My journey with neuroplasticity, DNRS, and Gupta has been one of incredible healing and hope. I am here to share all the details in the hopes that you’ll join me too!
I’ve promised this post for ages and have put it off equally as long. It’s not my lack of enthusiasm to share, it’s that there is SO MUCH information, both about how neuroplasticity works and how it worked for me COMBINED with other modalities. But the secret sauce is real and I’m ever-grateful for it.
I used to wince a little when new-agey woo woo people talked about “raising your vibration” and old school folks like my former Marine, turned CPA dad would chant “mind over matter, gotta pick yourself up by your bootstraps.” It’s not that neither of these philosophies have a place, but neither of them really tell us the HOW.
I’m a pretty good patient in the sense that when I’ve trusted my functional docs with my Lyme, EBV, Hashimotos, and chronic virus diagnoses, I follow their recommendations intently and specifically. If they said 40 supplements and a handful of antibiotics (dosed for someone twice my size) a day will help me heal, I did it. If they recommended treatments like acupuncture or epsom salt baths or meditation, I did those too.
But when people would say things like “you just have to keep your vibration high,” the theory sounded great, but there were no directions on just how to do this. What really resonated with me, however, was when a phlebotomist said to me, “Energy flows where the attention goes,” a Tony Robbins quote. While I had been compliant in my treatment, I often had very little healing that stuck. I also admittedly focused a lot on my symptoms and “body scanning.” If you have been symptomatic or sick for long enough, you know exactly what this means. Mentally scanning the body to see what hurts, what feels “off” or different ways you might feel badly. It’s a method of the brain’s protection, but it also keeps us focused on illness, not wellness.
NEURAL RETRAINING IS MORE THAN MIND OVER MATTER OR THINKING POSITIVELY
I first heard about neuroplasticity around 2015 while living in DC. It was intriguing but I admittedly knew very little and had a lot of learning to do. Neuroplasticity, in its simplest terms, refers to the ability of the brain to change. To be clear, this is not pseudoscience or snake oil; and it is easy to see all the ways in which our brain changes and adapts.
For example, if a person eats a food and later becomes physically ill, the brain may start a new neural pathway that understands “This food makes me sick,” even if the illness was a result of a virus, pregnancy sickness, or something else entirely.
Another example is the experience of phantom pain in a limb that has been amputated or lost in an accident. The limb may no longer exist physically, but the brain’s established neural pathways still make it possible for the body to feel real physical pain.
Neuroplasticity speaks to both positive and negative pathways.
Not all neuroplasticity or neural connections are the result of trauma. Positive neural pathways can be intentionally and unintentionally established as well… with practice. Here is where utilizing neuroplasticity to heal becomes an incredible tool.
THE LIMBIC SYSTEM AND ITS TRAUMA LOOP
Before we get into the programs I used and which one worked best for me, I want to lay out in layman’s terms, what happens to our brains when we are chronically ill: specifically the limbic system. The limbic system is the part of the brain involved in our behavioral and emotional responses, especially when it comes to behaviors we need for survival: feeding, reproduction and caring for our young, and fight or flight responses.
When we experience trauma, acute or chronic, including illness, our limbic systems do their best to protect us. They will send our body into fight or flight, kick in an adrenal response so we can survive hard things. The limbic system is inherently GOOD and protective. However, when chronic stress, illness, abuse, or trauma are prolonged, the limbic system gets caught in a trauma loop.
If you have been trapped in a limbic system trauma loop, you notice that you may make mild to moderate progress either emotionally or physically, and then dip straight back into old patterns of unwellness. You may notice that when you are in a “safe” place such as home you feel better, but the minute you enter the world, you experience symptoms again. Because the nervous system is so overburdened, you may find that any additional stimulation like sights, lights, sounds, movement, or smells can trigger the body feeling complete overwhelm or cause you to revert back to your classic telltale symptoms.
