You may have noticed a lot of extremely upbeat posts from me lately about cultivating joy and unleashing your inner child for good health.
That’s because these have been my primary tools for improving my own health and mental wellbeing over recent months and, at time of writing, I had already started clocking the huge benefits of doing just that. Which is not to say all my symptoms had magically gone away but that I was really starting to notice a core difference in my overall health and emotional resilience whenever I turned to these tools, taking self-responsibility for the up-tilt in my wellbeing…and there are many days when what I do to turn myself around feels like pure alchemy. Also, that I found I was no longer dwelling so much of the time in the places where symptoms can feel like the very walls and roof of your whole life experience. I was really starting to feel as though something big was ready to take off in my recovery as the new year turned, regardless of what certain symptoms might have been telling me last year with new food sensitivities and so on coming onto the scene, and this “lift off” factor has been a big source of my underlying optimism. There is a certain amount of “fake it till you make it” involved at times but its always astonishing to me how quickly that “fake” becomes real, if you allow it to, by diligently doing the positivity work, and the distraction from your worries, as a daily practice.
Added to all that, I believe I have now found a modality, called The Gupta Program, to help me fully recover myself from everything I have going on, condition wise, once and for all (and for the run down of those conditions, please see my About section since, for reasons that will become apparent, I have no desire to list them here). In fact, this feels like fairly major news I’m about to share and I’m finding it hard to lid my excitement because that’s how I have felt since I came across this “method” to healing and set off along its path. If all this sound like an incredibly big statement to make, I am happy to qualify it further along in this post but first I want to set the scene of where I might otherwise have chosen to sink my energy this year; a route that really wasn’t feeling so very good or empowering.
Because, converse to the upbeat mindset I have been spinning lately, I had recently joined some health-related forums online to help navigate my way through a few of the areas of health that were newer to my experience last year. This, even though a decision not to join such discussion forums is something I had spoken out about many times over the years (a point of view that has largely been validated by my recent experiences) which meant I had stoutly avoided joining any condition-related “groups” for many years until that point.
How I could have got into another tail spin…but didn’t
The problem I had found with forums like that, very early on in my recovery-journey (and recently repeated) is that, even when you are having a better day, you can be sure that many people won’t be, rather, quite the opposite, and having these anxiety-driven discussions pop up in your newsfeed isn’t helpful or self-empowering (top tip: if you do join forums, turn off all notifications so that you get to choose when to engage). Important to remember is that no two people presenting with a chronic health condition will share the same symptoms, responses or even personality type and, when you throw all those together, you do tend to get into a minefield of “information” taken as gospel just because a few people share their anecdotes, or even a tail-spin of anxiety and hopeless-feeling emotions. The phrase “misery loves company” always springs to mind and you have to remember that any piece of information you care to share, or seek validation for, will always attract a certain number of people agreeing with, or reaffirming, it on the internet because there are just so many people with different points of view, seeking to find their pack of likeminded people to derive a version of comfort from.
Another pitfall is that, in my opinion, the mindset of allergy and food elimination tends to be too fixed and long-termist in its approach, as in, to make the target food “bad” and assume a lifetime of avoidance from now on. Many of the recommended substitute diets simply don’t measure up as healthy, balanced or even viable diets, in my opinion, and I don’t subscribe to the point of view that such balance is expendable, or that an intolerance right now necessarily means a lifetime of avoidance. With oxalates in particular, I have reached a personal hypothesis that a tendency to hoard oxalates is a protective instinct by the body (as I have alluded to before) and therefore, if you can work on not feeling so “under threat” in life, the problem may very well recede. Becoming hyper-compulsive in following some sort of avoidance diet, or hypervigilant about food and exposures in general, is not the short way to feeling more supported and safe in this world!
Nor is it a joyful and celebratory way to conduct your life; and these are the routes that I have, consistently, found to lead towards the better health I aspire to.
