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Biology and Belief; Is your Amygdala causing your chronic fatigue or pain?

At my Brisbane based Naturopathic Clinic, Transformation Health, I have been helping hundreds of clients suffering with chronic maladies such as M.E, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia and Lyme Disease. Treating such conditions with herbal medicine, extensive dietary modifications, and various nutritionals can bring enormous relief and frankly are imperative for best results. However I strongly believe that there is something even more important that we must consider.

A question that I frequently ask my patients is; "What do you think may lie at the root of your illness and what does your body need to heal?" Occasionally my clients will respond by saying that they need to lose some weight, find a better anti-inflammatory drug or balance their hormones. But more often than not, when asked, my patients said things like these; "I don't know how to say no and feel exhausted doing everything for everyone else". "I'm in an abusive relationship and need to leave to him". "I hate my job and need to find an outlet for my creative side that feels so stifled."

So how are our emotions connected to our physical health and to very real symptoms? What happens to our body when our mind is in a dark place? Emotional suffering may start in the mind, but it is ultimately an embodied experience. You feel it in your body, as suffering cascades through your body via the stress response.

The amygdala, an almond-shaped group of nuclei located in the limbic system, deep within the brain, is the boss when it comes to processing and storing memories of various emotions. In fact, the amygdala experiences emotions even before the conscious brain does. Repetitive triggering of the stress response makes the amygdala more reactive to apparent threats, which stimulates the stress response again and again in a vicious cycle. Real or imagined.... it is all the same to your emotional brain. There may be all sorts of negative things triggering CFS and Fibromyalgia based emotional memories in your amygdala. Some of these will be conscious and some will be unconscious.

As well as the amygdala, the emotional brain also includes the hippocampus. The hippocampus lays down memories related to emotion. When the amygdala is constantly being triggered by negative emotions the hippocampus gets worn down by the body's stress response. Cortisol and other stress hormones weaken the synapses in the brain. As a result, the painful, fearful experiences that the overly sensitive amygdala records get programmed into implicit memory.

A sufferer can increase their symptoms and make them worse just through having thoughts and an awareness of them. Of course if you have CFS and or fibromyalgia it can be very difficult to ignore the symptoms. The catch however is not to ignore the symptoms. If we ignore emotional energy, the brain can turn up its communication of the neglected emotion and make the sensation of it feel even stronger in the body.

So is it possible to retrain the brain so that it no longer feels threatened and in a heightened state of alert? Yes, it most certainly is possible and thousands of people have learnt how to take the amygdala off full throttle. By learning techniques to quieten the amygdala many people have had complete resolution of their once debilitating physical


If you would like to learn about these techniques and how to apply them, please contact me at Transformation Health.

"What we are today comes from our thoughts of yesterday, and our present thoughts build our life of tomorrow: our life is the creation of our mind" - THE DHAMMAPADA


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