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How to Retrain Your Brain, Amygdala and Heal From Trauma – Ashok Gupta | Podcast #378

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Hey, guys! In this video, Dr. J and Ashok Gupta talk about brain reach training and nutritional component to better well-being. The brain is a highly active and malleable learning machine. So, we can develop strategies to improve well-being, like engaging in new and challenging activities.

Therefore, we can influence our brain development in positive or negative directions. The more we engage and challenge our minds and body, the longer our brains function at a high level. There are also many other benefits to encouraging neuroplastic change.

Moreover, for the brain to function correctly, it needs specific nutrients, making the food we eat vital to brain function. To learn more about improving your brain function in areas such as memory, attention, focus, and sleep while eliminating symptoms of anxiety and depression, make sure to subscribe, check out other videos, and feel to reach out for more info & consults!

Dr. Justin Marchegiani

Dr. Justin Marchegiani

In this episode, we cover:

0:00 – Introduction
2:17 – Amygdala
13:05 – Repetition and Self-Love
16:22 – Breathing patterns
21:33 – Techniques
24:24 – Nutritional component
29:17 – Program Transition
32:10 – CBT vs Brain Reach Training

https://youtube.com/live/yCbh580EZ7s

Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Hey guys! It’s doctor Justin Marchegiani here. I’m really excited for today’s podcast. We’re going to be talking about how to retrain your brain, your amygdala, and heal from trauma with Ashok Gupta. Ashok, really great to have you today. How are you doing? Welcome to the show. 

Ashok Gupta: Hi, I’m very well. Thank you. Thank you for the invitation. Lovely to be here.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Awesome. Well, in the functional medicine world, dealing with a lot of chronically sick people that have hormone issues, gut issues, when you’re doing a really good history on someone, you see a commonality and that there’s a lot of underlying emotional trauma that usually can be a big stressor in that stress bucket, that’s holding back healing. And so I wanted to get you on the show because you’re an expert in this and you have a program that really works on getting to the root cause. So I wanted to just kind of first talk about kind of, you know, what you’re passionate about and kind of what your goal is with your program out of the gates.

Ashok Gupta: Uh, yeah, absolutely. So just to give a bit of background to myself, I actually suffered from a chronic illness many, many years ago when I was studying as an undergrad at Cambridge. So I actually suffered from chronic fatigue syndrome. And it was, you know, I was a young guy in my early 20s. My whole life had suddenly had this brick wall which is a chronic illness. And I’m seeing doctors and specialists and they’re telling me we don’t know what causes it. There’s no treatment for it. You may have this the rest of your life. Good luck. Essentially, you know, I remember my darkest moment thinking this is the worst thing ever. If I  can just get myself better. If I and thousands of others who suffering from this. And I said if I can just heal this one person, just even myself. I would dedicate the rest of my life to helping people with this condition. That’s how serious I was about it. And that spawned a lifelong quest to understand these conditions and really treat them. So I did a lot of research into brain neurology, understanding these conditions, and eventually I came up with a hypothesis. I got myself completely, 100% better using ad hoc parade brain retraining that I created and also the clinic to treat others and have published other papers as well. So that’s my journey, so my real passion and vision here is that I believe that brain reach training as we refine it better for these conditions could be the future to treat chronic illness and I want that to be embedded in primary care and that is my mission.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani: That’s excellent. Now I know you talked about with your Gupta program, we’ll put links down below to so you guys can access this. I know there’s some kind of introductory you know offers on the on the website where you can kind of take a look and kind of dip your toe in and see if you like if you talk about Neuroplasticity, which is obviously, you know, rewiring the brain in the sense so these neurons can’t connect in different ways, but you also talk about the amygdala, which is kind of the part of the brain, it’s like an almond size and it’s all about processing fear and threatening stimuli. And so when someone is chronically ill, is that part of the brain over active where where you’re seeing everything as a threat and it’s kind of always on talk a little bit more about the amygdala, how that plays in to these chronic health concerns. 

Ashok Gupta: Yeah, absolutely. So I always like to start this explanation with the biggest question of all. Why are we here? And I love that. Half an hour long conversation about the philosophy of that. But let’s say from a scientific perspective, we’re here because this brain, this body, this nervous system has been trained over millions of years to adapt to the environment, to survive and pass on the genes the next generation from. So from a Darwinian perspective, this system is designed to adapt, thrive, survive and pass on genes. And this has come from, you know, plants, single cell organisms, invertebrates, vertebrates, reptiles, mammals, human beings, all of that, that DNA. And that growth is all within our own DNA. And in fact, you know, we share around 50% of our DNA with a banana. Right. 