So, three months in, I have diligently eliminated the really high oxalate foods (spinach, sweet potato, quinoa etc), gone easy on the rest and regained some definite new balance in my health; whilst still deciding to click off notifications from this and several other forums, on a range of health topics, in order to continue on in my own sweet (highly optimistic) way. By the same token, I have also conducted a similar process when it comes to pruning certain accounts and individuals that used to appear in my newsfeed with all-too much regularity, espousing their negative, gloomy or anxiety-driven opinions and, as ever, I rarely watch the news except when seeking an update on a specific topic from a reliable source. These are just some of the ways that we get to curate our own life experience and create an environment conducive to healing.
The reason I wanted to start this post outlining some of the pitfalls of diving deeper into the labelling of conditions, and also into the research we tend to conduct around them when we are trying to figure our way out of them, is this. We may feel almost desperate to not seem so alone in our health conundrum, or to find answers, but those very impulses can entrench us even deeper into the mindset of something going wrong, of having way too much of a mess to work our way out of before we get to heal and, of course, if no one else seems to be getting much better how on earth can we expect that for ourselves. None of this feels good and we know it! When, really, we also know, not so deep down, that it will take a miracle of positivity to flip us onto that healing trajectory and to do that we have to be almost single-minded in our own commitment to it, because no one else can do this but us; we have to take responsibility for our own experience. The good news is, all that healing power is already there inside of us, just waiting to be tapped into…once we get past the limitation mindsets.
In the midst of this journey through the mindset process of my own healing, I just knew that there was a solution to all of it, just sat there barely visible in my periphery…like the shape I can almost pick out but can’t quite see to the side of my vision unless I turn my head sharply but then, if I do that, the very thing I want to see so badly seems to vanish again, like its playing hide and seek with me. And I knew it had something to do with my fervent belief in neuroplasticity, a topic I have danced around for many years, not least since a single session of NLP back in March 2011 caused me to have such a monumentally different angle on my own situation, as though a heavy piece of furniture had been moved out of the way, that I had a massive breakthrough from that point onwards. That was the sudden breakthrough that not only super-charged my own determination to recover, triggering off a rapid spate of health leaps (and leading to this blog), but which opened me up to a far wider perspective of, well, everything going on, both in and around me. It was as though a light switched on inside me that day and, though it may have flickered or grown dim from time to time, it has never once gone out. I’ve long felt that, if only I could harness more of that healing potential, I would be home and dry (and I have tried one or two fairly radical routes, shared along the way, but none of them was quite a fit for what I needed next) so I have continued to look out for that “thing” that I could use as the ultimate tool. Put simply, I really believe in the potential of the human individual to transform whatever comes our way with the power of positivity and to unleash unfathomable resources…from the inside…once we stop getting in our own way!
The thing about methods that reprogram the conditioning of our brain is that they can be used to superpower our lives and our health, not because they impart power from the outside but, because they offer us a clear route to connecting with our OWN healing potential, which was always in there but possibly misfiring or getting caught up into some sort of dead-end pattern. As in, once retraining has done its work, and once that energy is no longer misdirected, it can feel like a fire-hose of life force to spark our own recovery process.
My health “conditions”, by now, make for quite a long shopping list (as before, if you are curious, the summary in my About section is fully up to date…and it makes me sounds like a kleptomaniac with a penchant for medical labels, accurate as it is). All of those conditions are very real, physical conditions presenting with real, physical symptoms but I have long known that they all have one thing in common and that is that they all began with a kink in my wiring; part genetic, part epigenetic as a result of stressful or traumatic life experiences leading to over-reactions, one-by-one, to certain environmental and other exposures etc; those reactions amalgamating and overlapping to gradually overcomplicate my health scenario a little more, year-after-year. It is one thing to “know” this and another, entirely, to know how to fix it, though going into the nuts and bolts of it can (as above) tend to reattach you to the problem, investing you more in the life-structures that form around the very labelling and “idea” of what the condition entails. One thing had, quite literally, led to another yet they all had a common source so, surely, it would make sense if it could all be addressed as a whole, to be de-programmed as simply as they had apparently arisen out of the abstraction of my particular genetics mingled with an unhelpful set of inner beliefs to do with safety and belongingness (“wrong planet syndrome”), two of the core paradigms I have wrestled with all my life. I have played with this potential for years but had yet to find its best vehicle!
