Season 3 Episode 4:
Brain Retraining for Chronic Illness Recovery
with Ashok Gupta
In this episode, Michelle sits down with Ashok Gupta, an expert in neuroplasticity and brain retraining. Ashok shares invaluable insights into the connection between the brain, nervous system, and immune system and how disruptions in this delicate balance can lead to chronic conditions. They delve into the importance of finding the right resources and practitioners that create a sense of safety, as well as the power of brain retraining in calming the body's hyperreactive responses.
- The vicious cycle of chronic illness [7:39]
- How lifestyle changes can help persuade the brain that the body is safe [16:20]
- The power of brain retraining [19:12]
- How to alleviate physical symptoms and restore balance [23:58]
- Ashok's Gupta Program (a comprehensive online training that combines scientific research with a holistic approach) [48:39]
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Brain Retraining for Chronic Illness Recovery with Ashok Gupta
I am joyously here today with Ashok Gupta, who is the creator of the Gupta Program. And I want to pick your brain about so many different things. And I will say that in my years of being a practitioner, I've weaved in what I thought to be, like, scientifically backed but unexplainable tactics that I use with my clients. And I find that your program really pulls together this model of kind of the practice of healing and what that looks like. And you could not have come and had this program created a better time, because I know a lot of the work that you're doing now also involves COVID long haulers. So I want to talk about that. So just thank you to start with, and I'm so happy to have you here today.
Ashok Gupta [00:00:43]:
Oh, it's a pleasure to be invited. So thank you.
Absolutely. So I think your personal story is specifically compelling, and I, of course, want to hear about how you created the Gupta program and how you really differ from, I think, any other program in this arena when it comes to chronic illness. So first, Ashok, can you just tell us a little bit about kind of your healing journey and what brought you to create the program in the first place?
Please share your healing journey and what brought you to create the program in the first place.
Ashok Gupta [00:01:08]:
Yes, of course. Like many of us who have actually been on this healing journey, it's from our own experience. So I went through at university. I was living my life enjoying university, and then suddenly I got a virus. And that virus was like a brick wall in front of a young man who couldn't then move forward with his life. And I'd go from doctor to doctor, and they'd say, we don't know what's causing it. We have no cure for it. You're on your own, essentially. And that started a lifelong quest to try and understand these types of chronic conditions, which doctors find it very difficult to treat. And at that point, I'd met so many people who are ill, and I had made a contract with the universe. I said, If I can just get myself better, if I can just get some other people better, I will dedicate the rest of my life to supporting people with unexplained chronic illnesses that are difficult to treat. And so I studied brain neurology, physiology. I managed to get myself 100% better, and then I set up a clinic to treat others. And really, for us, it was important to have the scientific backing. So right from the start, it was, what's the science behind this type of healing? And so we've done medical studies and various things, which I'm sure we'll talk about. So that was my journey, and it's been a very rewarding and fulfilling journey to help others through my own experiences that I went through. So it's been very fulfilling.
And you really fulfilled your mission. You said you were going to do it, and you did it, which is not what many people can say they have done, which is incredible. In your experience with a virus. I think when my listeners hear the word virus in general, I think we're often thinking about like respiratory illness or we're thinking about more acute viruses. For you, an acute virus caused what seemed like a chronic condition symptomology wise. What kind of symptoms do the people that you're working with and originally were working with and currently are working with? How does their chronic illness present from something like either an acute or chronic virus?
How does your patients' chronic illness present from something like either an acute or chronic virus?
Ashok Gupta [00:03:10]:
There tends to be a broad spectrum of common symptoms that I'm sure you see in your practice and a lot of people listening either have or have seen, which are what I call symptoms of a broad spectrum of conditions that I term neuroimmune conditioned syndromes. So neuro because it involves the nervous system, immuno because obviously the immune system condition because I believe it's a trained or learnt response in the brain and the body and syndrome because there's a spectrum of symptoms. So the most common one that we see that seems to overlap with most of them is fatigue and exhaustion. That seems to be a very kind of core one in terms of physical symptoms and then other secondary symptoms like pain. They can be muscle weakness, general feeling of weakness in the body and then can be respiratory type symptoms as well. And then the cognitive or kind of neurological conditions around difficulty thinking, memory loss and just generally foggy mind, hazy mind. And then the emotional symptoms we find a lot of people experience anxiety and depression, those kinds of symptoms overlap and then spiritually people find it really difficult to feel that they can move forward with their lives because they're just dealing with this constant battle with this condition. But so there's a whole spectrum of common symptoms and then each condition will have its very specific manifestations. So for instance, long haul COVID, they will find that in certain the first few months there's more kind of the immune type symptoms, there'll be more kind of sore throats and things like that. And if we're treating things like MCAs or mast cell activation or allergy sensitivities, chemical sensitivities mold, they'll tend to have more of the kind of allergic type responses or mass cell type responses but they'll have those common suite of symptoms underneath it as well.
