our individual consciousness, and as Gandhi stated, it’s our responsibility to become the change we wish to see in the world.

During my period of healing I noticed that I was judging myself for my lack of obvious progress over the winter months, but in the wake of my nascent recovery and heightened awareness, I realised I had in fact made huge progress!

Self-awareness, letting go, and being liberated from past trauma and disempowering beliefs is vital work.

“Because we are all part of the whole, when we heal something in ourselves, we heal it for the world. Each individual consciousness is connected to the collective consciousness at the energetic level; therefore, personal healing emerges collective healing.”

Fran Grace Ph.D.

Free Your Mind: A Practical Process to Overcome Limiting Beliefs

“PSYCH-K® is a set of principles and processes designed to change subconscious beliefs that limit the expression of your full potential as a spiritual being having a human experience.”
~ Rob Williams, originator of PSYCH-K®

As last Tuesday was #WorldMentalHealthDay it seems timely to talk about a recent experience which has helped me immensely, and I’m certain can help others, especially those struggling with mental health issues.

We all have mental housekeeping to take care of  in varying degrees, from how we face and manage everyday stress, to more serious  conditions such as anxiety, depression and Bipolar disorder.

A few months ago I had a fortuitous meeting with someone who would have a massively positive impact on my life, Lorna Kennard. Lorna is a lady of many talents; she has a treatment room at the Lotus Centre in Bourne End, Buckinghamshire, where she sees her many therapy clients.

Her main areas of expertise are sports massage, CranioSacral Therapy and PSYCH-K® facilitation.

Here’s Lorna to tell you more about herself:

During our meeting she told me how her interest in examining her own beliefs and the relationship between them, her subsequent actions and outcomes lead her to learn, practise and train in a system known as PYSCH-K®, which was originated by Robert Williams M.A.

Wise words from Robert Williams on high speed mindset change:

I had never heard of PSYCH-K® before, and was intensely curious. Lorna told me how she had tackled her own self-limiting beliefs with this method, and was teaching others to do the same. I decided this was information I really needed to hear.

I was struggling. I felt overwhelmed (as I’m sure many mums do), juggling various career strands, running my children to various activities and auditions and supporting their studies, all whilst running a home in a sense of increasing chaos and despair. I felt like I was chasing my tail and failing at all of it.

I decided to keep an open mind, but at the same time the unhelpful voice in the back of my head piped up that it probably wouldn’t work for me – nothing ever does.

Well, with friends like that…

I knew I had to silence this inner critic, the one who always makes me feel that I’m never quite good enough once and for all. I realised I had believed her lies too often, and they were keeping me anchored, holding me back from reaching anything like my full potential.

Many of my habitual thoughts were not the type of thoughts I knew I should have running on autopilot…

I have big dreams, I am driven and motivated, but back then I was frustrated, I was stuck. The importance of having a dream is worth another post in itself, but I owed it to myself to continue regardless, even if my ‘voice’ was telling me it would be a waste of time.

Lorna was good enough to give me a PSYCH-K® session and I am happy to report back!

PSYCH-K® has been a balm and blessing for my frazzled and at times, overwrought mind. Physically I’m stronger, leaner, healthier and fitter than I have ever been, which is not bad going for a middle aged mum of four.

In the last twelve months I’ve got my body into gear, but I knew in order to successfully face life’s challenges and overcome self-doubt, my mindset needed to do some heavy lifting and develop more muscle and resilience!

I’m so much more in control of my thoughts a few months down the road. I feel like I’m in the driving seat again. My awareness is continually expanding, so I notice negative self-talk and unconscious behaviour much quicker.

About PSYCH-K®

Ninety five percent of our lives are lived in an unconscious state.  We are making decisions and having thoughts that are derived from experiences since we were born, and this map of reality can get pretty distorted by the time we are adults. Somewhere along the line I developed fears and blocks.

It was that old analogy of the iceberg, with the bulk of its mass unseen underwater, powering everything, and it suddenly clicked in me.