Most people with chronic illness of any kind understand that there is a “baseline” of feeling ok-ish, but that any additional external or internal stress added to that baseline will trigger a flare or additional symptoms. This is one of the reasons people become homebound, because adding ANY additional stimulation can trigger a cascade of events. It’s why a special evening out may require weeks of prep and recovery to be able to complete. We subconsciously “body scan” to see how we are feeling. To make notes of our physical and mental state. This can happen hundreds of times a day without realizing it, all the while reinforcing negative neural pathways. The limbic system trauma loop takes us back to the “bad place” quickly – because the communication and neural pathways become so reinforced that it takes but a mild slip-up or energy expenditure to trigger the limbic system’s protective alert shut it all down.
We are grateful for the limbic system, but we must also realize that after years of chronic stress, illness, trauma, or abuse, the not-so-desirable neural pathways become reinforced so repeatedly, that it becomes difficult for the body and brain to acknowledge anything outside them.
Think of it this way… when you take a hiking trail, the ones that are worn and reinforced are the ones easier to travel. They are trusted to take you down a path that you know well. Forging a new path, however, takes a lot of work. There are rocks and brush, twigs and unstable ground. The path takes many repetitions in order to make it one that is trusted and solid. This is how neural pathways work too. But in time, the reinforced (positive) pathways become more trusted and require less practice.
Here’s the wild part: The human brain has about 100 billion of them. Each neurons fires (on average) about 200 times per second. And each neuron connects to about 1,000 other neurons. This means, among other things, that the messages our brains are receiving are innumerable and also that most of them are not made with conscious effort. The idea behind neuroplasticity as a healing modality is to create NEW AND HEALTHY neural connections consciously until they automatically fire.
WHAT I HOPED TO TREAT WITH NEURAL RETRAINING
If you’ve been around here for awhile, you know I’ve battled Lyme and co-infections, chronic Epstein Barr Virus, Hashimoto’s Thyroid Disease, biotoxin illness, and mold toxicity (more than once). I will also share further how Zoloft came into play alongside my neural retraining. You can read about my Zoloft experience HERE.
My entire journey to wellness felt like 10 steps forward, 8 steps back for so many years. Sure I’d make some progress, but I’d slide even faster. And as the life stresses of being a military spouse and anchor parent of 3 would mount, I’d not only backpeddle, I’d start having the addition of new symptoms. It was always an uphill battle but then when I’d live in mold or have some other environmental or infectious trigger, the avalanche of symptoms would overwhelm my body.
At the point where I discovered DNRS and neural retraining, my symptoms included the following: dizziness, feeling like I would pass out, nervous system overstimulation, nerve and bone pain in limbs, migraines, intense weakness all over, inability to process information from the world around me (both cognitively and physically), impending doom (but not necessarily depression), and more.
I knew taking more supplements this many years into my illness would not help. I was no stranger to chronic illness and at this point I had been symptomatic with one thing or another for over 10 years. So I needed something different and it felt like I needed something specifically for my brain and how it perceived stress and threats to my body. Enter DNRS.
IN THE BEGINNING WITH DNRS
Round 1: I ordered the program and began practicing it rigorously. I was 100% committed and did experience some positive effects. I made some mistakes, needed an additional support, and also missed a HUGE part of what makes this program work (more on that below). So while I was ready for neuroplasticity training, there were two key elements I lacked which fortunately come into play later.
Round 2: Sometime after I started DNRS in DC, we packed up and moved to Illinois. It was in this house (while I was already experiencing cyclical flares/intensification of symptoms) that we discovered toxic mold, making everything much more complicated.
It was also during this time, that I discovered 3 relevant findings to make this training work best for me.
The first was finding the work of Dr. Joe Dispenza’s work. One of the key elements he writes about in Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself was one of the fundamental things I was missing in my neural retraining work. I highly recommend reading that and You Are the Placebo. Please do yourself that favor. I will also share one of the most lifechanging realizations about this training, that if you are missing, will likely prevent your progress.
The 2nd thing I discovered is that while the DNRS program itself has proven to be very successful time and again, I found myself not particularly relating to the personality of Annie, the creator. I think she is a wonderful human who has helped so many, but personality-wise, I didn’t not feel connected to her. More specifically, some of her goofiness (which I understand channels our inner child for healing), felt unrelatable and awkward for me; which in turn made it difficult for me to concentrate on the actual work.