Yeah, so I think when it comes to chronic illness, what I hear you saying and what I know your program talks about is that there is the actual thing that happens right there's the virus and then there's really our body's reaction to that battle that was waged essentially. And what you're proposing and what you've proven actually it's not really proposing is that that reaction and that chronic reaction to whatever had happened can perpetuate itself and build on itself. Can you talk a little bit more about that?
Please explain more about the chronic reaction perpetuating itself and building on itself.
Ashok Gupta [00:05:29]:
Yeah. So I'd love to share the hypothesis in a kind of layman's terms, I think I constantly find it fascinating, actually, when we're learning about this, is that the number one question I always ask is why are we here? And so we can answer that from a philosophical perspective, but from a scientific perspective, we're here because we've been fine tuned to adapt to this environment. So people don't realize this, but actually this body we've inherited, this brain has come through all the different aspects of nature. So from those first plant life, single cell organisms, invertebrates, vertebrates, reptiles, mammals, human beings, our DNA actually contains a lot of those previous manifestations of life. And so I find it fascinating we share 40% of our DNA with a.
Banana, which is I can feel that. Totally.
Ashok Gupta [00:06:22]:
Yeah, exactly. What happens is this system has been refined over millions of years to adapt to our environment, to survive. We're survival machines. So the number one priority is that our body wants to survive procreate and pass on our genes, the next generation to proliferate. And so that's the number one kind of priority. Yeah, exactly. And so our bodies care more about survival than they do our well being. And that's the first clue to these types of conditions. And then what happens? So I love to give an analogy. So I don't know, michelle, do you watch like, Game of Thrones or like fantasy novel? Oh, you do? Okay, there you go. So for those people who don't know Game of Thrones, let's take the analogy of just a fairy tale. So imagine you are Queen Michelle of your kingdom, right? And oh, you've got the wave. Perfected. There we go. You're a royalty in a past life, clearly. Imagine that you've got a kingdom and you have an army, which is your nervous system, so that's the nerves that run through your body information system. And you have a navy, which is your immune system, just like a normal army and navy for any kind of kingdom or country. And normally an invading army comes in, the army and navy are galvanized. They then fight off the invading army and save the kingdom, survival being the biggest priority. Now imagine in your kingdom there's a drought, so actually the kingdom's a little weaker and suddenly there's an invading army coming over the hill. And so the army and navy are weaker than they would be normally. So they fight off this army, this invading army, but it takes them a lot longer to do that than normal, which often happens in the run up to these types of conditions. And so they eventually just about manage to fight off the invading army. But of course they're scared that there could be future waves of invading armies coming in because they only just managed to survive. So they come to you, the generals of the army and navy, they come to Queen Michelle and they say, what should we do? Because we only just survived the kingdom nearly fell, right? Queen Michelle we need all of the resources of the kingdom. We need the wheat, the corn, the metal, the water. Everything should be channeled to the army and navy because if we fall, then the whole kingdom falls. So you agree, thinking that's a logical step. So now all the resources are going towards the army and navy who are now traumatized. They keep firing off their war machines and their arrows at the slightest provocation. So one person on a horse coming over the hill, quick, fire off the arrows, use up all the resources, and that's what's happening. Our nervous system and immune system are in this chronic overload. They keep overstimulating, which is fine from a defensive perspective because survival isn't our number one priority. But from the body's perspective, this then has ongoing effects because now the people in the kingdom who are living normally, they aren't getting the resources, the energy to be able to survive. It's all being channeled to an overactive immune system and nervous system, which is why many of these conditions we see in overactive, inflammatory markers, et cetera. And the way the gut that comes in here as well is that trying to stretch the analogy. The more we keep firing off those weapons at the potential of an invading army, the more it actually weakens the gut and makes it the gut more sensitive, more reactive, and then causing IBS symptoms or constipation or a whole host of different things, and also shifting the good and bad bacteria in our gut. All the other things that we all know as yourselves, know as nutritionists, and therefore this hyperdefensive mode is having all kinds of complex effects on the body. And what is brain retraining? Brain retraining says, okay, this is the way the brain has decided to act based on its survival priority, but actually we can train it back to homeostasis, back to balance. So brain retraining is those generals coming to you a few months later and saying, right, Queen Michelle, we still need all of the resources, and you saying, hey, I know that it's been tough. I know that you've only just managed to win the war and you're concerned, but it's okay, the war is over. You can relax, you can let go, you can stand down, get back to standby mode. And that is what brain retraining is. It is training. And it's not just a cognitive thing. There's certain processes that we do to train the brain again and again and again to be able to switch off these overactive responses and come back to balance so the kingdom can come back to happiness again.
Just loving the Queen Michelle thing, I just have to say that I'm loving it. I'm from York, too. It's just it's really working for me. I have to say, I love this analogy so much. And what I think is so important for people to understand and what I think happened so much with the recent COVID virus and with people's reactions to it is that if you don't kind of crack into the cycle with that limbic retraining, with that neuroplasticity training, it will perpetuate. So it's kind of like the body, like you said, went to the Queen. The Queen said do what you have to do and the body will continue to stay at that level. This is just a question for you. It could be speculative because you might not have a definitive answer but do you believe the body will always stay at that level if someone's in that really high response without intervention?