This interview with Lorna and Cazzie Dare completes the picure!

I have done a lot of work on myself, getting over many hurdles, but it seems I needed to keep pulling back the layers of junk from my mind, just like peeling an onion, to get to the core of who I am and what I want out of life.

Lorna was very patient with me. She asked a lot of deep and searching questions that helped me to sort out the psychological jumble that was whizzing around my mind. She really helped me to pin down the areas that I wanted to improve in my life and clarify exactly what I needed by getting to the crux of the beliefs that were holding me back; and therefore perpetuating cycles of unwanted feelings and results in my life.

From this discussion and questioning we wrote down half a dozen core statements and then verified them via muscle testing to ascertain that they were right and ‘true’ for me.

All of them tested ‘strong’ except for one particular statement, which required a resolution balance to integrate the belief. It had not tested strong due to an inner conflict, as both brain hemispheres must be on board…

PSYCH-K® can untilise a variety of ‘Balances’ to integrate new beliefs and the balances are varied and integrate aspects of a variety of both ancient and modern practices and understanding of how the brain works.

Afterwards Lorna retested me on the belief and my muscle response was strong.

Muscle testing and kinesiology talks to your subconscious mind while bypassing your conscious mind. This was really powerful for me, knowing that I’m in alignment with my highest Self.

Lorna was incredibly professional, she followed up our session in writing and with all my statements. The next step was down to me to walk my path,  ensuring I followed through on the agreed action points  that resonated with what was needed to carry my new beliefs forward.

Since then I’ve made good progress on some key projects. I found reading them twice a day, first thing in the morning and at night before bed helped me to integrate the beliefs.

I can’t report that my life is perfect and that my desires all manifested instantly thereafter, but what I can say with absolute certainty is that it has changed me for the better.

I am emotionally stronger, happier, more confident, less stressed, and I think and act differently. It follows that results will come. I have had some small successes and noticed auspicious meetings and circumstances have been coming my way. Before I felt hopeless, now I feel powerful…

I still have challenges; that’s the nature of the cycles of life for most beings in physical form, but I am handling them better. Someone I respect very much has a saying:

Trials and tribulations are mandatory – misery is optional.

I feel I can now better embody the wisdom in this quote. I’d like to thank Lorna from the bottom of my heart for her help and support and would recommend her 100% for anyone in the locale.

If geography precludes a visit to Lorna in person, she also offers remote consultations via Skype.

Lorna and her partner Rachael have also developed amazing ergonomic cushions to help those with back pain who are sitting at a computer for long periods of time, or doing a lot of driving through their brand Sittingwell.

In conclusion, working on our mindset and beliefs is the most important, empowering work we can do. My life has changed for the better in a sustainable way, because my beliefs serve me in a more collaborative and supportive way.

I love this series of PSYCH-K® videos with Rob Williams:

Your Divine Guidance System – GPS:

Catching the wave at the right time:

I don’t know what the future holds, but I intend to do my bit to enrich my own life and the lives of my family and friends, and be of service to others to the best of my ability. Now that the shackles that were holding my mind prisoner have been removed, I am empowered to do that.

The brakes are off!

Until the next time, believe the best in yourself and look up Lorna or a local PSYCH-K® facilitator if there are areas of your life that you want to improve. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

“If you believe you can or if you believe you can’t…you’re right!” ~ Henry Ford

The Way Gut Bacteria Affects Anxiety and Depression Will Blow Your Mind

 “Every molecule in your brain starts at the end of your fork.” ~ Dr. Drew Ramsay (Nutritional psychiatrist).

Have you ever had a gut feeling about a person or a situation, or perhaps had butterflies in your stomach? Has hunger ever changed your mood? It certainly brings on grumpiness in my children!

Our digestive system and brain are physically and biochemically connected in a number of ways, meaning the state of our gut microbiome can alter the way our brains work and behave, giving a whole new meaning to ‘food for thought’!