I guess you could say, I put a prayer out for a solution, so it was not such a great surprise when, a couple of weeks ago, in the midst of writing on the topic of joie de vivre and my love of dancing whilst teaching myself how to paint in a completely different way (the positivity frequency I was engaged with at the time feels like no coincidence when it came to the timing), I happened upon something, called The Gupta Program, that seems to answer my universal call for such an elegant solution, using what you could broadly refer to as “limbic retraining”.
The Gupta Program
To keep to my topic and to avoid doing badly what the program’s own website does so very well, I won’t dive into summarising what the The Gupta Program entails; please take the time to visit that website yourself if your interest is piqued (and, if you are seeking recovery from any one of an array of chronic health conditions, including long-haul covid, I would respectfully suggest that it should be). On that website, you will find information galore and also the facility to sign up for a free 28 day trial. Should you then subscribe but change your mind within the first year, you can cancel for a full refund, no questions asked. There really is nothing to loose and everything to gain.
I could regale you here with how there are plenty of inspiring anecdotes of dramatic improvements and full recoveries in countless videos on that website and also in the forum (did I say I joined another forum? oh, but this one feels quite different because of the “ready to heal at last” nature of the program and is also carefully moderated to be upbeat and without triggers). I could describe to you how its creator Ashok Gupta recovered from ME himself before pooling 20 years of experience and research to craft the way the program is so carefully designed to walk you through to recovery. I could try to convey to you how the program just “feels good”, “feels right”, “feels like finally like handing yourself over to something that you just know deep inside has the potential to work” (and the science behind that is carefully explained as you go along). However, I might be here for hours.
Instead, I am going to offer a brief description of how I honestly feel I have turned a major corner since signing up for the program, which I did after less than 24 hours of sampling it (I simply didn’t feel the need to continue my 28 days trial and was just too eager to get started on the rest of the program).
After 16 years of extremely convoluted chronic health issues, many of them overlapping all at once, I had become somewhat stubborn in my self-sufficiency by the time I found this program. Having had to conduct all my own research and trials for just so very long, and having felt that just so many other modalities had disappointed me, let me down or even made me worse, I had come to a place where I pretty much only trusted myself to find my way out of the wood, but something about The Gupta Program was such a perfect fit with the best parts of what I already knew about neuroplasticity that I was convinced I could use this and get the results I had been seeking for so long. Importantly, partnering with something outside of myself for once means I can surrender fully to the process instead of having to be the one that designs the program and follows it, somewhat like trying to be both the doctor and patient all at the same time. I suspect a lot of people who see themselves as “stuck” in chronic health issues end up in a similar position, where they are having to seek their own answers 24/7, so it can be a seismic shift to find a program where there is no further need to search for those answers; because what matters most now is, not how you got there but, where do you go from here and then the program takes care of that for you.
An important factor is I can now drop the endless search for answers, the dubious hobby of having to research my way through the mire, and can just hand myself over to the program’s tried-and-tested approach, which requires no further analysis of the “why’s” because your focus is now on the “how’s”, which are presented to you in a highly relatable, user-friendly form (there is no pressure to follow the program or reach certain targets and self-compassion is right at its very core). The relief of this, in my case, cannot be underestimated as it allows me to tilt my days towards far more enjoyable obsessions (for instance, my rejuvenated painting practice) rather than figuring out why I’ve had this flare or that new symptom. For perhaps the first time in years, I am trusting enough of a process to let go of all that search and analysis and give myself over to this one thing, for at least the next six months and beyond; perhaps even a year or more. I can believe in it enough to go with that timescale, based on what I have learned about its success rate. What’s more, I am committed enough to the process to ease off my focus upon writing about these topics as I usually do; so you will likely start to find that the focus of this blog is now tilted away from symptoms and conditions towards general wellbeing practices, mindfulness and pursuing joy and positivity for health (which is, kind-of, where I was headed anyway).