As a result, I dove back into research mode and stumbled across the Gupta Program. Not only did I appreciate his calm, soothing voice, I also related much more to his personality. This will not be an issue for everyone, I understand, but for me personally, I need to connect with my practitioners – whether they are my Lyme docs, functional medicine docs, or any other wellness provider.
I instantly gravitated to Ashok Gupta, his kind smile, warm voice, and confidence in healing. Here are some of the other attributes of the program directly from the website:
- We are the first and original Neuroplasticity or “Limbic Retraining” program with over 20 years of experience.
The Gupta Program Will Teach You Not Only How To Get Well…But Stay Well
Rather Than A Strict Regimented Approach, Chronic Conditions Require Kindness And Compassion
- We are the only program to include our highly rated and exclusive 12 weekly group coaching webinars in the package, directly with Ashok Gupta, to support your process and healing journey.
We Combine Revolutionary Neuroplasticity Techniques With Holistic Health Practises
We Recognise That Our Patients May Have A History Of Trauma
We Offer A One-Year Money-Back Guarantee
The 3rd thing I discovered, is that I would personally need to pair low dose Zoloft with the Gupta Program in order for it to be the most successful. You will hear mixed feedback on whether or not this is a good idea. Some will say it is better to wean off of benzos and SSRIs while retraining the brain. For me, I could not maximize the effectiveness of neural retraining, without first tamping down the disastrous results of my neurotransmitters, which were impacted dramatically by mold toxicity. You can see my neurotransmitter lab results HERE. (I have not since retested)
THE MAGIC JUICE
I mentioned the 3 things I discovered to help make this program stick, but there was one aspect of Dr. Joe Dispenza’s work that I didn’t realize I was missing until I went back and listened to Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself for a second time. THIS my friends, is where the magic happened and I’m going to share it with you here so that if you are doing the work but not seeing the change you think you should, this could be why.
In the book, he breaks down a scientific study by the Heart Math Institute. Read more about this study HERE. He explains how there are TWO influencers on influencing the results of the study. One is INTENT – belief in the mission of the study (to unravel DNA strands specifically). The Second is by CHANNELING ELEVATED EMOTION. It takes the combination of these two things to bring about change.
You see, while I was practicing DNRS in DC, and again in Illinois before finding Gupta, I was nailing INTENT very well. I followed the program to a T. What I was missing was pairing it with the elevated emotion. And it’s no wonder! If you are chronically unwell, you know exactly how hard it is to channel joy. How can one possibly feel joy while in pain, or feel joy while the room is spinning?! But aside from how difficult it is, I didn’t even realize that was necessary to make the programs work! I finally understood how to “raise my vibration.” It can be challenging to be in a certain physical or mental state and channel elation. But there are tools for this. Meditation, imagery, reflecting on a memory with your eyes closed, or even making a new memory that has not yet happened. As Joe Dispenza discusses in the power of quantum physics, it is ALL POSSIBLE and we have the ability to channel and change.
IN RETROSPECT, TWO YEARS LATER
I am now 2 years into the commitment of this training. Armed with a starting dose (25mg) of Zoloft, the realization that joy and intent must be paired for results, and finding a practitioner (Gupta) that fits my personality, I have come so far. Further than any antibiotic or supplement could take me.
Did I still need to change my diet to Predominantly Paleo? I did indeed. Did I need to check other boxes first in order to arrive at the place I did? I believe so. But the biggest shift in 15 years of chronic illness, some of those years literally bound to home and bed, happened with neural retraining and zoloft. I know it was the combination of the 2 because I had done them each individually prior to 2019, but it was then that the pairing changed my actual life in all the right ways.
Since that time, I have been able to do things I haven’t been able to do in years. I have been able to socialize regularly, function when sleep or food are not ideal, and even planned the big weekend of 5 special events with family and friends. In years past, I could not have planned those events while working and mothering, much less attended the back-to-back festivities with late nights and early mornings. It is truly a testament to how much my nervous system, limbic system, and physical self have healed.
I’ve promised this post to you for years since I first realized I was truly healing. But where do you begin explaining something that feels so intangible yet is scientifically and undeniably real.