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:That’s crazy.

Ashok Gupta: Uh, you know, so our team actually contains a lot of the DNA of their animals as we’ve evolved to get to where we are so this system is designed to survive, so the number one priority of our bodies is not actually well-being or health.The number one priority is survival. If we take that as a starting point, the way that these illnesses start is that. Let’s take the example of COVID and long COVID, because we know millions are suffering from COVID and the after effect. So imagine we get collection normally, our bodies trigger the immune system, they’re able to fight off the virus, then the system resets, goes back to normal. We have our health back but in a small number of cases where actually 10 to 20% of cases. What happens is if our system is a little. Let’s say tired, fatigued or we are mentally, emotionally, physically overdoing it.Then the system is more vulnerable. So when the virus comes, our immune system thinks right. We’ve got to really fight hard because our systems would speak so it over response towards the virus and we know that for instance, people who passed away from COVID, they’re not passing away from the infection, they’re passing away from the cytokines storm or the over inflammation from the body itself and so what happens is in COVID we believe that the system over response we still managed to fight off the virus, but it’s left the legacy in the brain which is, let’s turn on the side of caution because maybe the virus is still here, so the brain continues to trigger immune system and the nervous system inappropriately. Creating this cascade of symptoms in the body. And we believe the culprits, as you’ve mentioned, are the amygdala and the insular. So the emitter that we believe is where the core conditioning lies in terms of triggering the nervous system and the sympathetic nervous system and then for the immune system. We know they’re from animals, this comes from the insular part of the brain, the insular part of the brain, is getting over triggered and overstimulated, so both these structures keep triggering this over different responses creating symptoms in the body. And the brain detects in a hypothetical way, all of these symptoms. The body which comes up to the brain, the brain says, Oh, maybe we’re still in danger. Yeah, just like in this diagram. Yeah, #9 we’re still in danger, then triggers at #4 and five. The chronic sympathetic arousal, the immune dysfunction HPA abnormalities, which then creates symptoms to #6 and then at #8, the brain because it’s hyper hypersensitive, magnifies these signals.They come back in the bank #9 and we are caught in this vicious cycle, and this is a vicious cycle of a lot of these different conditions and the only difference here which we certainly always are. Fibromyalgia is pain or chronic fatigue is immune oriented such as long COVID, but we also get sensitivity reactions to the external environment, so more disease, chemical sensitivities and muscle activation. This is where external triggers and food sensitivities. External triggers now create this cascade and this. Despite all this vicious cycle. And an analogy, I don’t know any doctor, you were a fan of Game of Thrones? 

Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Yeah, it’s a great show. Yep.

Ashok Gupta: So, let’s say an example of imagine you’re the the king of the castle, OK, and your Kingdom is suffering a drought and your army is the sympathetic nervous system and your Navy is immune system, so imagine the kingdoms you know weak because of the droughts and incoming army invading army with some dragons over the hill, right? So your immune system and nervous system your army and navy responds. They fight off this invading army. But because they’re weak, it takes them a lot longer to fight it off. Once they fought it off, they come to you as king of the castle and say, hey Doctor J, we only just managed to fight off that incoming invasion. We need all of the resources of the Kingdom, the castle now, channel us so all the wheat, all the corn, all the metal, everything comes to us, and you agree because it made sense. And so now all the sources of the body go to the Army and Navy. And then even if a child is walking over the hill. The Army, Navy respond as if it’s a full blown threat and trigger your machine using up all the resources and hence we get stuck in that alternative way being that lack of homeostasis? And so bring me training is saying actually, we need to persuade the general, the Army, Navy, that we are no longer in threat, no longer in danger to switch off these responses and get back to normal. So that, in a nutshell, is the hypothesis.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani: That makes sense. I mean, it’s good to have an amygdala that’s making connections, that’s a processing threat. It’s like if there was this woods over here and bears would come out and eat, eat a human, you know, you there’s probably be natural inclination to have some fear and anxiety about being close to that because we already know there’s a threat that could take your life, so it’s good to have this level of fear perception. The problem with a lot of trauma today is it’s firing off like it would take your life, but it’s really maybe not that serious anymore. And we kind of have to it there. We need to have this rational discussion with our amygdala and our brain hit, this isn’t maybe as much of a threat and so obviously may not be, may not be able to do that from a conscious ability where we can just have that conversation. So what type of modalities are you incorporating to make that connection? Hey this is, this shouldn’t be the threat that it is. My amygdala is hyper responding. It’s like having an allergy response to danger in the air like it’s a virus. Well we shouldn’t be responding that way. So what type of modalities are you using or techniques within your program to kind of get that response to be more appropriate and realistic. 

