My 20 Year Journey Living with Multiple Sclerosis
Note: My MS story is divided into a 5 part blog post. Click the links below if you missed parts 1 and 2.
Clearing Negative Emotional “Blockages” Helps Heal the Body
Thanks to studying the work of Dr. Gabor Mate, which I discuss in more detail in part 1, I now believe that stored negative emotions have the potential to create “blockages” within our body that can be a contributing factor to chronic illness, including autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis as well as cancer and other autoimmune diseases. It has now been proven that our environment can “turn on” or “turn off” genes that cause disease. Science also tells us that our thoughts create our emotions and our emotions are intimately connected to our physical and mental well being on a cellular level. This means trauma that has occurred in your life, especially childhood trauma, can leave an “emotional footprint” that can then potentially be a factor in “turning on” a gene for multiple sclerosis (or any other autoimmune disease, cancer, etc.)
Please understand I’m not saying that a negative or traumatic “emotional footprint” is the one and only cause of MS, but I do believe it plays a role. I say that because I don’t believe MS has just one cause. I believe that people who develop MS, or any autoimmune disease for that matter, have a genetic predisposition to their disease and then a number of environmental factors work in synergy to “turn on” the genes that ignite the disease. And I believe one of the environmental factors that “turn on” the MS gene is a negative or traumatic “emotional footprint.”
I would have never believed in the idea of an “emotional blockage” and would have never stumbled upon the work of Gabor Mate, M.D., had it not been for the intensive shamanic healing session I did a few years back. It was in Costa Rica at a plant medicine ceremony with my husband where I learned firsthand that generational trauma is real. This blog post is not the place to dive into genetic trauma too deeply, but through working with a shaman I was able to get just a glimpse of the terror my 93-year old dad experienced when he was younger than my son, just 17, years old in World War II. My dad never told me firsthand about the fact that he had PTSD, and I would have never in a million years have believed that trauma my dad experienced in the war could have possibly affected me on both a physical and psychological level, but I know now after my experience in Costa Rica that generational trauma does exist.
It was after returning from Costa Rica and confirming with my dad that what I experienced with the shaman did in fact happen to him that my husband and I started to dig through medical journals to see if generational trauma had ever been studied. Sure enough, it has been. One day we will talk about all of this in more depth, but for now I encourage you to read this study on the effects of trauma, with or without PTSD, on the transgenerational DNA methylation alterations in human off springs. I also encourage you to read about the research on holocaust survivors and the trauma that has been found to be passed on through to their children’s genes. The Cherry Blossom Mouse study is also fascinating. The point is, research is proving trauma is stored deep within all of us and those traumatic events create “blockages” within our bodies that I believe contribute on some level to degenerative disease later in life.
Again, this is not the place to dive deep into the science of generational trauma, but I do believe it is important to mention because even if you have never experienced trauma directly, we ALL have genetic trauma on some level. Maybe your father was not in World War II, but maybe he was physically abused as a child. Or maybe your grandmother was sexually assaulted. Or maybe your grandfather had a verbally abusive and unloving mother. The point is, we all carry genetic markers for generational trauma. That may sound doom and gloom since I just said earlier that I believe negative or traumatic “emotional footprints” can be a contributing factor to whether the MS gene gets “turned on” or “turned off”. But the good news is, once we recognize that emotional blockages can be a contributing factor to disease and once we take the time to dive deep within ourselves we can identify the source of trauma and then take action steps to clear and heal those blockages. And by the way, there are definitely things you can do to clear emotional blockages, that’s the “soul healing” component of the mind, body, soul approach I have taken to manage my disease. (Note: In part 5 of my MS story blog post series I will be sharing fascinating research on how psychedelic therapy is changing our relationship to our past memories and helping people to heal from PTSD, trauma and other mental health issues. If you are interested in the subject, this GOOP Podcast with Rick Doblin, PhD will give you a lot to think about.)