Do you believe the body will always stay at that level if someone's in that really high response without intervention?
Ashok Gupta [00:11:52]:
Not always, no. So there's not x plus Y equals Z. It really can be that for whatever reason the system gradually comes back to balance and often people have made shifts in their lifestyle. So as an example absolutely. Sometimes people see a nutritionist, they see a naturopath and they'll shift their diet. They'll make certain changes and that's enough to persuade the army and Navy that we're safe now. Right? Because some of the downstream effects of that have now been mitigated because remember, there's a feedback loop here. So what happens is the brain is stimulating the nervous system and immune system which is creating the downstream symptoms in the body. Those downstream symptoms then loop back to a hypersensitive brain. The brain thinks we're still in danger, stimulates the nervous system and immune system so we get caught in that vicious cycle. But that vicious cycle could stop if there was something that someone did strongly enough that alleviated the physical symptoms where then the brain thinks, oh, maybe we're not in danger anymore because the symptoms have subsided. And that often can be. For instance, many people with these conditions go on a low dairy or no dairy, no gluten type of diet or they're encouraged to eat high fiber foods. And all of those things can then support the gut which then means the vicious cycles start calming down and someone can get back to health. So we generally tend to treat the people where it hasn't naturally and spontaneously come back to reset but they need further brain retraining.
I think that there's probably factors that influence it like how many resources you had to start with your body's natural resiliency, how much fuel you have in the tank. From an emotional, spiritual perspective, I think all of those things and also how hard of a hit the virus was, I think all of those things can influence it. It's so important for people to hear your mission and your message because I think when it's invisible or mysterious chronic illness can you think of a more unpleasant term than mysterious chronic illness? I mean, it's like everything everyone would fear. It feels like it's coming out of nowhere and no one knows how to work with it. And I think what felt very perplexing for people especially and I keep coming back to in the COVID with long COVID, it became something that was so mass cell can produce symptoms in any part of your body because mass cells live in every tissue of your body. So I think when it feels more predictive and understandable for people like your approach, I think it's very relaxing and just for people to know that if this kind of response is happening, like you said, you can intervene from a physical perspective. Just even sitting with a practitioner who cares about you, watching one of your videos in the Gupta program, you instantly can be shifting that just from feeling safe. Like just that can shift the physical reaction. And that's why it's so lucky that it's a cycle because you can kind of crack into it any way you need to.
Ashok Gupta [00:14:44]:
Yeah, absolutely. And I think that word of safety is so important that we can feel emotional safety which can go up and down, but actually this is going deep into the unconscious to persuade at a physical level that we are safe. And that's where the retraining comes in. And I think it's really important to emphasize that people sometimes think, is this just CBT or cognitive approaches? And it's really emphasizing that this is a brain retraining. It's a brain rehabilitation. Almost like when you have a stroke, people then lose control over a limb, for instance, or they find it difficult to walk and they have to go through rehabilitation through repetitive practices to rewire the brain, to relearn how to do that. And in a similar way that's what we're doing here is retraining the brain through repetition.
I think what's so powerful too is that where cognitive behavioral therapy does always take a mental input from people to kind of like you're saying you're almost training the organ of the brain as opposed to the thoughts that go into the brain. You're doing both because I love your program, been in your program. But I think that that is a missing piece for people where if they're in that neuroimmune conditioned response and it's constantly happening, the messages they're going to be receiving, even from a cognitive behavioral therapy perspective, are going to be repetitive and unending. So even if they try to kind of convince themselves or train themselves, they might need to crack into it from quite like an organ wide level. I don't know how else to say it, if that makes sense.
Ashok Gupta [00:16:13]:
Yeah, absolutely. We give the example of when you're learning to drive a car. On your first lesson of your driving lesson, if you were to sit there and say, well, I'm going to do this really well, and I'm really positive about it, and I'm open to it, I'm letting go of any negative patterns around it. That's all well and good, and that will be beneficial, but it's not the thing that's going to train your brain how to drive that car. Yeah, so that's the difference.
It's like the motor response, almost. That's more what you're training. Also, I am interested to talk about COVID I've never talked about COVID on the podcast, so I'm like, OOH, let's talk about it. What do you think made it? Because I have so many clients, and myself included, who never had mass cell issues, never had histamine issues, and just the virus itself seems to have activated that. Again, it's a combination of many different factors, like we talked about before. But what do you think was so special about this virus that it created this neuroimmune conditioned response from people?
What do you think was so special about this virus that it created this neuroimmune conditioned response from people?