Since that very first moment of surrendering to The Gupta Program and, more importantly, COMMITTING to it, I haven’t looked back. There is an emphasis upon following the steps in a relaxed, unpressurised, almost casual way but at the same time there are also some extremely powerful practices for neutralising old reactions to old situations, such as the experience of symptoms themselves, or our emotional reactions when those symptoms occur, even the anticipation of having them (which can often curtail your life as much as the symptoms themselves); and you are really going to want to use then because they work. So, although there is no pressure, I have found that I really want to diligently follow the best advice for making good steady progress with this program…every day…and it is already delivering in a way that not only I can notice but which those around me are happily observing too. Its as though a heavy weight has lifted off me these past couple of weeks and the daily improvements are shining through, even though its such early days.
When I do have a dip in health, I now feel far less concerned because I have the means at hand to address my thinking about this straightaway, even as I go easy on myself for a day or so, content in the knowledge that I am working as diligently as I can to reprogram the “loop in the brain” behind all of my various conditions, which is the phrase recommended as a substitution for all of those old condition labels we used to identify with (it makes me smile to simply refer to myself as “loopy”). Yes, all those labels can be pushed to the side…yee-haw!
This, in itself, is a major step…as in, finally dropping all the labels along with much of the vocab of being unwell, which is something I have wanted to do for an INCREDIBLY long time. In fact, I find I was writing about the need to do this very thing quite a lot as long as three years ago, including in a post that, to my dismay, covers pretty much the same conclusion about the oxalate issue that I just outlined above…so, how many times am I prepared to keep swimming around this tiny goldfish bowl, seeing the same signposts, before I break out of the loop? Yes, in a reality where you still feel symptomatic day after day and need to communicate with others about that grim reality, dropping the labels (and the ideas we form around them…) is incredibly hard to do, but somewhere underneath the washing machine spin cycle of your life, you come to recognise that some part of you already knows that your very recovery relies upon it. As in, if only you could just go through a whole year and not once have to mention, say, “fibromyalgia”, “food sensitivity” or “electrical hypersensitivity” to anyone, least of all yourself, you just know that you could get past it all and get well, but how? Well, this program teaches you how, and so very much more.
That all important commitment
Important to know: following a program such as this does not mean you are suddenly symptom free overnight. However, it means you are, potentially, handling those symptoms quite differently to before, taking heart from the knowledge that nothing will ever be the same again. Also, that you can see a way out of the woods, through all the dense tree, along a well trodden path that is now being marked out for you…because you are following in the footsteps of others who began with conditions as perplexing as yours yet who are already enjoying great successes with their recovery or even recovered fully; yes, they have been where you are and have shown it is possible. Not surprisingly, this information can be incredibly calming to the nervous system, also powerfully motivating; both of which effects I have been noticing in spade loads this past couple of weeks since I started. Whilst I have still had one or two nights where I wake up in the early hours, its been so starkly noticeably how my mind is now pretty much quiet of the old ruminations about symptoms as I lie there, and my body feels so calm and relaxed. Then, I’m so eager to get back to the program every day, starting with morning practices that clear out any sticking points (say, stray symptoms or anxious mindsets) that may have occurred out of habit on first waking. My morning routine has grown into over an hour of power that starts with my usual energy medicine and asana practices, then my practice related to the program (you will have to find out what this involves for yourself via the program trial), followed by half an hour of silent meditation, followed by my twenty minutes or so of dance. By the time I get downstairs to a well earned breakfast, its as though I’ve banished all negative thinking and got into such a powerful groove I’m, mostly, “struggling” to find enough excuses to practice more of the program during the day because I am not having very many thoughts about health issues, or what I can’t manage to do…at all!
It’s not that I don’t have symptoms at this stage, as I said (though its heartening to read accounts of other retrainers, as we are called, who have put their symptoms to bed for good, including some of my most quality of life detracting such as constant tinnitus or chemical sensitivity). In fact some of them have been at an 8 out of 10 this week, nor is it that I am ignoring, denying, steamrollering or suppressing them, which would be hugely misguided. However, I follow the steps laid out by the program and I seem to glide through it in a whole other way. Just knowing I can do this imparts such a degree of self-confidence and deep relaxation throughout my entire system. The whole point of a limbic system retraining program is to restore faith in the body’s ability to heal, and I now have that in heaps, rather than just in occasional peaks and that, in itself, feels like the blueprint for far more consistent good health.