Healers who work with energy are typically focused on removing any physical, spiritual, or emotional blockages, typically through modalities like Reiki, tapping, hypnotism, or more intensive shamanic rituals, like soul retrieval. I admit that I did not do any of the “energy healing” work when I was initially diagnosed, but what I did do was BELIEVE that I was going to get better. I believe that the fact I had hope triggered an emotion that was the exact opposite of what my friend AJ felt. And, because I felt hopeful, I began to act and do things differently than I would have had I not believed I could get better. And by acting and doing things differently, I slowly became a different person. By becoming a different person, I changed the expression of my genes. So, yes, I believe I was able to “turn off” my gene for multiple sclerosis, starting with my mindset. Your mind really and truly is that powerful. Everything starts in the mind. Getting well starts with believing you can get well. And believing starts in the mind.
“That some achieve great success is proof to all that others can achieve it as well.” –Abraham Lincoln
A Must-Watch: HEAL Documentary
Before you read this blog further, I hope you will take a few minutes to watch the trailer for the HEAL Documentary. I strongly encourage you to watch the full documentary. The power of the mind is beyond what you can even imagine and research now proves the mind-body connection.
Hope Starts With BELIEVING
Everything you ever do in life that matters starts with a decision. But before you decide to take action you have to BELIEVE that your action will pay off. In order to have hope that you can heal, you have to BELIEVE your body is capable of healing.
When I was a child, I desperately wanted to learn how to do gymnastics but my parents were afraid it was far too dangerous of a sport. That didn’t stop me from checking out a book at the library about how to do gymnastics though. And just like when I read the Swank Diet Book for Multiple Sclerosis and believed I could heal from MS, I believed the gymnastics book could teach me how to do gymnastics. And that’s exactly what it did. I didn’t just believe I could do gymnastics and then sit on the couch eating Twinkies waiting for a miracle to happen. I believed and then I took action.
To teach myself gymnastics, I worked so hard and for so many hours that I actually wore a path down on the grass in our front yard from doing hundreds, maybe even thousands, of gymnastics runs. By the time I had taught myself to do a full twisting back layout my parents had changed their mind. They decided it was too dangerous to NOT let me go to gymnastics class 😉 But again, just like the 4-minute mile, others had done the gymnastics moves before me. The point is, I certainly wasn’t inventing anything new, I was just seeing that someone else had done it and then believing I could do it too.
I couldn’t believe on my own with the diet for MS though. I needed a book that showed me the diet had helped others (as already mentioned, in my case it was the Swank diet book for MS), I needed a medical doctor to tell me that healing was possible and then I needed a second one (my husband, who is also a doctor) to reaffirm it. Because let’s face it; deciding at 22-years old that you are going to radically change your diet and lifestyle feels like a pretty big deal. I only wanted to do it if it would work. But after both my neurologist, Dr. Sheremata, and my now-husband, Andy, told me that it was indeed possible to use as food as medicine to heal my body, I believed them both. I believed almost from the first day of my diagnosis that I could heal. Again, the difference between me and my friend AJ was that I was given hope.
It is my opinion that unless the person is clearly terminal, any doctor who does not tell their patient that healing is possible is violating one of the tenets of the Hippocratic oath: “First, do no harm.” Nobody has the right to crush someones hopes or dreams. And no doctor can claim they know what God has in store for their patient. My husband is the first to tell you he has witnessed absolute miracles in the operating room. In fact, earlier this year Andy had a patient who was so sick with such a terrible infection that by all reasonable accounts the situation seemed a terminal textbook case. One night my husband came home so upset he could barely eat his dinner. He knew the following morning he was going to have to go in and do a surgery on a man that was going to die. Beyond the emotions that would accompany that outcome, there are plenty of hospital politics involved when a patient dies. Trust me, no surgeon wants to operate on someone who is going to die. But there was nothing more medically that could be done for the man and my husband was in a very difficult position. I had nothing to offer and couldn’t find the right words to comfort him so I went on Facebook and asked for a personal prayer request for Andy’s patient. Whether it was prayer that worked, I don’t know. All I know is that it was an absolute miracle that the next day the infection was gone. So yes, miracles DO happen.