In my first post, What You Need to Know About the Most Influential Organ in Your Body I covered some pretty startling facts about the microbiome, but today I’m focussing on how the second brain in our gut microbiome can literally ‘speak’ to the brain in our heads, controlling mood as well as impacting on our mental health.

#MicrobiomeMorsel: There are more microbes in the gut alone than there are cells in our bodies.

Lifestyle and the Microbiome

Hippocrates was telling everyone back in 400 BC that all disease begins in the gut, and that food is your medicine.

Life in the 21st century has strayed a long way from this ethos. Global populations live mostly in urban areas and are exposed to Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs,) such as Glyphosate which is prevalent in the western food chain. We lead busy, stressful lives, with many relying on shelf-stable, processed food that is high in sugar and salt, with no nutritional content, which have been designed and marketed for taste buds and not for health.

Simple carbohydrates such as pasta and white bread are another nail in the coffin. Whilst we all resort to pizzas and fast-food once in a while, it’s worth remembering that on a regular basis, convenience kills. And it kills us with a raft of modern plagues because it is damaging our microbiota.

If we don’t feed our microbiota with the food to make them flourish then we are self-harming at a fundamental level.

Western medicine, it seems, has a pill for every ill. Drugs are adding to the problem rather than solving it – what has been termed rather aptly as ‘Pharmaggedon’.

There are 50 million prescriptions for anti-depressants every year in the UK alone.

Poor gut health is the root cause of the global health crisis we see today: obesity, diabetes, allergies, auto-immune and disgestive disorders, and believe it or not, mental health challenges like depression, anxiety, OCD and autism.

Obesity and diabetes alone threaten to bankrupt the NHS in the next 10 years unless as a society we take a more proactive attitude to our wellbeing.

I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating: If you fix the gut, you fix the problem!

The genes contained in the microbiome outnumber our human genes by 100 to 1 – and by that reckoning we are only 1% human! We are literally walking bacterial colonies. Humans have evolved over millennia alongside these micro-organisms in a symbiotic relationship.

The Invisible Universe of the Human Microbiome:

The friendly, essential bacteria helps us to synthesise and absorb nutrients, control appetite, manage weight, make short chain fatty acids (SCFA’s such as Butyratethe primary source of fuel for the cells of the colon), activate our genes, regulate metabolism, signal the immune system (of which 75% resides in the gut), and affect our mood and skin.

Harmful pathogens can upset the balance and if not rectified, a toxic gut microbiome will evolve, known as dysbiosis– a dangerous state indeed.

Causes of Dysbiosis

In addition to a poor diet, a toxic environment caused by traffic pollution, pesticides/heavy metals in food, personal and household products; emotional stress is also a big factor. Because the microbiome is so sensitive, even two hours of severe upset and worry can have a negative impact.

When we are under emotional stress our bodies are gearing up for an emergency response, and need extra fuel, therefore using more of the amino acid L-Glutamine, which is stored in the gut lining.

The mucous membranes are the primary interface between the external environment and the internal environment of the body. Most absorption of nutrients and toxins occurs across the mucous membrane. Most pathogens enter the body by binding to and penetrating the mucous membranes.

If this becomes ravaged over time the damage to the gut lining causes leaky gut, where pathogens escape through the now permeable gut wall, and can travel all over the body, igniting many potential health challenges.

Inflammation starts in the gut but generally ends up manifesting in any number of symptoms:

  • Constipation/diarrhea – many people who suffer with depression also suffer with constipation or dysfunction of the gut.
  • Gas and bloating
  • IBS
  • Joint and muscle aches and pains
  • Anemia
  • Increase in allergies
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Immune dysfunction

Inflammation Assesment Quiz

The Second Brain

Our gut microbiome is part of the Enteric Nervous System and weighs about the same as our brain. Even though our brain only makes up 2% of our body weight it uses up to 20% of our energy resources. Inflammation in the Gastrointestinal tract also directly impacts the levels of the feel good chemicals of serotonin and dopamine in the brain.