Ashok Gupta [00:17:14]:
Yeah, really good question. I think that it is actually quite an intense virus. I mean, I've had COVID myself, and it was different to having a flu or a cold. And I think that for whatever reason, it seems to trigger more inflammatory effects in the postviral phase. So even once you've fought off the virus, the system is in that overprotection mode. And this isn't without precedent, because actually, glandular fever, often known as mono, that actually also has about ten to 15% of patients who go on to have certain chronic symptoms for a number of months afterwards and can be a trigger of chronic fatigue syndrome. So that's an example of another virus that can be quite intense on the body. And so it is with COVID It seems to have that intensity and trigger these longer term viral responses. Now, the good news is, most patients who have the long COVID, within a couple of months, it tends to dissolve away. But then there's around anywhere between two to 10%, depending on the studies that you look at, who then go on to having these chronic symptoms for at least three months. And we term long COVID being at least three months, where it's turned into its own thing. Now. It's not just a postviral phase.
And Ashok, I mean, that's our crew. We're the two to 10% people. Those are the people who are probably coming to me, ultimately, because they couldn't shake those symptoms. And it's always very interesting to me because, again, it could be one triggering event or many different ones. I've just found it very OD that I've worked with some clients for, like, four years before COVID and then their symptoms just completely changed and skyrocketed, and I could literally see them becoming anxious about their symptoms and that reaction starting to form. So I was happy that we were working together at the time because I was like, we have to crack into this now before when you're living with symptoms for five years or ten years or something like that, every time you get a symptom, I'm sure it creates such a huge nervous system response because it's so scary and you're fighting so hard. It feels like tell us about just the mindset behind having a chronic illness and how this neuroimmune conditioned response can influence just our hope around chronic illness and how we feel about ourselves when we're experiencing chronic illness.
Ashok Gupta [00:19:30]:
Yeah. So the emotional context is very connected to the physical context. So we know now that the guts and the balance of bacteria can directly impact on anxiety and depression in the mind or depressive thoughts and vice versa. And so there's a complex interplay of emotional responses that then occur. And I believe that because of the inflammatory effects, we are going to feel more down, more depressed, harder to lift up our spirit, which can then mean people blame it on our mood or emotions. Whereas actually it's not that those are downstream effects, the core of it being this overreactivity. And that means that people can lose hope, they can go from doctor to doctor, they're not getting any responses. And then also people who are involved in advocacy, they can feel like, hey, people aren't taking my illness seriously because a lot of doctors dismiss it. They say it was just the anxiety around having the COVID pandemic, et cetera. And that's really unfortunate because then people feel they're not believed and then sometimes what happens is they come to brain retraining and they think, oh, this neuroplasticity brain retraining is saying it's in my mind. And we have spent ages just really explaining to people that no, it's in your physical body but there are emotional aspects that occur as a result as well. So yeah, I think the mindset we encourage people to take is rather than believing the support groups and the doctors in terms of, look, there's no hope, there's nothing we can do actually. There are people who are healing every day, whether it's through our program or other things. People do heal from these conditions and having that mindset of hope and positivity is so important.
Yes. And sometimes you have to be a little bit like toxic positivity with yourself and false positivity because people who have experienced chronic conditions, when they say, hey, if I go on an airplane, I'm going to be flared up and I'm going to feel terrible, they have evidence that they are going to feel terrible when they go on an airplane. So their brains, in this very evolutionary, biological way, as you talk about, have proven them and they're proven to their nervous systems that there is danger, so that it has been proven to them. So I think you almost have to tell yourself something that hasn't been historically true and then experience it. Which I think is very hard for people too, I'm sure.
Ashok Gupta [00:21:46]:
Yeah. And I always say anything that's ever been achieved in the world has always been almost a slightly irrational belief and positivity in something happening. Right. So an entrepreneur might think, well, every investment that I've ever made, I've never managed to make anything successful. Now, if he has the belief, or she has the belief that anything I then do in the future is not never going to work, they'd never get anywhere. But what they have to do is say, okay, if those didn't work and I've learned from it, but now I'm open to things shifting and changing for a different future and a different outcome.
What was that switch for you on your personal journey? Did you say, like, hey, this is just not going to be the rest of my life? Did you have a moment or was it just over time?
What was that switch for you on your personal journey?
Ashok Gupta [00:22:26]:
I think that was more my personality at the time was I wasn't prepared to take no for an answer or say, there's no understanding, we don't understand it, and there's nothing we can do at that time. And now I'm very curious. So for me, there was both a curiosity to say, how can this be unexplained? Right? We have to understand this at a deeper level. And at the same time was obviously my personal health thinking, I will do whatever it takes to get my health back.
Absolutely. And I think, again, for some people, if they've been sick for so many years, the hope can degrade, obviously, over time. But I also want to say to anyone listening that there's never a point of no hope. There's just no point too far, there's no exhaustion too much, there's no symptom too great, that there's not a way to move forward. And I think your program really is that for people who have been through so many even functional medicine doctors offices, who I love, obviously, and allopathic doctors offices and have not received that answer, and sometimes the most painful or dangerous thing that we can hear is that there is no hope. That's almost worse than just trying or experimenting with things, I think. And I know that that's really not the allopathic model is to try. It's more about kind of very smartly diagnosing and boxing things so we can understand things better. But I think that it's scary if someone hears that. And I want people to hear the opposite message, too, that I don't believe there's any person who can't. Even if the symptom can't necessarily be better, let's say it's an injury or something like that, and it's going to take X amount of time to heal. But our tolerance of the symptom or our experience of the symptom can change always.