Again, I’m not saying to just wish for a miracle and then go sit on the couch waiting for it to materialize. I believe you have to actively participate in your miracle on every possible level, but what I am saying is that miracles DO happen. People do live incredibly healthy and active lifestyles even 20 years after receiving an MS diagnosis. I’m living proof.
The “Placebo Effect”
So many people place such tremendous credibility in their doctor and it’s almost as if they need their doctor to tell them that healing is possible. All doctors are aware (or at least they should be!) of the “Placebo Effect”. The placebo effect is real. If you have any doubt about just how real the placebo effect is, you will want to be sure to read Chapter 1, The Wand, in Johann Hari’s book, Lost Connections. Kelly Brogan, M.D. also does an excellent job explaining the science behind the placebo effect on pages 54-58 in her book, A Mind of Your Own. I promise that if you have any doubt that your mind plays a role in healing if you read just those sections from those two books, you will forever feel differently.
Science now shows us that the mind can have an incredibly powerful influence on the body, and in some cases can even help the body heal. The mind can even sometimes trick you into believing that a fake treatment has real therapeutic results, a phenomenon that is known as the placebo effect. In some cases, these placebos can exert an influence powerful enough to mimic the effects of real medical treatments.
Beyond diet, many of the natural healing modalities I have incorporated into my lifestyle may not specifically be targeted to multiple sclerosis, but they have research showing they strengthen the immune system and reduce inflammation, two things that we know are beneficial to patients with any autoimmune disease. Just knowing that spontaneous healing exists, that the placebo affect is real and that there is legitimate research backing up the recommendations of the Swank diet for multiple sclerosis (see above) should give you tremendous hope if you are suffering with the multiple sclerosis. But beyond that, just knowing that MS is an autoimmune disease made worse by inflammation and that certain foods are known to support a healthy immune system and certain foods can either increase inflammation or decrease inflammation within the body should give you even more hope.
Keep in mind, the diet I follow is nothing more than an anti-inflammatory diet based on a wide variety of nutrient dense “whole” foods packaged in their most natural, unrefined form with a heavy emphasis on plant foods. Of all the popular diets, it is most similar to the Mediterranean diet, which is well recognized in the medical community as a very healthy way of eating.
In my most recent interview, I share some recipes from my newly released Clean Cuisine Cookbook on the Doctors TV show in the two links below and at the end of the second segment you’ll hear Travis Stork, M.D. talk about how the anti-inflammatory diet I follow is good for anyone with an autoimmune disease.
Get Your Mind Involved
Whether you have MS or any other incurable disease, I believe one of the most important things you can do is to read as many success stories as you can until you believe in miracles. This might sound like completely ridiculous advice, but believe me, your mind will play a critical role in your healing journey.
Part of the reason I am writing this blog post is because I realize that in all of these years of talking about the holistic approach I have taken to manage my MS for so long, I am leaving out a very important component of my healing journey if I don’t emphasize how much I truly believed the diet would work right from the beginning. For me, there was not an option. It HAD to work. It is true that in the beginning I did need two physicians (my neurologist and my husband) to reassure me that healing through food was in fact a legitimate possibility, but once I believed it was possible my mindset changed. I then literally became a new person. I began to think and act like the healthiest girl I knew. And that’s the girl I eventually became.
