Neuroplasticity Brain Retraining Improves Chronic Illness

Limbic system retraining clinical trial results with Ashok Gupta.

Ashok Gupta’s neuroplasticity training — also called limbic system retraining — reduced chronic pain, depression, and anxiety by more than 40% for women with fibromyalgia in 8 weeks. In today’s episode, Gupta shares his results, and discusses how focusing on the nervous system can create surprising results for chronic illness.

In This Episode

Episode Intro … 00:00:44
Getting Published … 00:03:37
Limbic Retraining Defined … 00:07:00
Trusting Your Provider, Trusting the Process … 00:14:33
Study Set-Up … 00:17:34
Remarkable Results … 00:22:39
What does Limbic Imbalance Look Like … 00:24:29
The Trap of a Reductionist Philosophy … 00:31:13
Finding Balance in Our Systems … 00:35:55
The Gupta Program … 00:39:22
Digestive Health … 00:42:56
Episode Wrap-Up … 00:46:02

Neuroplasticity Brain Retraining Improves Chronic Illness - Podcast285b AshokGupta

Subscribe for future episodes

  • Apple Podcast
  • Google Podcasts
  • Spotify

Download this Episode (right click link and ‘Save As’)


Today I speak with Ashok Gupta, who I’m very, very excited to say, just published a randomized controlled trial on limbic retraining. The short primer, limbic retraining for those who haven’t been feeling well for a while, can help kind of bring them back from the brink of chronic worry and despair, and kind of getting stuck in this frenetic pattern of being worried about their symptoms and spiraling downward into this emotional anxious state. We’ve had a discussion with him on the podcast in the past where he outlined what the therapy is, how it can help people, but he just published in a journal on this and they showed some pretty remarkable findings. Almost a 50% reduction in depression and anxiety and a near 40% reduction in fibromyalgia pain. So we get more into this aspect of, for those of us who haven’t been feeling well, yes, there’s a litany of things that we can do in the gut as one example. Also from a dietary and lifestyle perspective.

However, in some cases, there is work in the brain and in the emotional centers that needs to be done to really correct imbalances. This was a really powerful piece of evidence to substantiate that. So I think you’ll really enjoy this conversation. In reflecting on this conversation, one of the things that I just want to lead with, so you can kind of hook into it when it comes up during the recording, is how important the language that we use is. How important it is that we frame discussions in healthcare in the neutral to positive. There could be something that on its face may seem negative. For example, an overgrowth in the gut can cause leaky gut and inflammation, but that could also be framed in a positive way as something fairly straightforward to remedy.

By remedying this, we have a high probability of seeing improvements in your symptoms. This is one of the things I really try to do in Healthy Gut, Healthy You, discuss all the things that can go wrong. But also this is kind of good news because if we know about these things and we have good evidence for how to correct these things, then there’s actually a really bright path ahead of us. So we can frame these things in a very empowering way. It was just another example and reinforcement for me regarding how important it is, the language that we use, the framing that we use. And again, I’ll refer you to Healthy Gut, Healthy You if you want to have a good narrative, that’s highly informative, but will also bias you in a positive direction so that you walk away from the read, feeling empowered. In any case, we’ll go now to the conversation with Ashok Gupta and the recent publication that he was so happy to get into a peer-reviewed medical journal. Okay, here we go.

➕ Full Podcast Transcript

Intro:

Welcome to Dr. Ruscio radio providing practical and science-based solutions to feeling your best. To stay up-to-date on the latest topics as well as all of our prior episodes, please make sure to subscribe in your podcast player. For weekly updates, DrRuscio.com. The following discussion is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease. Please do not apply any of this information without first speaking to your doctor. Now let’s head to the show.

DrMichaelRuscio:

Today I speak with Ashok Gupta, who I’m very, very excited to say, just published a randomized controlled trial on limbic retraining. The short primer, limbic retraining for those who haven’t been feeling well for a while, can help kind of bring them back from the brink of chronic worry and despair, and kind of getting stuck in this frenetic pattern of being worried about their symptoms and spiraling downward into this emotional anxious state. We’ve had a discussion with him on the podcast in the past where he outlined what the therapy is, how it can help people, but he just published in a journal on this and they showed some pretty remarkable findings. Almost a 50% reduction in depression and anxiety and a near 40% reduction in fibromyalgia pain. So we get more into this aspect of, for those of us who haven’t been feeling well, yes, there’s a litany of things that we can do in the gut as one example. Also from a dietary and lifestyle perspective. However, in some cases, there is work in the brain and in the emotional centers that needs to be done to really correct imbalances. This was a really powerful piece of evidence to substantiate that. So I think you’ll really enjoy this conversation. In reflecting on this conversation, one of the things that I just want to lead with, so you can kind of hook into it when it comes up during the recording, is how important the language that we use is. How important it is that we frame discussions in healthcare in the neutral to positive. There could be something that on its face may seem negative. For example, an overgrowth in the gut can cause leaky gut and inflammation, but that could also be framed in a positive way as something fairly straightforward to remedy.