Ashok Gupta [00:24:05]:
Yeah, absolutely. And I think it's really, as you say, understanding that the medical model, the mainstream allopathic model, is coming from a place of reductionism. So we will reduce everything down to its smallest level. And if that is incorrect, then if we fix that, everything else will get better. And if we can't find that one thing that's out of balance, whether it's an enzyme or a hormone or whatever, then that means that this is a mysterious illness because we haven't figured it out at the micro level, and therefore there's no cure and there's no hope. But that's one model which works very well for infectious diseases, but actually doesn't work for inflammatory diseases or chronic diseases, actually. You have to look at the whole person. And so many people do heal, and they fall off the radar, and no one really knows how they healed or why they healed. And so the people who are left are then a selection bias of, oh, those are the people who didn't heal, and therefore there's no hope, whereas really, people are healing from these conditions.
Absolutely. And I'm sure after this amount, many, many years of you having this program and doing the extensive research you've done, it sounds like, and I would assume you're more hopeful than ever for all these chronic conditions.
Ashok Gupta [00:25:15]:
Oh, absolutely, yes. We're conducting randomized control trials on these different conditions. We're getting great results. We're looking to do larger scale trials and also to improve the program. So our aim is always to make it easier to use, get better outcomes. So that's a project that we're doing as well at the moment. So, yeah, I think the prognosis is good, and I think in five to ten years time, we will crack this and we will find enough of an evidence base that this type of approach is something we should use right up front. So rather than other approaches, just starting with brain retraining, I think would be really beneficial.
How do you feel that your program might differ from something like a medical program, even in a functional medicine doctor's office? Can you also walk us through a little bit of what the Gupta Program is and kind of what the internal pieces of it I could too, because I love it and have been through it, but I want you to walk us through it a little bit and how it differs from other programs and what it literally is for people too.
Can you walk us through a little bit of what the Gupta Program is and how it might differ from something like a medical program, even in a functional medicine doctor's office?
Ashok Gupta [00:26:15]:
Yeah, of course. So the program is online, so that's very useful for patients who are around the world and don't have the energy to perhaps visit a doctor. And there's video sessions, so interactive video sessions and audios, and then there's weekly webinars with myself. So we handhold people through the whole process, and a lot of functional and integrative doctors are now making it part of their overall program. So they're saying, okay, we are looking at diet, we're looking at medications, and here's an important piece that we'd also love you to do. And many doctors and nutritionists find that they can't even give the supplements or the things they want to because a patient's system is so sensitive. So we're desensitizing that system. I think a lot of doctors now are more open to this kind of approach. And essentially our program is split into three areas. We call it the three R's of the program. So imagine that in brain retraining, it's like reconfiguring a river. So imagine you've got a big field, and there's a river flowing through this field, or a little stream, and it's weathered a channel through the soil. Now, of course, let's say we. Want to now shift that. We want to retrain the brain, want to shift that neuronal pathway to a different space. What we'd have to do is dig a different pathway and divert the water to this new flow for the river, new neuronal path. But let's say this ground is really hard and stubborn. It's going to be very difficult to actually change the pathway. So instead the first step of brain retraining is what we call relaxing the nervous system. That when we have a more relaxed system. It's easier because that softens the soil of the mind and makes it easier to reconfigure the path of the stream. So that's breathing and meditation techniques, relaxation techniques, lifestyle changes, which can all prepare the ground. The core of the program is the retraining of the brain. So those are those interactive brain retraining sessions where we take people through a special seven step process and little short versions they can do throughout the day. And we train them to recognize the danger signals that occur from the viscera, from the body and then to recognize them and retrain them regularly and repeatedly to send safety signals back down to the body. And then thirdly is reengaging with joy, which is realizing that actually sometimes we wait for ourselves to heal before we allow ourselves to be happy and uplifted and positive. But actually our immune system is more powerful and more centered and calm when we reengage with joy despite having these symptoms. So it is about finding your joy, finding your purpose. And people find that very beneficial as this overall package of support. But the core of it obviously is the unique part is the retraining. And that's how I would describe the program in a nutshell.
Do you think that there are people who and of course this is an experience I've had with people who doing just step one breath work or meditation that could either be helpful or not helpful to people. Can we talk about meditation as a tool and how it can interact or how people might feel about it if they are in a state of constant fight or flight and constant nervous system activation? Just that first piece.
How can meditation be used as a tool for people who are in a state of constant fight or flight and constant nervous system activation?