Ashok Gupta: Exactly. And as you say, traditionally these types of approaches have been applied to emotional reaction actions or trauma reactions, right? OK, so the emotional side, but how do we communicate with our immune system, right, it’s a very, very different approach and so what we’ve done over the last 20 years is develop a system and set of processes that actually communicate with these unconscious brain structures about physical health, yeah. And you might say, well, hang on this, you know, how on Earth can you do that? How can we kind of change our physiological responses? But, you know, as we know, the power of visualization is very, very powerful. So let’s take an example of a lemon. Right. So imagine I take a slice of lemon. And I placed it on your tongue. But you can’t bite into it yet. But it’s really it’s hanging really sour. Just on your tongue, you bite into that sour lemon. Just right. Imagine doing that. Imagine all the saliva starts coming up. Now imagine so you got saliva coming in your mouth, by the way? 

Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Oh yeah, that visualization. Yeah, for sure. 

Ashok Gupta: Yeah. So isn’t that incredible that we’ve been able to create a physiological response just through the power of imagination, even though you know it’s not real consciously. You can bypass the conscious processes and imagination, visualization is one aspect. OK, that’s one aspect of this brain retraining. But there’s plenty of other processes. So there’s a seven step process where we get people to recognize these unconscious data signals. So then process them and they actually create a safety response to the brain.  Say hey brain, we are safe. We are not in danger. You can switch off these. Uh.These immune responses and these defensive responses, and that uses a number of different techniques including self coaching, breathing, visualization and imagination and also you know, physical touch as well, so there’s a number of different processes and that supported through meditation and breathing as well.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani: That’s excellent. So, what’s the first step out of the gate? Right, we start out of the gate. What’s the first thing we’re going to do to kind of move the needle? Is it just breathing? Is it really just making sure we’re breathing to the nose? Uh, having a deeper breath. What’s the first step out of the gate? 

Ashok Gupta: So out of the gate before our brain is ready to be retrained. As you say it becomes. Alright, so it’s a bit like the idea of until we were able to accept something first and become, we can no longer give if the brain’s not so flexible if we are stressed and anxious. So give the example of, if the husband and wife come home after today’s work and have an argument because they’re both stressed, that’s the worst time for them to have an argument. If they calm down, relax, etcetera, then they’re more likely to have more conducive conversation. So in the same way we calm our brains first through breathing and meditation, so they are supportive techniques, and then, we look at the brain retraining. That’s the second R. So the first R is relaxing. The second R is retraining the brain, and that’s where I’ve talked about these unique processes. And the third is reengaging with joy. And this is something that is often neglected in mainstream medicine, which is that we know that actually when people are unable to connect with things that uplift their spirit that bring them joy and happiness. Their immune system is bolstered. They actually are able to heal from a wide range of different conditions, so we teach people to recognize what can boost their immune system and reset it. Use this idea of reengaging with joy, which is I think it’s a missing piece of medicine.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Excellent. And then what type of I don’t like? NLP’s been out there for a while where they used a lot of visualizations and really focus on the pictures kind of in your brain, how much does visualization and just kind of the images that come within your brain, because a lot of times people have a fear. There’s almost always the image of that thing before that fear is felt. How do you start to change the images in that brain and maybe the self talk. A lot of times, most people wouldn’t be friends with the person if they’re self-talk was emanated from a friend in front of them. The amount of self-talk that’s so negative and so putting themselves down. If it was a friend then in real life they would never be friends with that person. How do you change the pictures and the voice inside the brain? 

Ashok Gupta: So this is a great question, and the core of this is repetition and self love. So it’s a bit like imagining that self-talk is a precocious 7 or 8 year old child, right? And we want to kind of get really anxious about something. If you tell them one time, hey, this is nothing to worry about. They’re not going to listen. But with that love and that compassion and that action and that repetition of look, hey, we’re safe. There’s nothing to worry about if you can calm down. Through that process, you’re able to gradually get the brain to recognize we’re no longer in danger, and a representation is absolutely key and imagination and visualization is part of it, but not the only part of it. Any change in life involves awareness. We have to be aware first of all of what is that negative self-talk is. What does it look like? Let’s write it down. Let’s be very clear. What is creating this vicious cycle, that’s the first step, is awareness. And from that point onwards, and that is acceptance. So a lot of people have these conditions but don’t accept that they have this condition. They’re constantly fighting it, pushing against it. That’s tensing up against it. Resisting it, which then creates more anxiety, more turmoil. So the first step is awareness and the second step is acceptance, then the first step is this process of repetitive retraining of the brain again and again and again. And so the brain gets the message that we aren’t in danger and switches off these responses and that’s the core of how do we get people well?

Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Very good. So what’s the next step? So your program out of the gates, what, 28 days? 

Ashok Gupta: Yes. So we offer a 28 day free trial where people can access some of the videos, some of the audio. And get a flavor of the program and see if it’s right for them. So that’s the first starting point, we’d love people to experience the free stuff that we’ve got lots of videos and if they choose to take the full program then it is what we call a six month program. Now, why do we say six months? Because that seems like a long time. Actually many people retrain within weeks and months. But we don’t want people to become complacent because I’m still a doctor J. You’ve seen in your practice, as well that people get well from some kind of protocol, but then as soon as a new stress comes into their lives, wow, all the symptoms come back again. Yep. So we teach people not only to get well, but to stay well, to recognize our stress triggers, to recognize what brings back these symptoms and to control that and to you know, uh, recognize that for the rest of their lives when people stay well. We call it a six month program because we want people to get so deeply into retraining that it becomes part of their lives and so that they can maintain that health for the rest of their lives. 

Dr. Justin Marchegiani: That’s great. And what do you find? I mean, obviously the goal was to try to activate some of the parasympathetic nervous system response, right? If that amygdala is overactive, then we’re in that sympathetic fight or flight that can shut down digestion enzymes, hydrochloric acid can cause cortisol and adrenaline fluctuations that can cause more stress, the more you dump out your electrolytes, your potassium, magnesium that causes the heart to go go faster so you can see this downward cycle with this sympathetic nervous system response with all the different hormonal systems, digestive system, what’s the when you talk, when you do breathing, right? What’s the type of breath pattern that you find to be the most effective that you incorporate?

Ashok Gupta: Right, so there are several. The first is deep diaphragmatic breathing during the 4-4-6-2 pattern. So that’s when people put their yeah, one hand on the stomach, one hand on the chest. Many of us are breathing very shallow from the chest, and we know that, parasympathetic breathing or from the belly, the belly is going out and in as we breathe. And so this is actually a technique that’s taught in the art of living cause, art  of living breathing, which is, if you’ve heard about it, a very powerful breathing technique. Yeah, part of their breathing technique is to actually breathe in for four. Hold for four. Breathe out for six and hold for two. All through the nose, all through the nose. So we know that it actually comes in and out through the nose. What that’s able to do is a combat nervous system has been used for millennia. And another technique is alternate nostril breathing as well. So you breathe it in through one nostril, breathe out through the other nostril, then in through that nostril out through the other one. So that’s another very well known breathing technique called alternate nostril breathing. In Sanskrit it’s called 90 shorthand. 

Dr. Justin Marchegiani: And these are breathing in and out to the same and then switch in and out then switch. 

Ashok Gupta: Yeah. So. So now when you do that, you’re breathing in from through what? And breathing out through the other. Oh, okay, they’re breathing in through that one. And then breathing out through the other. And then breathing in through that. And then breathing out.Yeah, yeah.And what people find is gradually as they control the breathing, but not control in an anxious way, but just observe it great breathing becomes slower and deeper. Easing that process is balancing the left and right hemispheres of the brain. That’s one of the roles of alternate nostril breathing. And so that’s kind with regular meditation as the starting point. What that is able to do is to tell the brain, hey, just calm everything down at the generalized level and then we’ll be ready to retrain those specific neurons that have got caught in this vicious loop.To indicate that we’re in danger. And so that is the, you know, a very complementary approach. And I think what happens is in modern medicine we have this reductionist philosophy of OK, nothing to do is test breathing techniques over here and see what impact they have. And now going to test meditation techniques over here in a separate randomized controlled trial. That actually is the cumulative effect of all of these things together, which is able to persuade the brain to switch off these dangerous purposes. So, that is the most important thing is to have all of these things operating at the same time.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani: That’s excellent. That’s very cool. So I like the breathing aspect, and the goal of that is to activate the parasympathetic nervous system. What should your brain be focusing on to just be focusing on the breath? When do you start to incorporate the trauma or whatever that memory is that’s triggering you? I don’t know. Let’s say you got in the car accident. Every time you jump in the car, you’re reliving that trauma. When do you start bringing those pictures or that experience into work? 