Healing Starts in the Mind
One thing almost all neurologists will tell their MS patients is that stress can make the disease worse. But they don’t emphasize that stress can be created in your mind. I know this for a fact because I have experienced firsthand how my thoughts can trigger a panic attack (I mentioned the panic attack I had live on CNN in part 1 of my story, but that was not my first attack, I had them for years prior and years after.) The point I am trying to get at here is that if you do not believe it is possible to heal from MS, then that negative thought alone will trigger a negative emotion and negative emotions negatively impact our body on a cellular level. In other words, negative emotions can negatively impact your immune system and can therefore play a definitive role in the progression of multiple sclerosis. One thing I know for sure, negative thoughts and emotions absolutely do not help your MS healing journey.
By simply BELIEVING you can heal you will instantly create the positive emotion associated with hope. Once you have hope and the positive emotion associated with it, your brain chemistry begins to change. We know the mind-body connection is real and so we know that once your brain chemistry changes, your body changes on a cellular level right along with it. I think even mainstream medical doctors would agree that negative thoughts can make us sick. If that is true, wouldn’t it also be true that positive thoughts can contribute to making us well?
Proof of Heaven
Before I get to the concrete things (diet, supplements, exercise, meditation, etc.) I have done to facilitate healing in part 4 of my MS story, I know many of you who may be suffering with multiple sclerosis might still be having a hard time believing that you can heal. It is my opinion that in order for you to reap the absolute greatest benefits from any of the lifestyle modifications I share in part 4 of my story that you really and truly believe you can heal. I can’t do anything to prove it to you other than to share real stories of real life people. The more healing stories you read, the more you will have faith that you can heal too.
If you need proof that miraculous healings can happen then I strongly encourage you to read neurosurgeon Eben Alexander’s NY Times best-selling book, Proof of Heaven. In 2008, Dr. Alexander contracted a rare form of bacterial meningitis that attacked the part of his brain that controls thought and emotion. In essence, the part of his brain that makes us human shut down completely and he had less than 1% chance to survive. If he did survive it was a certainty he would be brain dead. But that’s not what happened.
Dr. Alexander tells his remarkable story in this YouTube video. (Note: just like my story, love and hope formed the foundation of Dr. Alexander’s healing journey as well.)
Meet Dr. Joe Dispenza
Anyone who suffers from any chronic or incurable disease who wants to understand the role the mind plays in healing and wants to have hope that they too can heal should also know about Dr. Joe Dispenza.
Dr. Dispenza’s professional title is hard to condense but in a nutshell, he merges neuroscience, epigenetics and quantum physics to explore the science behind spontaneous remissions. He then parlays the science to help people understand how it is in fact possible to heal themselves of illnesses, chronic conditions, and even terminal diseases. At his advanced workshops around the world, Dr. Dispenza has partnered with other scientists to perform extensive research on the effects of meditation, including epigenetic testing, brain mapping with electroencephalograms (EEGs), and individual energy field testing with a gas discharge visualization (GDV) machine. His research also includes measuring both heart coherence with HeartMath monitors and the energy present in the workshop environment before, during, and after events with a GDV Sputnik sensor. Both Dr. Dispenza’s personal story and his many, many testimonials will give you hope that you can create a “healing mindset” and heal your body in the process. Miracles do happen.
The latest research in neuroscience proves that your thoughts change your emotions and your emotions are intimately tied to your immune system and your entire body as a whole. If you need more proof on the power of the mind, I encourage you to read Dr. Dispenza’s latest book, “Becoming Supernatural: How Common People are Doing the Uncommon” .
I realize some of Dr. Dispenza’s work might seem far-fetched to some of you, but there is no denying his miraculous results with many patients suffering from a wide variety of chronic conditions, including this lady with multiple sclerosis. Also specific to MS are the two testimonials Dr. Dispenza shares in this YouTube Video: “Breaking the Addiction to Negative Thoughts and Emotions” (Note: At minute 20 he starts to talk about the MS patients. I realize it is tempting to skip ahead to that part, but I encourage you not to do that as you really need to hear the first 20 minutes in order to fully understand his complete message.)
Recommended PODCAST with Dr. Joe Dispenza:
In Loving Memory of AJ Cotsalas