As such, its been a powerful couple of weeks for putting my energy, much more concertedly, into the things I really do enjoy, right from the moment I get up, which means I have got started on some other projects that are close to my heart. In the spirit of regeneration that I wrote about just a short while ago in my other blog (my word of the year), which was before I had even heard about The Gupta Program, I really couldn’t have made better headway, so far, this year. If my positivity played a part in manifesting this then what more do I have to say, since the entire program is built upon that same premise of working with positivity to manifest the health that is already yours, just waiting to come out.
Some key points about the program
The list of conditions particularly targeted by The Gupta Program, which are referred to as “Neuro-Immune Conditioned Syndromes (NICS)” include: ME, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS), Mold Illness, Electrical Hypersensitivity Syndrome (EHS), Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Food Sensitivities, Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS), Small Intestinal Bowel Overgrowth (SIBO), Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS), Chronic Pain Syndrome, Post Covid-19 Syndrome (often referred to as being a “covid long-hauler”), Lyme, PoTS, a variety of other Chronic Pain Syndromes, Anxiety, Adrenal Fatigue, Panic & Burnout.
In reaching his central theory about this bundle of related NICS, Ashok Gupta drew upon a study that links such condition to a protective response by the amygdala and insula, rather than the traditional emphasis upon them being a response to an emotional or physiological threat. He outlines how Pre-disposing Factors, e.g. Genetic and Environmental Risk Factors cross-over with Acute Psychological Stress & Viral, Bacterial, or Other Triggers and this results in changes to the circuitry of the amygdala and the insula, making it continually over-stimulate the body. The first part of this theory is exactly as I have come to presume my own health issues came about, as written about here before. The amygdala and insula part of the equation, and the facility to retrain them, is what offers me so much hope of recovery.
Gupta’s theory was published in Medical Hypotheses in 2002. In that paper he describes the varying degree of coping mechanisms and responses by patients to such conditions but, importantly, adds “I believe that the patient is ‘in the grip of’ a predominantly unconscious process over which they have little control and which they are not necessarily aware of. Differing cognitive approaches to dealing with the illness may have only modest effects, unless the approach is specifically involved in the reprogramming of the amygdala’s conditioned responses”. He adds, “this is not to be confused with Hypochondriasis”, nor a cry for help via the attention-seeking medium of self-generated health issues, nor the result of deep-seated fear-conditioning around experiencing certain bodily symptoms; there is no doubt that symptoms are real and deeply life-affecting. Meanwhile the process by which the amygdala repeats the loop of response becomes, in time, nigh on automatic whilst the constant presence of symptoms, possibly at an increasing rate, generates an alarm reaction and anxiety, which continues to feed the loop (unless that loop can be broken through retraining)!
A new study of the The Gupta Program was published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine in 2020 : “Mindfulness-Based Program Plus Amygdala and Insula Retraining (MAIR) for the Treatment of Women with Fibromyalgia: A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial”. It concludes as follows: “The results found that after just an 8 week intervention, the MAIR group had significantly greater reductions in symptoms and pain, and increases in overall health, compared to the control group.” A range of between 37 – 47% reduction of symptoms was reported across a range of conditions after that initial 8 weeks. Since the program is designed to be followed for a minimum of 6 months, this finding supports the likelihood of extremely positive outcomes from persisting for the full duration of the program.
Of current relevance is how The Gupta Program can, and has been successfully, used to recover from long-haul covid. There is also a video available on how to reduce the risk of long-haul covid and also a free 10-day course offered to guide you through building greater immunity to the virus, using the principles of The Gupta Program, called The Coronavirus Challenge.
This blog, it’s content and any material linked to it are presented for autobiographical, anecdotal purposes only. They are not meant as advice. They are not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or prescribing. The material and opinions shared are anecdotal and should not be considered to be medical advice or diagnosis. This article does not constitute a recommendation for the treatment or choices described and the effects related are my own anecdotes, not a prediction of how anyone else might respond. I do not advocate taking any of the supplements referred to or following any of the choices or steps outlined and suggest that you conduct your own enquiries with medical advisors. Please consult with a licensed healthcare professional if you have or suspect you might have a health condition that requires medical attention or before embarking on a new eating plan.