Ashok Gupta: So first of all the program is not necessarily a trauma relief program, yeah although people use it for that and they do find trauma, and as you say, the purpose of the way that we teach breathing and meditation is that yes, images will come up as you meditate. Some of them might be frightening. People sometimes spontaneously burst into tears as they’re experiencing these techniques. And the most important thing is not to get caught up in any imagery or any emotions, just to observe it. So we’re not pushing away any of it, and we’re also not trying to obsess about it. We are staying calm and centered as we observe with a curious mind the images and the negative things that may come up. And that is one way and one technique of releasing trauma is to simply observe with a neutral friendly mind. Allow it to just come up with that. Trying to pick it apart or try to analyze or understand it. And what we say is that actually people can heal from chronic illness without actually having to heal their trauma. This is so important because I think this is a missed thought sometimes. For most people, they had trauma in their lives, but they didn’t have chronic illness that layered on top. So the best thing is to remove that layer of chronic illness and then deal with the underlying trauma. At the same time, there’s no fixed up, you know, dogma here. Of course, if people want to address their underlying trauma at the same time, that’s absolutely fine. And some people do. Alternately, Uh, treating and healing the chronic illness first we find is most effective because if you have a chronic illness and you’re trying to overcome trauma at the same time, that’s a lot to actually process and and and deal with.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani: That makes sense. And so you get the breathing stuff going on. You’re really working on self love, right, that’s important. And do you incorporate any tapping or eye boob and stuff? I know there’s a lot of big techniques like EFT or EMDR or different things. Do you incorporate those modalities in your program?

Ashok Gupta: We have another technique called the accelerator process, which is something that we’ve created and that does not involve tapping necessarily. But a lot of our coaches trained in EFT and other modalities. So we give a core set of techniques to the patients and if they want tapping, if they want some of these other things and many of our coaches are trained in those modalities as well. So that’s if people need one-on-one support. So our program is an online program in which people can go through it at their own time at their own pace and there’s extra support from coaches as required.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani: That’s great. What other modalities? We’re going to put links down below, so if anyone listening wants to try the 28 day course, that’s going to be an option down below in the links as well as the whole 6 month program. If you feel like you’re getting success and you want to continue with that good consistency, we’ll put links down below. What’s another good thing for listeners at home to start to incorporate, to start improving their mental health and calm down that amygdala response, that fear response?

Ashok Gupta: So I think regular meditation first of all is incredibly important and then secondly, I missed the core point of retraining is just awareness of the noise. Yeah, to regularly check your stuff. And that’s a mindfulness technique, say, to think about what you’re thinking about. Ah, how interesting. I’m thinking about that. And to actually write these things down to have what we call a worry diary. Yeah, not that we want to reinforce it, but kind of getting stuff out of your head and onto this worry diary, almost like a journaling type process. So what kind of thoughts have I had today? Let me get it out of my head in general. OK, I’m worried about this. I’m thinking about this, I’m thinking about this. Just that process in of itself is amazingly therapeutic and healing because you’re no longer got this churning going on. You’ve exhausted it. Get out of your system. And with journaling then you recognize all of these patterns and then say what do I choose to substitute these patterns where this churning thoughts and emotions. What I choose to kind of say, what we call the love messages, what loving messages do I choose to give back to my unconscious, to oppose or heal these kinds of patterns that are going on? I think that’s something that we can all do in the general public and what we’re doing in brain retraining with a seven step process that we have.That’s more when the patterns are extreme. When we’ve got such an extreme, almost traumatic pattern that actually self-talk isn’t going to shift it, we actually need something really powerful to train the brain. Not just rethinking but training the brain out to these responses, and that is that deep work, that deep repetition of these neuroplasticity techniques.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani: That’s very good, excellent. Now when I work with patients, you know, I look at physical health, right, which could be structure of the body, injuries under exercise over exercise, the chemical help which is important, that plays a big role, diet, nutrition, sleep, hydration.Um, gut health. Of course. If your nutritional health is poor, your physical health is poor and you’re inflamed, you’re sore, your diet is junky, you’re not sleeping, that obviously spills into your emotional health. I mean, try dealing with your taxes after you haven’t slept for a night. Emotionally, you’re going to be a wreck. How much do you plug in the nutritional component or the chemical stressors, how much do you try to plug that in to also help the emotional health?