Through evolution our species has had 4 billion years of optimising inter-cellular communication. Our second brains have 100 million nerve cells sandwiched in between layers of the gut which regulate digestive processes. These nerve pathways go both ways, but predominantly travel from the gut to the brain via the Vagus Nerve.

These powerful neurotransmitters and sensors communicate with our brain which then processes the information and acts accordingly. The second brain can survive being cut off from the brain via the Vagus Nerve but cannot generate conscious thought.

A fascinating TED talk about how our bellies control our brains by Ruairi Robertson:

Moody Microbes!

A whopping 95% of the serotonin used by our bodies is stored and produced in the gut in special cells; by far the largest store of that molecule that plays such a crucial role in modulating our mood and wellbeing, appetite, pain, sleep and sensitivity.

Serotonin is synthesized in the gut from precursors that come from the food we ingest, because the microbes that live in our gut microbiome produce powerful mood regulating neurotransmitters.

It is estimated that 60% of chemical production in the body is due to signals that come from our gut bacteria.

Food for thought…

The food you eat determines the bacteria you grow in your ‘gut garden’.  Bacteria turn on different genes, and genes either prevent or activate disease. Bacteria follow the diet not the other way around…

Ladies, be aware that the contraceptive pill depletes vitamin B12, folate, zinc levels and kills off beneficial bacteria. When certain beneficial bacteria are missing from the microbiome, so is their protection from disease.

Cravings – the devil in your gut!

In my best Bridget Jones moments I used to regularly sit and consume a whole bar of Galaxy after my evening meal. I felt powerless to resist these cravings.

If bad bacteria and fungi such as Candida Albicans get out of control they communicate via the information highway from the gut to the brain that you must consume sugar, which they thrive on. It’s almost impossible to resist.

The more they get fed the more they crowd out the good guys and the more acidic our bodies become, creating a cycle of cravings for carbs, sugar and chocolate, continually feeding our harmful bacteria, creating a vicious cycle of dysbiosis and ultimately disease.

In my next installment I’ll cover the best foods and nutrients that promote a well balanced gut microbiome, as well as a holistic supplementary 21-day programme that turned my gut health around.

When you reset the gut and alter your body chemistry these cravings disappear – they did for me. Since last October chocolate has had absolutely no control over me whatsoever. Seven months and counting!

Helping people to improve their energy levels and overall health and wellness is a passion for me, so I will soon be setting up an Elite Health Page on the main menu, with links to my health articles (and others), as well as the Holy Grail of supplements I personally use to achieve elite health.

Until the next time, be well.

Kicking OCD’s Butt and Teenage Mental Health Issues

Word cloud for Obsessive-compulsive disorderUntil my younger son recently developed OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), I hadn’t realised just how prevalent it seems to be. I discovered some very well-known people (past and present) suffered with it, including one of my all-time heroes.

William was always prone to worry, and had certain proclivities towards cleanliness that his older brother didn’t! But the onset of adolescence seemed to take it to a whole new level.

I think there were several factors responsible for his increased ‘sensitivity’, and an overall increase in anxiety was definitely one of them.  He continues to work hard at school, and so far his grades are up at grammar school level, but he worries about his homework and his work in general.

On a personal level he seemed suddenly unsure of himself. Growing up he’s mostly been a confident and self-assured boy, but lately he started asking me if I still loved him. He seemed to need extra reassurance. I was happy to give him this, but it didn’t appear to quell his anxiety.

William was just the sweetest, kindest, affectionate and most lovable boy until his hormones kicked-in. Now I have to endure a know-it-all attitude, frequent rants, his being argumentative and confrontational with me and his siblings, mood swings, and on top of his typical teenage behaviour there is a debilitating voice in his head – his OCD; which undoubtedly adds extra strain to family life.