DrMR:

By remedying this, we have a high probability of seeing improvements in your symptoms. This is one of the things I really try to do in Healthy Gut, Healthy You, discuss all the things that can go wrong. But also this is kind of good news because if we know about these things and we have good evidence for how to correct these things, then there’s actually a really bright path ahead of us. So we can frame these things in a very empowering way. It was just another example and reinforcement for me regarding how important it is, the language that we use, the framing that we use. And again, I’ll refer you to Healthy Gut, Healthy You if you want to have a good narrative, that’s highly informative, but will also bias you in a positive direction so that you walk away from the read, feeling empowered. In any case, we’ll go now to the conversation with Ashok Gupta and the recent publication that he was so happy to get into a peer-reviewed medical journal. Okay, here we go.

Getting Published

DrMR:

Hi everyone. Welcome back to another episode of Dr. Ruscio radio. This is Dr. Ruscio. Today I have back with us Ashok Gupta with exciting news. He has just published a study and I’m exceedingly excited to have you expand upon this because it was a really nice piece of science to show that there is this brain/gut connection or brain/immune and brain/systemic health connection, however you want to term it. You did an excellent job of really documenting that.

AshokGupta:

Yes. Thank you. Thank you for inviting me back on the show. Really excited to be with you. Yeah, it was fantastic to get this study published. As you know, we’ve been working for many years to get research in the area of brain plasticity, brain retraining program. To finally get a validated study with a control was great. Actually, as far as we know, this is the first randomized controlled trial ever published on a neuro-plasticity brain retraining type of program or limbic retraining program. So yeah, very exciting news.

DrMR:

Yes. I mean, absolutely a huge commendation to you for doing this. I should maybe loop in some feedback I’ve been getting at the clinic and recommending the Gupta program, which is, this is one of the more effective therapeutics that we use. I don’t say that lightly because this can be up to an hour of, termed or described loosely, what looks a lot like meditation and mindfulness work, in a given day. So it’s no small ask on the side of the clinician and I try to really kind of calibrate the ask to the therapeutic benefit. This is something where most of the time we’re getting a pretty strong signal from our patients. Although, sometimes patients say, is there any legit science behind this and I’ll have to reply, well, we know that meditation can be helpful with this specific type of limbic retraining. There hasn’t really been any good research done yet, but there seems to be some pretty powerful anecdotal data. Now we can marry and pair that anecdotal data with some of the published data.

AG:

Yes. And that’s the thing. A lot of our work is around encouraging patients, just like you described to commit to continue with the treatment. As you say, there is an investment of time and energy with brain retraining. If it was easy, we’d all be doing it and bang within five minutes, we’d all be how our brains retrained and live happily ever after. But like anything which is more on a complimentary side, it does require that investment and that commitment to believe in your recovery and believe that this treatment can help you. So when people realize actually we have published data. That we’ve got this study now which shows that just after an eight week intervention, you’ve got close to a 40% reduction in fibromyalgia scores. Obviously, our treatment is a six month program. So to have that response just in eight weeks, when the control group had a zero response, really encouraged people to take this seriously now and commit to it. The next steps for us is really looking at larger phase three trials to really prove to the mainstream medical profession, that this is really a strong intervention.

Limbic Retraining Defined

DrMR:

I’d like you to define limbic retraining for people in just one second. I just want to make one remark before you do. This is something in the clinic that we’re continually trying to better serve patients regarding this patient presentation type that may have been ill for a few years or perhaps even longer. They may have this underlying kind of constitutional predilection towards anxiety. This can be a very, very challenging subgroup to work with because they just won’t stop asking questions. They’re so worried that it could be this, it could be that, I read this, I read that, what do you think about this, what do you think about that. The clinician struggles because you want the patient to feel heard on the one hand. Yes. But you know, we’re not there to kind of debunk all of the barrage of incorrect factoids floating around in the field.

DrMR:

If we spend all of our time doing that, the patient may feel heard. Yes. But at the end of the visit, we’re trying to gather data to solve the equation of the person’s health. We leave the visit with zero or very little data, therefore we can’t solve for the equation of the patient’s health. One of the things that I think underlies that kind of flailing about, so to speak, on the patient’s side is or are limbic imbalances that lead them to have such an ingrained facilitated pathway in the brain where they’re just worried and every time they hear or read something that may overlap to them, it kind of sets off this limbic emotional response and it gets driven into their memory. When you interface with them they’re very challenging because they can’t get out of the way and let the clinician, who for 10 years or so has been trying to figure out what are the questions I should ask that get me to solving the problem for the patient, but rather they come in and they just think that the more I ask, the more I tell the better the results will be. Limbic retraining, I think really helps with them.

DrMR:

So I would be curious, any comments you have in response, and then also, if you would define limbic retraining for people, that would be awesome.