Ashok Gupta [00:29:27]:
The first piece, yeah. So some people find that actually the meditation is triggering for them because you imagine you've had this build up of patterns that has occurred within you, this build up of lack of safety and then the moment you meditate, a lot of that is now just coming to the surface. So it can be even more anxiety provoking for certain people. Now some people are able to run the gauntlet, get through that and be okay. And for others it's just the meditation isn't right for them initially. So we have other types of visualizations and exercises that they can listen to, to just calm and relax until they can go back to the meditations eventually. And a lot of people use meditation in general and have found it beneficial for these types of illnesses. And I always call it the wings of a dove. So in all our endeavors as human beings, there is the most more Western approach and the more Eastern approach. So the Western approach is more about the cognitive, the thinking aspects. And the Eastern approach has been more about meditation and breathing and calming the mind. And it's when you combine them both that the dove can fly. So this is where relaxing the nervous system is credibly important. It's finding what works for you to prepare the ground for retraining.
I think where a lot of people get stuck is they get triggered by meditation. Because, again, meditation is a practice and a lot of things are going to come up in stillness. Of course, that's where whatever you were hiding is going to come up from yourself. I think when people are going to either functional medicine doctors or allopathic doctors, that kind of reaction or response they're getting is you got to calm your nervous system down. You have to calm down. But the pathway there is knowing that it might be a little bit triggering and either tolerating it or stepping away from it, finding other pathways to safety. And then I do think it's very important for people to go into that limbic system retraining. Because for some people, like you said, it might be enough, for some people it might be triggering. But I do think that what I really feel separates your program and your research apart is that oftentimes when people are in a state of real long term chronic illness, they might need that next step.
Ashok Gupta [00:31:33]:
Yeah, absolutely. I think vital because what can happen is you can feel Karmer temporarily and think, great, I'm calmer. Everything's fine. But I'm sure you've seen in your practice as well that when people then go for a life event, a triggering event, high anxiety, a lot of those symptoms can come back because the brain hasn't been fully retrained. And we get a co wiring effect, which is that the kind of anxiety systems and the emotional systems get tied to the immune systems. So the more anxious we become, the more our immune system actually responds as well. So you have that dual effect going.
On, would you say? Or have you found any sort of like to pull in the Eastern and Western again? Are there measurable ways to understand how just the Gupta program would compare to just an allopathic intervention when it comes to mass cell or chronic fatigue or anything like that?
Ashok Gupta [00:32:29]:
We haven't tested that contrast.
What we have, people would have to stop doing something that was helping them on either side, potentially. So. Yeah, I get that.
Ashok Gupta [00:32:39]:
Yeah, absolutely. But we certainly hear the anecdotal feedback that doctors find it useful to have our program as an adjunct to what they're doing. And we haven't kind of separated the two to see what's most beneficial but as you know, we have conducted randomized control trials. For instance, the recent one on Long COVID. And that one was compared to a general wellness program, which is what a lot of people get when they have long COVID or they go to a national clinic. And it was found in that three month trial that our program was four times more effective at reducing fatigue and exhaustion and twice as effective at increasing levels of energy, which was a great result for long COVID. And that was a published study, just published a few weeks ago. And so the more we do these types of studies, the more that we're developing that evidence base that this is an effective treatment.
I think it's a very when I read your anecdotes and your success stories, I think what always stands out very much to me is what people feel like is taken from them very often in chronic illness is this big piece of their identity. Like you said, the fun, their creativity. And I feel like your program is a walk back home to self. I think that we don't know why we don't feel normal. And it's very weird to believe that something like COVID can cause us to feel literally not at home in our bodies and not like ourselves. So I see that in a lot of your testimonials, which really stood out to me is that people are just they devoted this time to focus on this so that they ultimately don't have to focus on this. The goal is not for them to be and assume the identity of a chronically ill person, but to return back home to their bodies and to who they are after.
Ashok Gupta [00:34:15]:
Yes. And many people comment that this isn't just a bravery training program for an illness, it's a whole personal development program that enables you to stay well for the rest of your life. And that's what it is. We don't want people just to do something really fast and that's it, but actually to learn from the condition to get well and stay well. And that's a really important part of the latter half of our program.
Absolutely. Do you find that people will have to go through the program again after or it feels like they have the tools and then they end up just repeating?
Do you find that people will have to go through the program again after or it feels like they have the tools and then they end up just repeating?
Ashok Gupta [00:34:48]:
I think that it depends certain people as long as they keep up the techniques in some shape or form. So it's not that you have to do the whole program for the rest of your life, but there are certain aspects of it that are beneficial to keep using and that can keep someone on the straight and narrow in terms of keeping them well. And then, yes, there are people who will have life events occur and then some of the symptoms will come back. But they know what to do. They come back to the program and treat it like they're going through the program from day one and then they're able to get their health back as well. So I think we try to be really realistic that, yes, you can get better. Many people just stay well, they never have any symptoms coming back. But let's not be complacent. Let's acknowledge that could happen and therefore keep a really good, healthy lifestyle absolutely.