Ashok Gupta: Yeah, definitely. We’re a holistic approach, absolutely. So we kind of focus on the brain retraining but we say that as you say, if you have all of these things not working in your life then it’s not going to make the difference. So we have something called the anti-inflammatory diet, but we call it the 80% diet because some people go on this very strict diet and get even more stressed by having to stick to this very strict regime. And so we have the anti-inflammatory diet then we have natural anti inflammatories. So turmeric, ginger, all those,  Umm and so plenty of supplements. And then the things that generally are missing in diets where people have over stressed and so. So that’s things like vitamin D, that’s magnesium, that’s all of those types of natural supplements, the omegas, all of these things we know are generally good for our health. And then so this anti-inflammatory diet and supplements and there’s also the sleep hygiene. So getting the sleep hygiene right and when we’re overstimulated and over stressed then our sleep is one of the first things that gets compromised and regular meditation, regular breathing has been shown to improve our sleep rhythms. So that’s part of it. And then also, what we do in those last two or three.Hours before you go to sleep is incredibly important. And so we look at, you know, the things that people can do that have been shown to deep sleep and lengthen sleep as well, and then also the importance of getting out into nature. Nature is incredibly healing, and so walking in nature. And the importance actually of UV rays and the importance of being sunlight, especially during, you know, the summer months, it’s fine, but in the winter months, how difficult it is and how people feel worse during the winter months simply because two things, number one, you know, getting exposure to daylight at the right times. And then secondly, their physical body is not absorbing the UV rays and therefore not producing vitamin D but also all of the other aspects of sunlight that are incredibly important for our bodies. And so we look at how people can can, you know.Be the best during the summer, at the winter months as well. So those kinds of things are definitely incorporated. But ultimately what we find is when people have come to us, they’ve already been down these avenues. So they’ve been to a nutritionist, they’ve been to dietitians, they generally have been on top of their diet.They’re trying to sleep as well as they can, right? Peace. Their brain is overstimulated no matter what they do. How can they focus on that and retrain that and and sometimes we find people retrain their brains and then they’ve spent thousands on supplements. And they can just stop all the supplements and it makes no difference, right, because the supplements are there, important when our system is overstimulated, but once it’s reset itself and we’re calm.That actually, our bodies don’t need so much of this supplementation. It’s just very natural.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani: That makes sense. Well, anything else I Ashok you want to share with the listeners that you think would be powerful or something else they could be working on incorporating?

Ashok Gupta: Uh, yes. I think one of the most important pieces of advice that gives people is there can be very well meaning support groups and doctors and whatever who have kind of put it kind of negative approach, which is hey, there’s no cure for this, there’s nothing that they can help these conditions and you know you’re on your own and and don’t believe it that people get better. So, sometimes we have people getting better through brain retraining and they’ll go back on these forums. And people will say, oh, well, you didn’t have the condition in the first place. That’s the only way you guys got that. And the hope that I want to give to people is that whether it’s through our program or through other modalities, people do heal from these chronic conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, mold illness and long COVID. People do heal. People do get better. So never give up on the ability of your body to heal and the great news is I believe there is nothing actually fundamentally wrong with the body in that there’s not organic damage in the longer term. That’s what we’ve certainly noticed. It’s a functional issue whether the body and the brain itself is over stimulating its own systems, creating a vicious cycle, which is keeping the body in this altered state. But if you fix that, the body can actually go back to health. And that’s the hope that I want to give to people. Don’t think that my body is weak. It can never get better. Once you get the right key to the right and the right lock, you can unlock your health. Unlock the healing potential of your body.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani: That’s great. I love that now. I mean it’s really interesting because you know, you see conventional psychiatry with a lot of people that have trauma, you know, for the most part they’re going to recommend some kind of an SSRI or antipsychotic or benzodiazepine, which is really just dampening or numbing.The body’s response to that, and a lot of times that brain response is there for a reason, and just numbing it out tends to over time, that problem tends to get worse because you’re just ignoring the reason why it’s there. How do you work with patients that are already on conventional medicines? That are just kind of dampening and covering up the issue versus getting to the root. How do you make that transition?