AG:

Yes, absolutely. So on this point about the anxiety. The way that we can understand this is in traditional medicine, we separate psychological responses from physical responses, from immune responses, from physiological responses. They’re all separate departments in the hospital. Yet our systems, our bodies create a holistic defensive response to ensure survival in the passing on of our genes. So the brain doesn’t differentiate between those different responses. So when somebody is experiencing chronic illness, nine times out of ten, we find it’s because a defensive system of the body’s own making has been trained to over respond. That defensive response comes married with an anxiety responder, a kind of psychological response, which is also part of that defense kind of system. It is no surprise that when someone presents to a clinic, they will be incredibly anxious because that is the brain trying to figure out a solution to what it perceives as a life-threatening experience.

AG:

So the brain thinks it is physical danger, of course it will then initiate psychological responses of hypervigilance, of searching for a cure. What we call detective work, continual detective work. Which will then mean that the client will go across the internet and consume all kinds of data and all kinds of theories.A lot of them contradictory. Of course we live in the misinformation age. So the last 20 years where the kind of information age and the last 10 years or the last five years certainly has become the misinformation age. Suddenly people have access to all kinds of content, which democratizes content, but also allows lots of nonsense to make its way into people’s minds. That’s unfortunate because science has always been based on credible reproducible data. Unfortunately that is kind of shifting and changing now.

AG:

So I encourage anyone who’s treating that kind of client or if you find yourself hypervigilant and thinking about so many things, really focus on one hypothesis at a time, one set of treatments at a time, and put your trust and faith in that practitioner that they’re doing the best that they can for you. Otherwise, as you say, it’s a scatter gun approach and you’ll never really dive deep into one system or one process. Then with limbic retraining. So this is actually a kind of misnomer, the limbic retraining. The limbic system includes what we might call the more emotional centers of the brain, the more ancestral centers of the brain, the amygdala, the hippocampus, the thalamus. Okay. So the idea of limbic retraining is to say that a lot of these illnesses start in the limbic system.

AG:

Of course, we focus a lot on the amygdala. The retraining is designed to retrain those parts of the brain to no longer create these hyperactive defense responses, which include overstimulation of the nervous system and overstimulation of the immune system. Now, in our research, we found that actually the insula is also, certainly animal studies, the insula is where a lot of the conditioning may lie. So the insula isn’t strictly within the limbic system. Limbic retraining is one part of the answer, but actually what we call it is amygdala and insula retraining, which we think is more accurate or still a theory. So the idea behind limbic retraining or neuroplasticity retraining is that when we go through challenging situations in our environments, we overstimulate that limbic response, especially from the amygdala where we have that danger fight or flight response.

AG:

Then when that combines with a physical trigger. So in the case of a lot of gastrointestinal problems, it can be food poisoning may be a trigger or chemical or mold exposure could be a trigger. Flu virus or bacterial infection could be a trigger or in the case of fibromyalgia, some kind of localized pain syndrome or accident could be a trigger. The combination of those two things then causes this conditioning effect in the limbic system. Also in the insula we believe. Once that illness has gone away, the original illness, it’s left a legacy in that part of the limbic system, especially in the amygdala and insula. Then it keeps over responding to any minor insult that reminds it of the original triggering events. So that can be psychological stress, physiological stress. That can be even foods which slightly mimic the original food, which caused the defensive response.

AG:

In the case of chemicals, we know that people have generalized sensitivities to a whole host of different chemicals because the brain is one big defensive machine. All it cares about is survival, survival, survival. It doesn’t care whether you feel good, it cares about survival. So it will always err on the side of caution and keep overstimulating this collage of different defense responses. Limbic retraining or brain retraining is designed to bring the systems back to balance, to teach the brain that we’re no longer in danger and we can calm that over hyperactivity down and bring the system back to homeostasis.

DrMR:

Trusting Your Provider, Trusting the Process

DrMR:

Well, a lot of great points there to speak. Let me start at the beginning with your point about trust, which I absolutely agree with. This is something I’ll just offer for patients. Give your provider some time and hold maybe the weld of questions that are bubbling up, hold those for a little while. Let the clinician ask the questions, give them good answers to their questions. But it shouldn’t be the patient just machine gunning with questions. You know, I think it could be this. I think it could be that. What about this test? What about that test? You know, all that does is just require the clinician to answer a bunch of things that may not be relevant to the care, but in one’s mind, they’re thinking, well, these things will help me get better.

DrMR:

You have to interrupt that pattern and say, okay, I’m going to trust so-and-so to lead this. That will actually enable the clinician to do a better job. If you can’t trust the provider, then you’re probably not in the right office. This is challenging. When we confront someone who’s been not feeling well for a while, and as Ashok is noting, can lead to this kind of runaway facilitation with certain patterns in the brain. And then to your comment about how this is insular and amygdala, this ties into the study title: Mindfulness-Based Program, plus amygdala and insula retraining for treatment of women with fibromyalgia, a pilot randomized control trial. Just a tie that in for the audience, in case they want to go and pull the abstract, which we will link to in the description.