In ways of speaking to the general public. Do you have any tips on coming up on a new COVID season? If we're already experiencing chronic illness, whether it be a mindset tip or any sort of just general public tips for as we come up upon another delightful season of COVID Yeah, I think the.
Do you have any tips on coming up on a new COVID season?
Ashok Gupta [00:35:56]:
Main thing is, first of all, not to be in fear because when we're in fear, then automatically that drops our nervous system's effectiveness. So not to fear this virus or condition. And I think the next thing is most importantly for people who've got chronic illness or anyone else is to take the time to rest when you do have it. So many people, we feel, are getting long COVID because actually they have not it's not everybody, but they have COVID and they're getting too fast back to exercise or back to work and pushing themselves. And therefore the body's not ready for that and sees that as a threat. And what's useful is when you have this virus to really take time out from work, from stress, from anything and enjoy that time to when I say enjoy, you don't enjoy having an illness, but you can enjoy the rest that comes with it. So just really making sure your body gets back to 9500 percent before you get back to work.
This idea of being not well, like you're saying, or living in the state of chronic illness, do you think this is a unique this is again, very high level question, but is this more unique to Western culture because of how much we kind of pound our bodies and pound the pavement all the time? Do you think that it's more likely you'll encounter this mindset that needs to be retrained or this body reaction that needs to be retrained?
Do you think that living in the state of chronic illness is more unique to Western culture because of how much we pound our bodies and pound the pavement all the time? Do you think that it's more likely you'll encounter this mindset that needs to be retrained or this body reaction that needs to be retrained?
Ashok Gupta [00:37:17]:
That's a really good question. I think so, yes. I think this is there's higher levels of this in the Western world. And I also think that's partly due to a number of different environmental and toxin factors that we have. So we have food which has more toxins, we have more pollution, et cetera. Although the east is also catching up on that as well, unfortunately. But also I think there are kind of sometimes higher levels of stress. There's less community support. So community and being in a social environment can be very important. I think we are probably in the west more focused and reliant on our screens, for example. And all of these things can increase the stress and the tension in the body. We don't take time out to truly relax and be in our know. So it's not just the west. I think the east is also those issues are also occurring there as well. So stress has different manifestations in different cultures. And I think that's at the core of it.
And I think that's why we saw and where I feel like a lot of the research around Long COVID was focused on more Western countries. And I think it was probably because I can imagine even the idea that if we are unwell, we should continue to get better and question and seek. Why are we not well? Why are we not well? Why are we not well? As opposed to trying to sit with, tolerate, explore or imply that curiosity, I think the initial response is how do I squash this? How do I make this end? How do I move forward? And I think that even that will lend itself to, like you said, that nervous system response, the immune response and all of those activations, unfortunately too, yeah.
Ashok Gupta [00:38:54]:
We call it detective work, can be very stressful. So we all go into that detective mentality of, right, I've got this, let me search and search and find this and that and the other. And it can be just overwhelming because there's so many potential options. And also then we get told by support groups there's nothing you can do and there's a barrage of different messages coming on there. Don't get me wrong, I think support groups are great and they do offer that helping hand. At the same time it is overwhelming with that detective work. And therefore, when people come onto our program, we really encourage them to let go of that detective work and just focus on our program. Because otherwise you can be continuously searching and getting stressed out as a result of is.
If you think of your analogy with the army and the Navy, it is an army and Navy response right, that is coming from them still. That is still them wanting to fix, wanting to produce, wanting to do these things. I think what I love seeing, and I know you must see in your program too, with my clients is when my clients first come to me, they're like, do I need a strict elimination diet right now to get through this? Do I need this? Was it this food that just caused me a stomach flare? And I'm like, you're going to hate me for saying it, but let's just ride this out and not place blame on one thing because then you can become fearful of these symptoms again and become fearful of whatever that food was. Not that I don't think there's a place for like a low histamine diet with these conditions we're talking about or whatever it is. But when we attribute too much to one thing, we then create and activate that limbic system response, our amygdala and all of those things. Which is kind of my concern with all these conditions in the world of functional medicine, which I love so much because I think we still can't fit fear into a protocol for it to be effective.
Ashok Gupta [00:40:40]:
Yes, and I think something you've highlighted there is we as alternative and complementary practitioners, can fall in potentially the same trap as conventional medicine in terms of the reductionist approach, which is this enzyme is low, that's the cause of your condition, or this food is the cause of your condition. You need to eliminate that. What that creates then, as you say, is this feeling of anxiety that I've got to be super vigilant because if I don't, then I'm going to be causing my own flares. And then actually that becomes a form of brain retraining because I believe if we go on a strict elimination diet, which, don't get me wrong, can be beneficial for many people. It can also then potentially create or tell the brain those foods are dangerous. If you have that, you're going to have a flare or actually you need to be hyper defensive towards that food. And therefore having a bit of leeway gives people that sense of, okay, it's not about absolute 100%, I can't have this, but it's just radically reducing something. And yeah, we see a lot of people who are in that anxious state because they are trying to, at a very micro level, reduce any contaminants in their food that might have triggered them. And it can be anxiety provoking.