His appetite seemed to diminish, foods he liked previously were assigned to the ‘rank list’, and suddenly he started going a whole day at school not eating any of the restaurant food available. He couldn’t sit down without first putting an item of clothing on any seat and he had to have two showers a day. His hand washing became so bad his skin got really sore and cracked, and he developed an aversion to pretty much every smell in the universe! At one point he would only eat crisps with a fork!

After a visit to his GP (who made a referral), and a lengthy wait, he was admitted to CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services), part of the NHS that deals specifically with this age group, to have some CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy). Looking round the waiting room at the tired and apprehensive faces of the other parents I took comfort from knowing that I wasn’t the only one with teenage offspring going through some kind of melt-down.

CAMHS has been a Godsend for us, and I feel that William has made some good progress. Whilst there is still work to do, his therapist, Sue, has really helped him to understand that he has the power to kick OCD’s butt.

I thought that sharing the generic information and tips she has given to William would be helpful for other parents and their children who may be going through similar trials and tribulations…

rsz_cbt_drawing (2)On his first session they talked about the relationship between his thoughts and behaviour. He was asked to focus in on the different emotions and sensations that he experienced, and he wrote them in a pie chart relative to what he was feeling. Sue then drew a couple of quirky pictures to illustrate to William how his thoughts created his feelings, and how they, in turn contributed to different sensations in his body, which then had a direct impact on his behaviour.

She drew him an ABC of thoughts:  Activity – Belief – Consequence

She asked him to consider:

“How helpful is my thought?”

“What evidence do I have to support my thought?”

“What evidence do I have to disprove my thought?”

“What would be a more helpful thought?”

“What’s good about this thought?”

“What’s bad about this thought?”

She then mapped his reactions to OCD to illustrate how the OCD wins, how he wins, and what happens at the intersection between the two.

OCD_Cycle_lrg

In later sessions he worked through an ERP programme (Exposure and Response Prevention), which is laid out according to the individual’s specific circumstances, where the activities and situations that cause the compulsions are deliberately undertaken.

At first, William was asked to participate in the actions that caused him the least amount of stress so that he could expose himself to the anxiety for short periods of time, gradually increasing the time and severity level of his activities. Sue drew a graph, and explained that his stress would always be high if he let his OCD rule him, and that to sit with the discomfort for a while would gradually lessen his overall anxiety around those activities, providing he made the effort to do the tasks that upset him.

“Exposure and Response Prevention (E&RP) encourages participants to expose themselves to their obsessions (or to situations that will bring on the obsessions), while they prevent themselves from using compulsions to get rid of the resulting anxiety.” ~ Fred Penzel Ph. D.

Over the weeks that followed Will worked on the strategies that were set specifically for him, and he began to see success. He gained confidence from the lesser tasks, so that he is now tackling the situations that he thought he never would be able to deal with.

My eldest son, Max (now 17 and towering over me), still has a few issues to deal with, but I feel we navigated his teen years through some scary storms into relatively calm waters. We have the odd squall, but on the whole he’s much happier. He also had a period of visiting CAMHS for different reasons, and they were instrumental in diagnosing his high functioning Autism. It also helped me enormously; mainly how to be a better parent to him, and I learnt not to take it personally when his lack of compassion or ‘mind blindness’ affected either me or the family.

I was dismayed to read in The Times last week that more cuts have been made to services directly affecting teenage mental health.

Modern society seems to be taking its toll on our youngsters, with increasing cases of depression, self-harm, eating disorders, mental disorders and in some cases suicide.  Government cuts to CAMHS are indefensible. Our youngsters need this service! The implications for society are dire if this vital service is diminished.

I am bracing myself for the next teenage era with my daughters, but thankfully I have a few years yet before I have to deal with that dreaded phase. My challenge before then will be to help shore up their self-esteem, confidence and our relationships so that even rough seas won’t be able to destroy the safe harbour we have built, or, at least that’s the idea…

Now it’s time to inject some humour!

I watched the ‘Kevin’ sketches again recently to have a laugh and reassure myself that we’d all get through it, even if I did have a few more grey hairs to show for it!

“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” ~ Dr. Wayne Dyer