SponsoredResources:

Hey, everyone, I want to thank Paleo Valley for some very tasty beef sticks of which I’ve been having one, sometimes three per day and who have helped to make this podcast possible. Their beef sticks are 100% grass fed and grass finished. Important to look for that because some start on grass, but finish on grains. They use beef sourced from small domestic farms in the US. They ferment their beef sticks, which obviously creates naturally occurring probiotics. They are quick, convenient, tasty, healthy, keto friendly, and they also use real organic spices to flavor rather than conventional spices, which can be sprayed with pesticides, can be irradiated and are oftentimes from GMO corn. If you go over to paleovalley.com/ruscio you can get 15% off your first order. The coupon automatically will apply at checkout when you go to paleovalley.com/ruscio. Check them out. Guys, they sent me a box of samples, and I actually have to say, I am now, like I said, having one to three of these per day as a nice little snack to get me through windows when I’m busy and otherwise don’t have the time to cook a full on meal. So thank you to Paleo Valley and give them a look.

Study Set-Up

DrMR:

So what was the study set up? I’d like to ask you that, and then maybe follow up with some questions about a self-assessment one could do to qualify if they are someone who is a candidate for this. Before we go into some of those details, tell us a little bit about this study set up.The fact that there was a control here is really compelling. I’m assuming maybe the control was something like breath work, but tell us a bit more about this, especially the clinicians. I think we’ll be interested to hear what kind of a setup was a by-product of these findings.

AG:

Sure. So we recruited 41 fibromyalgia patients. I say we, but this was study was actually conducted independently by the University of Saragosa in conjunction with certain fellows from the University of Oxford. 41 patients were recruited with a confirmed diagnosis from a rheumatologist with fibromyalgia. Half the group were engaged in relaxation techniques. So this was breathwork. This was relaxation techniques and an equivalent amount of practitioner time and exercise time in relation to that, compared to the main group. So the active group took something they termed MAIR which was mindfulness, plus amygdala and insular retraining. They split up those two aspects. That essentially was our Gupta program because the Gupta program is a combination of the brain retraining and also meditation and mindfulness as a part of it.

AG:

Those two groups then saw of practitioner over the space of eight weeks to employ some of these tools and techniques. We then followed them up with questionnaires pre and post, and also measured certain inflammatory markers, as well as BDNF (brain derived neurotrophic factor), where some studies have found this elevated in fibromyalgia. Okay. So there were some objective and subjective measures. So after eight weeks, or certainly once they do the followups, we found, as I said, close to a 40% reduction in fibromyalgia scores for the active group, the Gupta program group, but 0% in the control group. This was really interesting because obviously our program includes the idea of relaxation, but the fact that there was 0% in the control group shows that the relaxation techniques in our view support the neuro-plasticity effects. So we know that when someone is calmer, their brain is more plastic, right?

AG:

We give the example of when a husband and wife come home after hard, stressful day at work. They sit down together, both in this highly stressed state, they’re going to be far more likely to kind of trigger each other and get each other upset and angry. Why? Because their brains aren’t in that flexible mode of acceptance and kind of retraining and seeing the other person’s perspective. So that’s just a kind of funny example that we give of how stress decreases neuro-plasticity. There was a close to 50% increase in perceived health in the EQVAS scores and only 16% in the control group. 50% reduction in pain catastrophizing and only 9% in the control group. Then a halving of anxiety and depression. For us, this is a groundbreaking result because it was just an eight week intervention.

AG:

We also found normalizing effects on BDNF as well. In terms of the other inflammatory markers, there were decreases in the inflammatory markers, but not enough to be statistically relevant within the study. Although they did decrease. BDNF did decrease sufficiently for it to be statistically significant and approached the levels that you would see in pain-free controls which shows the kind of normalizing effect of the Gupta program. In terms of those inflammatory markers, they certainly did reduce, but were not statistically significant. Many studies have shown that those inflammatory markers are not necessarily an indication of fibromyalgia. So there’s kind of mixed evidence on those particular kind of measures. That’s a summary of the results of the study. It was published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine, which is is one of the top 10 journals in the world. So that was also good that they recognized how this was done correctly. We always wanted to make sure that this was an independent study, it was conducted with an effective control and done in the right way. So we hope that it now opens up avenues for phase three trials. We’d love to have, you know, a few hundred cases within a trial and make it a longer study. Make it a six month study where we actually give the patient time to really put the things into practice and follow them up over those six months. We believe we would get an even better results with a longer trial.

Remarkable Results

DrMR:

The results here are fairly remarkable. I mean, nearly a halving of anxiety, for anyone who’s ever had anxiety or depression, just to kind of underscore this for a moment., it is like throwing a dark cloud over your day. You could have the perfect family, the perfect wife, the perfect house, the perfect meal, the perfect whatever. If you’re feeling depressed, you might as well just be in a ditch because it just feels like you are. So to nearly halve the score of anxiety and depression is just massive. And that tracks with what we see in the clinic, which is you get certain types of response when you follow up with a patient and say, okay, how did the Gupta limbic retraining go? You get anything from yeah, it was okay or it really helped me.