And certainly in a system that is already hyperreactive, your army and Navy picture, they are on guard 24 hours a day. The last thing we need to do is, like you said, step one is nervous system calming. A lot of people are going to these practitioners with chronic conditions and the answers they're getting is, we need to cut this out. We need to take 85 supplements. You better get your water clean, you better get everything. And the body is so reactive on a physical level, but the body is so reactive on an emotional level, too, at that point. So you just have to in every single way cool the system off. And I know when clients first come to me, they really want me to give them a hardcore meal plan and give them really hardcore, like, we got to do this and be more militant. And it's almost never helpful because if you're introducing it, the army and Navy are going to start shooting the second that they're going to start firing off. So I think I agree with you that this is the third time saying, as much as I love functional medicine, we can get caught in that reductionist allopathic path when we are trying to prescribe solutions without understanding the condition that the body is in. And like you said, people with histamine intolerance, you could take a B vitamin supplement and you could be deficient in B vitamins and you can take a B supplement and it can absolutely totally flare you. So it's not that your body doesn't need it, but your body doesn't understand how to integrate with the environment. So you have to make that interaction better, which is literally what your brain retraining does.
Ashok Gupta [00:43:21]:
Yeah, that example there is just a threat perception. When the brain is hyper vigilant and the body is hypervigilant, the gut is hyper vigilant. Any new thing you introduce, even though it could be massively beneficial, the brain is thinking, oh, could this be dangerous? Let's just err on the side of caution because we're already weak. Why would we allow ourselves to have something else that could threaten our survival? It's in that vulnerable reactive mode and until it comes out of that, it will react to all kinds of different things. And it's also asking, why are those things lower? Why is my B lower? Why is my d lower? When we overstimulate the nervous system and immune system, we precisely use up a lot of the resources of the body and therefore we get low in all of those various things. So we can take supplements, but it's not getting to the root cause of what's causing that in the first place.
You nailed it. And also this is something that I have so many gripes with. When any practitioners are looking at a stool test and saying, oh, this right enzyme is low, cal protects it and then prescribing, this is why this is happening, and giving the thing that is missing, I'm like you're missing the scope of the bigger picture of what's going on and what the climate is of the body. So I totally agree. And I think this idea of hyper vigilance for people, you know this and I know this. When clients come to us at this point, I can immediately sense the hyper vigilance. And I know we got to cool the nervous system off, but it's not safe for me to say that and say like, hey, you're not going to feel a lot better until we do this. So sometimes you have to play a little game with your body and say what feels safe, what doesn't? Would it feel safe to just be too open ended and just say, go meditate? That wouldn't feel safe either see what the body wants and reacts to. And just having that practitioner or that program like the Gupta program alongside with people is so in and of itself safe and healing. And sometimes just joining or doing something can make all the difference too. So for that reason, I'm so grateful for your work and your program. And I just feel again like this understood truth of when I've worked with clients and I can sense, okay, they're in the hypervigilance phase, can't give them supplements here great, they're in this phase. You just put it to words and science, what is known by many practitioners who feel and empathize with their clients and watch their experience so thank you so much. If people want to join the program, I'm of course, going to put a link in the notes. But tell us, how else can we learn more from you, Ashok, and join the program? Tell us more. How do we access your amazingness thank you.
How else can we learn more from you and join the program?
Ashok Gupta [00:45:50]:
So, yeah, we'd love for people to come to our website, which is Guptaprogram.com Gupta program, and there they can take a 28 day free trial, so they can trial out our videos, our audio, see if this is something that's right for them. And as you know, we also have an app as well, so they can go onto the App Store or Play Store, download the app, and start using the exercises straight away. And something we're launching very shortly is something called Daily Guptasize, which is a funny site, but essentially we want it to be a place where the world comes to heal, and it's completely free. So what that is is a daily session, a healing session conducted by one of our coaches, which will involve breathing and meditation, and you'll be able to heal in that supportive group intention of healing. And that's free to anyone. So they can just download the app, join those sessions each weekday, and see if that's of benefit that can be of benefit to so many people, and at least you're guided through it versus having to figure it all out each day. So we're really looking forward to launching that.
Well, that's incredible. And I think, like you said, one of the most important components of healing is community. And that energetic exchange is going to shine a light across everyone. So thank you for that. I'm so grateful you joined us today. I will also, in my intro have said at this point that I have gone through the program and is absolutely incredible. This is not any sort of an ad. This is just literally I wanted to have you on because I absolutely love your mission and I absolutely love your program. And I could scream it from the rooftops that I think anyone who's struggling and needs to take that step and they don't know what that step is, I really feel very strongly it's your program.
Ashok Gupta [00:47:27]:
Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.
Have a beautiful week, and I can't wait to be a part of the Daily Guptang. We're making as many verbs out of your name as we Guptaing. Thank you so, so much.
Ashok Gupta [00:47:40]:
Thank you so much.