Ashok Gupta: It’s a huge scandal. First of all, you know, we have many people come to us, we’ve been on benzos and have benzo withdrawal, SSRI’s and it’s a huge scandal because these things even when they’re usually prescribed are supposed to be for a few weeks at a time. They’re not supposed to really. Yeah, long term dependency. And then when that dependency is there, when people try to come off these medications, they feel even worse than they did when they first started. So it’s kind of licensed drug dealing to an extent. Now of course if anyone’s listening, I don’t want anyone to stop the medications. Of course you do that in the auspices of your doctor or psychiatrist. But actually what we do is say keep your medication as safe at the moment, work with brain retraining, get your system calm and stronger. And only then very slowly come off the drugs in association with your doctor. That’s incredibly important because some people get super excited and then suddenly have cold Turkey withdrawal and it can actually cause more problems. So they need to come off these drugs very, very slowly. And so we actually have in benzo forums, you know, many people using our program to come off benzos, so they’re slowly coming off benzos. What’s using our program to calm the nervous system and retrain any negative patterns that are coming from it. And once again, this dampening that you’ve described, when the brain is dampened down, it over responds and says, hey, I’m trying to alert you to danger, but you’re dampening down. 

Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Yes, exactly.

Ashok Gupta: Responses from the immediate to keep warning you. So emotions are warnings that either an emotion hasn’t been resolved, or there’s an attitude that we’re taking to life which is non conducive, or a belief system which is non conducive. And the problem with modern psychiatry is that it’s following the same reductionist medical model of come to see me, you’ve got 10 minutes with me, let me figure out what’s going on, and let me prescribe you drugs. But that model is not even fit for purpose for modern medicine and medical conditions, never mind psychiatric and emotional conditions. You know, it’s even worse for that. And so actually, you know, recognizing that there’s nothing wrong here, when we experience those types of extreme emotions, it actually just requires a lot more talking therapies and neuroplasticity approaches to help us understand the deeper messages of these conditions.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani: That makes a lot of sense. Now, what if we kind of take the, you know, connection with modern day psychology where it’s kind of cognitive behavioral techniques and talk therapy. Why is that not enough sometimes? People can be in therapy for years and years and years and it’s like they haven’t even gotten over it. Obviously it’s good to have communication and it’s good to have dialogue, it’s good to talk about the issues, but why is that not enough all the way?

Ashok Gupta: Now CBT is very effective at certain things such as mild to moderate depression. It’s shown to be effective, certainly anxiety. It can be useful, but the issue is the difference between CBT and brain retraining or neuroplasticity approaches. First of all, when people are going through CBT, they are rewiring their brains as well. So let’s be very clear. You know, any therapy that we’re taking ultimately is rewiring range change or shift that we’re making. But we often find that some, you know, CBT is like taking a fire extinguisher to a house fire, right? It can certainly help, but in certain instances if the house fire is very very powerful and huge. It actually requires, you know, the fire truck to turn up and actually deal with the blaze.Yeah. And so.The difference between CBT and some of these neuroplasticity brain retraining approaches is the intensity and the repetition of it. So, you know, imagine learning to drive a car, right? So learning to drive a car. Imagine on the first lesson, your first day CBT like thinking, OK, I’m now aware of my negative patterns about learning to drive, and I’m gonna be aware of them and shift some more positive belief systems. et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Let me see what’s blocking me. But that isn’t going to train your brain to learn how to drive. But neuroplasticity is saying, right? Let me practice pressing the gas using the gear stickers, you guys call it, you know, moving the steering wheel. And we’re training that into our nervous system through repetition again and again and again and again until it becomes automatic and our brain gets it right. I now know how to drive a car. Yeah. So that’s how it’s different to CBT. CBT could certainly do that, but it would take a lot longer. But this is about actually training the brain repeatedly, intensively to get the message.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani: That’s very good. And what kind of movement do you incorporate with your program? Is it just something simple like, hey, just get out and walk it, get out in nature, breathe, get some sun or  do you recommend any other specific types of movements like resistance or interval training, how does the exercise component work?

Ashok Gupta: For many of our patients, they have to pace themselves very carefully because they’ve got intense amounts of fatigue. And so initially we’re asking them, some of them are bed bound, so we say initially, gentle stretching is enough, so that might be some Tai Chi and yoga. So as long as you’re moving and stretching the body, people can manage more than walking in nature. So that can be you know there’s two types shown to be effective. So forests and fields and countryside, Yep, or near the ocean they can be very therapeutic. So walking in nature and then as people can get more energy then it might be some gentle, very gentle cardio because what we’re aiming to do is use up the stress hormones that have been triggered, the cortisol and adrenaline or adrenalin. So and certainly resistance training is fine as well but it’s that gentle cardio, mild to moderate cardio which is using up the stress hormones and calming the whole system down. Which we find most effective. And then if people are back to full health, then certainly things like interval training, cardio, resistance training, all the good stuff that we know that people can do. That’s all great stuff to keep the nervous system calm and we know that with the brain as well physical exercise is brilliant at increasing resilience so mental and emotional resilience increases when we have physical resilience which is why all of these things are completely linked together. 

Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Yeah, you really made a good point about the stress hormones because people don’t realize but that stress hormone response is really about mobilizing glucose and energy reserves so you can fight and flee. The problem is, most people aren’t fighting and fleeing from something where they need that additional fuel for their muscles. So you have all this adrenaline and cortisol that’s mobilized all this glucose, but then you’re not using it and that glucose tends to start getting stored back away as fat a lot of times. That’s why the more stressed you get, the more you could start storing fat because it’s like you’re it’s like you’re eating a bunch of carbohydrate and sugar and you’re not using the fuel and so getting a little bit of walking or movement in there starts to take all that stress hormone and glucose and start to burn it up a little bit so you not storing it as fat. So that makes a lot of sense to me.

Ashok Gupta: Absolutely, and not only that. There’s the feedback loop between the body and the amygdala. The periodontal group, which is the brain, says I’m in danger, triggers these responses, but also gets feedback from the body as to whether we’re in danger. This is the kind of kinesthetic response. And so if the brain detects the muscles are tense, right? We’re physically feeling the effects of that anxiety, it interprets that as a reinforcement that we’re in danger and therefore creates more danger response, which is why when you physically feel anxious you get anxious about feeling anxious, you get stressed about feeling anxious and that’s that secondary loop that occurs. And in fact for us chronic anxiety is that is partly as a result of the anxiety about the anxiety we don’t like. We don’t like the sensations, the physical sensations and the emotional sensations of anxiety itself and therefore physical movement. Physical activity really stops the feedback loop and is able to calm the whole nervous system down and trigger also the parasympathetic nervous system. So we know that in physical exercise we’re triggering the sympathetic system to tighten up the muscles and get the muscles moving and then afterwards the system ratchets down and enjoys a period of parasympathetic response. And you know, people think I was, do I have to go to the gym and have to do a hard workout, brisk walking in nature, which I think most of us, if not all of us can do, has been shown to be highly therapeutic. So 30 to 40 minutes of brisk walking in your local park, in the forest is supposed to be the best, you know, near the ocean or in the ocean. That can be incredibly beneficial for your overall health. 

Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Love it? Excellent, Ashok. I really appreciate you being on today’s show. We’ll put a link down below justinhealth.com/gupta. G-U-P-T- A. We’ll put it down below so you guys can access the 28 day course. By the way, what’s the time commitment to start the course? Is it 20 minutes an hour a day? What’s the initial commitment?

Ashok Gupta: So some of these videos are five or 10 minutes, so we don’t want to, right? So it’s like taking off 10 to 20 minutes a day watching your video. We give you a couple of free meditations that you can watch as well and that initial set of content is really for you to empathize in terms of does this really resonate with me? Is this my experience? And if so, then you can obviously go to the full program and then start the retraining process. 

Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Very good. A shock. Anything else you want to leave the listeners with?

Ashok Gupta: Uh, yeah. As I said, just believe in your, in the ability of your body to heal. It will heal, it can heal and we have that healing ability within us and also to recognize that whatever you’re experiencing, whatever physical assessments you’ve had in terms of someone saying you’ve got high viral titers or you know this particular enzyme is out of whack, those physical things are downstream. Yeah. And you will have those physical abnormalities in your body. But let’s go upstream, let’s go to the source. And we believe that a source of a lot of our conditions is actually in the brain. Even our gut health, I believe, is ultimately decided by our brain and the interaction between our gut and our brain. Fix this up here and all the downstream things will naturally take care of themselves. 

Dr. Justin Marchegiani: I love it. Very good. Yeah. When someone says your issues are incurable, that just means the cure is within. So I really appreciate that Ashok. I appreciate it. Thank you so much. 


References:

https://justinhealth.com/

https://justinhealth.com/gupta

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The entire contents of this website are based upon the opinions of Dr. Justin Marchegiani unless otherwise noted. Individual articles are based upon the opinions of the respective author, who retains copyright as marked. The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. It is intended as a sharing of knowledge and information from the research and experience of Dr. Justin and his community. Dr. Justin encourages you to make your own health care decisions based upon your research and in partnership with a qualified healthcare professional. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Dr. Marchegiani’s products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. If you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have a medical condition, consult your physician before using any products.