DrMR:

And I feel like I’m less food reactive now. That latter response is a pretty strong response. When you get an “eh, it may have helped” most likely there was zero effect. And that “eh” is either the patient not wanting to disappoint the clinician or a little bit of a remanent of placebo. But as I said earlier, the signal is fairly strong from this work. So these results, albeit remarkable, in one sense, weren’t necessarily surprising to me given my clinical experience. Just want to offer that for people who maybe have been thinking about doing this, and for whatever reason have been dragging their feet. It is certainly something worth considering. Actually I wanted to come back to that question from earlier, which is, and we outlined some of this, but what would someone with a limbic imbalance look like?

What does Limbic Imbalance Look Like

DrMR:

Overreacting seems to be a theme and maybe just to underscore for people, because sometimes when someone is told “you’re overreacting” it can sound like an attack or that it’s trying to make their experience or their feeling less relevant. This necessarily wouldn’t be that, but it may be an indicator that if you’re overreacting a lot, you may be legitimately feeling what you’re feeling. But the point is is that there’s something causing that feeling and that that pathway may be faulty. Help us better understand for someone listening to this or reading this, what cues they may want to look for to indicate that this may be a problem for them.

AG:

Sure. So we treat it at the four levels of our existence, the physical level, the mental level, the emotional level, and the spiritual level. So the physical level, that indication of ourselves overreacting, can feel like this idea of wired, but tired. I’m sure you’ve kind of seen people in the clinic who are diagnosed with that, where you’re exhausted and you find it difficult to mentally concentrate. And yet you can feel yourself, a little wired. The muscles are tense, you’re finding it difficult to rest. There’s a restlessness in the physical system that you can feel. So that would be one indication. Remember these are indications. They aren’t in every patient that we treat. Then at the emotional level, you will find yourself more emotionally reactive to people and situations in your life. That’s a common theme. Also more emotionally kind of worried about your situation and your health. At the mental level, a lot of mental noise.

AG:

So a lot of thoughts, a lot of intrusive thoughts, difficult to relax once again, and a lot of intrusive thoughts about how am I going to get better from this illness? Why am I feeling like this, that kind of detective work, that catastrophizing, that hyper-vigilance on the signals within your body and searching for triggers on the outside? But once again, I want to be very clear. We are not saying that this is a kind of psychological condition or in the mind, we’re not saying that. I’m just giving some characteristics of an underlying conditioned response, which is unconscious. Then finally at the spiritual level, we talked about spiritual fatigue. This is where people find in each aspect of their life that there’s a heaviness, a difficulty in moving forward. There’s a sense of vulnerability or victimhood about life sometimes which can represent itself as a spiritual fatigue. A difficulty moving forward in life and overall kind of heaviness.

AG:

Those would be some of the characteristics of those different levels of our existence that we see at the clinic, which indicates a kind of limbic system or unconscious bias towards overstimulation. As a background to this, we’re going to see more and more of these illnesses simply because number one, we live in a more pro-inflammatory environment. We’re not living according to our genetic and evolutionary existence. We’re living more according to what technology is now driving us to be like. We’ve gone from agriculture or fishing villages, being outdoors, exercising, having the sun to suddenly living in boxes, eating bad diets, not exposing ourselves to sun, being surrounded by toxins and being highly stressed. So there’s a lot of acute psychological stress, pressure, comparisons. All of these things are meaning that our systems already had a background pro-inflammatory bias. Then combine that with that traumatizing event, the brain is already preconditioned to learn these types of responses.

DrMR:

Yep. It’s well said. As people are listening to this, they can likely imagine how challenging it would be to help someone in this situation, unless everything went perfect. If there’s any snafu, even if a home lab test kit got to the individual’s residents late, or there’s the slightest of a reaction. The person is tired, so they have a hard time executing. They’re emotional. So if something doesn’t go right, they may blow up or get depressed and feel defeated. If there’s any sign of things, not going the way they should, these intrusive thoughts run away with, “Oh my God, maybe this was the wrong decision, maybe it was the wrong clinician, maybe it’s not this condition, but it’s that, or it’s not this diagnosis or it’s that, or maybe we sort of run this lab instead of that lab” and they find it difficult to move forward, meaning they kind of get pulled back into all those things.

DrMR:

It doesn’t seem like they have this thing, pulling them forward through life. I always share this Nietzsche “He who has a why can overcome almost any how.” For some people, it seems their health ailment is just a speed bump. They’re like, what the hell? Get this out of my way. So I can get on to this thing that I’m trying to do. I think when people lose that, and all they have is their health, that’s an even more difficult precipice to pull someone back from, because now there’s nothing else to get on to. You’ve consumed yourself with this identity of health and health crisis and the detective work so there’s not that that gravity pulling you forward to being a good mom or a good dad, or solving a problem for society or building a company or doing charity work or whatever it is.

AG:

I agree. I agree. So we have three R’s in the Gupta program. First R is retraining the brain. So that’s the core program. The second R is relaxing the nervous system where we look at mindfulness and meditation, but also holistic health practices like sleep and pacing, all those things. The third R is re-engaging with joy. This is a missing piece of our modern healthcare system. Get people to reengage with what brings them joy in life, what makes them smile. You know, it reminds me of the film, you know, the Patch Adams story, where he went into hospitals and was able to heal people just through the power of laughter. That is an important part of the holistic recovery. Because if you haven’t got anything, that’s putting you forward in a direction, then you’re being pulled backwards. I think that speaks to the point you’ve made there.

The Trap of a Reductionist Philosophy

AG:

The other thing I’d like to add is that we, in the complementary and alternative area, I have to be very careful that we don’t fall in the same trap as mainstream medicine in terms of a reductionist philosophy. Treating the body like a car and saying that little thing has gone wrong. So this tire has gone wrong. Let’s fix the tire. The engine has gone wrong. Let’s go and fix the engine. What’s happening is that there are so many practitioners with various different theories and hypotheses and various tests testing for this, that, and the other, and then saying that is the cause of your illness. Now it may well be in certain cases. But a lot of the time when you have a systemic, underlying hyper defense response, we are going to see a huge number of abnormalities in the physical testing.

AG:

Whether that be hormone levels, neurotransmitters, brain EEGs, et cetera. Tests done on the stools. There’ll be a huge amount of abnormalities, which simply indicate to me that the centralized system is not working correctly. As you say, it can cause a lot of anxiety because of the person thinks, “Oh, it’s this and it’s this and how am I going to fix this”? So I support a dual approach, which is, yes, let’s look at those abnormalities, let’s see how we can support function through supplements and medications, et cetera. That’s part of the approach. That’s a holistic approach, but at the same time, doing the underlying reasons or the underlying cause why these things are happening in the first place. So a patient can become less stressed, less anxious when they recognize that it’s perfectly normal to have a whole set of tests which could be abnormal. That is part of a systemic dysfunction in these systems.

DrMR:

That’s an incredibly important point. Especially because while on the one hand, I think Functional Medicine, of course, and providers in the field are trying to help people. I don’t think there’s been enough acknowledgement of how psychologically stressful it is when you run an array of tests. Most of which, side note, unfortunately have not been validated. So you might as well just get a crayon and draw a high or a low, a positive or negative on a piece of paper and hand it to the patient. You’re looking at about the same level of accuracy, unfortunately, with many tests. We have discussed this on the podcast in the past. Most patients don’t get that. Unfortunately, most clinicians don’t get that cause they’re there depending on the lab and they’re taking the lab’s word for it. Patients still interpret that as, “Oh, I’m high in this, I’m low in this, I have this”.

DrMR:

What ends up happening is all these tests, and we’ve discussed this before that over testing and treatment, I used to say, doesn’t lead to better results. Now I’ve updated that to over testing and treatment likely leads to worse results. Part of the reason for that is because now people think they have seven things wrong with them, when really there may be two things going on. There may be some aberrancy in the gut that’s not even a condition, it’s just somewhat normal wear and tear that can be rectified with frontline, basic, simple supports. Plus perhaps there’s a layer of Limbic imbalance that’s occurring. By addressing these things in tandem, you may get someone well in a matter of months, instead of going down the route of ordering a boatload of tests. Now the person who already had the tenancy to be worried and fearful, you’ve just glommed on seven new conditions or thoughts that they can look up on Google at night when they have insomnia and work themselves even deeper into this kind of fervor.

AG:

I totally agree. As you say, many of the tests not validated, many of the tests haven’t even been compared to controls. Which is the concern. Therefore even somebody who is anxious will have abnormalities in various different tests. So it’s really important that people do not say X plus Y equals Zed. That because I have that thing that means I have this issue and the only way I can get better is by taking this or solving this otherwise I’m never going to feel well. We have people saying, “Oh, I’m feeling worse today because I didn’t have my chia seeds”. It’s like this obsession with following the perfect diet and the perfect supplements.

Finding Balance in Our Systems

AG:

I think that, dare I say it, I don’t want to offend anyone, but I do feel that in terms of the balance of holistic factors that impact our health, there has been a preponderance of attention towards the physical, in terms of the diets, the supplements and all those kind of things. And those are important. But I do believe that the mind and these trained responses are just as important, if not more important. I give a classic example of this. I’ve noticed in my life and my friends, my family, that people can have all kinds of disorders going on and challenges with their guts and this kind of thing. They are seeing holistic practitioners and they’re sticking to a strict diet. Then they go on holiday for a couple of weeks to a beautiful place.

AG:

I do this myself. I eat the worst food, french fries and this, that, and the other and I’m not looking after my health, but I feel absolutely fine. But if I had that same diet whilst I’m stressed and working hard at home, I know that it would impact on me. So what that is really saying is when our systems are refined, in the sense that there is a beautiful balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems, and we are engaged positively in life, our systems automatically can take a lot more abuse. When we are in a stress state, when we’re not able to relax, the parasympathetic system, isn’t able to detoxify our systems, then yes, what we eat and everything becomes so much more important because the system cannot handle the insult from various foods and various other things that might be impacting on our health.

DrMR:

Well said. As you’re saying that, I’m thinking that it’s really incumbent upon the clinician to talk patients off the ledge of worry. There are so many examples that we’ve discussed on the podcast. People have had stool tests like the recently debunked uBiome that come back with high or low or abnormal and a good clinician will pull them back. Someone who has a low level of thyroid antibodies, the clinician will explain, well, this is something to be concerned about, but remember, if your TPO antibodies are below 500, you’re at minimal risk. Also remember that at least the best study we have here shows that less than 20% of people actually become truly hyperthyroid. So this is something for us to look at, but I just want to make sure that you’re not assigning more value to this than perhaps you should.

DrMR:

Gluten is another example. The list goes on and on. For this very reason that we don’t want, in an attempt to make people better, actually make people feel worse. Sadly Ashok, I feel that with the high level of testing that has become en vogue, we’re actually going to be pouring salt on the wound of limbic imbalances for many people. I’m actually really happy that we have a tool like yours to refer people to, because this is definitely something I wouldn’t be equipped to walk someone through. I don’t have the training nor the time. So it’s really nice when someone has both of those things kind of in a package. Maybe you can tell people a little bit more about how it works, where they go, what they do. Is it online? Is it in person? Give people a sense for what this looks like.

The Gupta Program

AG:

Sure. So the Gupta program is available online. It’s an online training course with videos, audios, and we also have a community of people. Like-minded people who are using these programs to recover from a wide variety of different illnesses. So you feel supported through your journey. On top of that, included within the package, there are weekly webinars with myself where you get to ask me questions and I support you along your journey. So your hand is held as you take this journey towards brain retraining. We have a free trial, so people can come to the site, they can sign up for free, watch lots of videos, lots of content, and see if this type of program is the correct approach for them. On top of that, once they purchase the online program, they get some materials in the post and we offer a one year money back guarantee.

AG:

So until we get the large scale kind of phase three trials approved that this is effective. A larger scale. We’re offering that one year money back guarantee. So people have nothing to lose by really seeing if this is the answer to a lot of their ongoing health challenges. Just to let you know, we are now also successfully treating post COVID syndrome or post COVID long haulers, which is a phenomenon that we’re seeing time and time again. This is where people are getting COVID, are recovering, but they’re developing a form of CFS, chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia. Following the same hypothesis at the core of it, as we believe it is the same system.

DrMR:

Well, it makes sense too, especially with how much fear is imbuing the conversation around COVID.

AG:

Absolutely. Those fear systems are heightened. Those defense systems that err on the side of caution, especially if you’ve had COVID because it’s such an unknown condition. As an example, we had a lady who had COVID in the first week of March, and she was then bed bound until late July. So imagine she was in bed for four or five months with no support, no medical practitioner really understanding what her situation was. Someone just told her about our program. Within six weeks, she was walking five kilometers a day. She’s probably at about 70, 80% health now. Her video is actually on our website. She’s from Paris, so it’s in French, but there are subtitles. It just shows you that these systems, the brain will continue to stay in that state until something new happens. Until it gets the understanding that it’s no longer in that original sensitizing event. So, yeah, if people know anyone who is suffering from that long haul and not getting the support, then I’d love for them to try our program and see how it works.

DrMR:

Yeah, that’s fantastic. And it makes complete sense again.

RuscioResources:

Hi guys, just a quick announcement. My clinic is now version 2.0, wait times have been reduced as I’ve hired two new doctors and the health coach. We’ve enhanced our services with new systems to make the process even easier for our patients. The location has transferred to Austin, Texas, and the clinic has been renamed to the Austin Center for Functional Medicine, but we still offer the same tele health services for people anywhere. If you’re in need of cost effective, practical and science-based care, please visit my clinic website, AustinFM.com.

Digestive Health

DrMR:

You know, I don’t want to forget to open the conversation for any comments on the digestive health tie-in. I know you had mentioned that before. Any pearls or just insights you want offer people with the potential impact this has on digestive health. Obviously there are a few things that we already hit, which are potentially reduced reactivity to foods and to supplements. Those they’re not exclusively gut, but they certainly have a gut tie in, but anything else you want to share?

AG:

Yes. So the brain and the gut are heavily linked, incredibly linked. In fact, they call the gut the second brain. There is a huge amount of connectivity and whatever in that area of the body. So when we trigger our stress response, many of us intuitively feel the stress goes directly to our stomach. Especially those who are more in the kind of fear state or more prone to anxiety or worry, you’ll find that the anxiety goes there. There are direct loops that cause this. So the HPA axis triggers Cortisol and that directly weakens the immune system.Cortisol can weaken the gut lining. Stress reduces the digestion. So there can be a reduction in secretions, such as bile enzymes, stomach acid. It has a direct effect on gut bacteria. The biofilm. There is an impairment impact of the gut motility.

AG:

So often IBS is where there’s a tightening of the entire gut. Food gets to stagnate and there is a buildup of the bad bacteria. Fluctuating sugar levels, which can be caused by stress directly impact on the guts. The detox systems shutting down. So there’s a direct effect. We know from a lot of research now that our mental and emotional state can be impacted on by the stomach. So there’s then a feedback loop where the state of our kind of gut bacteria and general state of it can directly impact our immune system, but also depression, anxiety, and the pro-inflammatory states that can shift our emotions. That then can cause more stress, which then gets triggering all of these effects on the stomach and the gut that I talked about creating this vicious cycle. So I do believe, yes, we approach it from both angles.

AG:

We look at how we can support our gut in these tricky situations. At the core of it, what caused the guts to go into that abnormal state in the first place? That’s the question we need to ask. 9 times out of 10, when you really question somebody, there is a direct correlation between periods of time where they suddenly became more stressed, or there was a big shift in their mental, emotional state or their environment. Then these kind of systemic issues start. When we recognize that we don’t try to just treat one thing. We can see that there’s a huge amount of hyperconnectivity between our brains, our emotional systems, and our guts.

Episode Wrap-Up

DrMR:

Well said again. I think our audiences is familiar with those connections, but just good to directly speak to them, just to make sure we drive that point home. So actually, where can people plug in to learn more about the program, learn more about you?

AG:

Sure. So they can go to our website, which is guptaprogram.com and there you can sign up for the videos. There’s lots of other things you can, you can see and watch and read. There are blogs on there. It gives you a good understanding of our hypothesis and you can then see whether it’s right for you.

DrMR:

And remember, now there is a published, randomized controlled trial, the gold standard level of evidence, documenting the results here. Huge pat on the back to you for doing that. I know it’s not the easiest thing to do but it really does help patients and providers rest assured that if they’re going to put their time and money into something that they have a good probability of seeing an improvement in how they’re feeling.

AG:

Absolutely. I believe that we are at the dawn of a new medicine. I think that there’s going to be more and more interest in these types of approaches to deal with 70-80% of the illnesses that present themselves in a doctor’s office. This is just the beginning, I believe, in terms of the wide variety of conditions that we can treat using this approach.

DrMR:

Yeah. Well, I agree with you and I’m again, just grateful for you and the fact that you put in the hard work to make this happen. Now we have a really solid evidence point to rally behind for those who are in need of this, because unfortunately for this patient population, going further and further down the functional medicine model, or even the conventional model, more tests and more scans and more supplements, won’t correct this. So it’s really important that we have this in our toolkits to pull out when it seems like it’s indicated. So, just a really awesome stuff Ashok and thank you so much for coming back on the show.

AG:

Yeah. Thank you so much. I really enjoyed it. Thank you.

DrMR:

Thanks for listening to Dr. Ruscio radio today. Check us out on iTunes and leave a review. Visit Dr. Ruscio.com to ask a question for an upcoming podcast, post comments for today’s show and sign up to receive weekly updates.

 

➕ Resources & Links

Sponsored Resources

Neuroplasticity Brain Retraining Improves Chronic Illness - paleovalley logo

Hey, everyone, I wanted to thank Paleo Valley for some very tasty beef sticks of which I’ve been having one, sometimes three per day and who have helped to make this podcast possible. Their beef sticks are 100% grass fed and grass finished. Important to look for that because some start on grass, but finish on grains. They use beef sourced from small domestic farms in the US. They ferment their beef sticks, which obviously creates naturally occurring probiotics. They are quick, convenient, tasty, healthy, keto friendly, and they also use real organic spices to flavor rather than conventional spices, which can be sprayed with pesticides, can be irradiated and are oftentimes from GMO corn. 

If you go over to paleovalley.com/ruscio that’s R U S C I O you can get 15% off your first order. The coupon automatically will apply at checkout when you go to paleovalley.com/ruscio. Check them out guys. They sent me a box of samples, and I actually have to say, I am now, like I said, having one to three of these per day as a nice little snack to get me through windows when I’m busy and otherwise don’t have the time to cook a full on meal. So thank you to Paleo Valley and give them a look.


Need help or would like to learn more?
View Dr. Ruscio’s additional resources

Get Help

Discussion

I care about answering your questions and sharing my knowledge with you. Leave a comment or connect with me on social media asking any health question you may have and I just might incorporate it into our next listener questions podcast episode just for you!