Looking after the brain & the gut are the keys to keeping young and ensuring that chronic disease and pain do not ravage your quality of life. Here are some simple tricks to keeping young and vital.

8 Brain Booster Hacks infographic

Often the ‘reshaping’ of habits and achieving long term fat loss or improved performance success begins to happen when we bring awareness to our emotional triggers, replacing the behaviours that do not serve us well, for more positive actions that will lead to the success and results we seek.  Often it is not a matter of lack of discipline, far from it. Invariably most of us operate from a defective blueprint for achieving the results we seek. We get swayed from performing the necessary behaviours to achieve because of our emotional state does not support us. We quietly sabotage our success because what feels right is in fact ‘compromised data and evidence’. Bringing awareness to patterns is a great way to begin to create the chance for better choices and in turn the actions to produce necessary change.

Here is where a journal and the art of journalling your patterns can help….

For more information on how you can be more effective in your fitness and lifestyle health journey, connect via Valetudo Retreats.

Leading a healthy lifestyle infographic-2.png

152002Our bodies use calcium for many functions and chemical chain reactions to support overall health and wellbeing. Critical for unlocking the absorption of Vitamin D, calcium is also used to support our nervous system, muscles, heart and bone density and health and repair. We have often been told that milk and cheese are the best sources of calcium. This has been the biggest dairy industry con of all time, the best sources are actually from green veg, along with the other 10 sources listed below.
Be aware too that synthetic calcium, such as in the form of ‘Caltrate’ and supplemented calcium can actually contribute rather that improve calcium absorption. Synthetic claim leaves our own reserves stored in our bodies, so be aware of any GP or practitioner that promotes calcium supplementation, if can be very detrimental to overall health

FUN FACT:

300g broccoli gives 140mg of calcium

1. White Beans: 191 mg (19% DV) in 1 cup canned
Creamy and light, these legumes are a great source of calcium and iron [4]. Add them to a pasta dish with veggies, or skip the chickpeas and make your own hummus with white beans.
2. Canned Salmon: 232 mg (23% DV) in ½ can with bones (which provides the calcium!) To avoid putting a dent in the wallet, canned salmon is a great way to go. Here’s the catch: It’s the bones in canned salmon that hold all the calcium, so they need to be mashed up right along with the salmon meat for all the benefits! But don’t get turned off just yet — the canning process softens the bones so they easily break apart and are unnoticeable when mixed in with the rest of the can’s contents. For a boost of calcium and omega 3’s, try these salmon cakes.
3. Sardines: 321 mg (32% DV) in about 7 sardines fillets
Along with calcium, they also provide a hefty dose of omega 3’s and vitamin D.
4. Dried Figs: 107 mg (10% DV) in 8 whole dried figs
For a sweet treat, this dried fruit packs an antioxidant, fiber, and calcium punch. Eat them as a mid-day snack,
5. Bok Choy: 74 mg (7% DV) in 1 cup
This versatile Chinese cabbage provides a hefty dose of vitamins A and C, along with calcium and fiber. Stir-fry bok choy with garlic and olive oil for a perfect side dish.
6. Blackstrap Molasses: 172 mg (17% DV) in 1 tablespoon
When the sweet tooth strikes, it’s best to go natural. Blackstrap molasses is darker in color and richer in flavor than regular molasses, and is filled with calcium, iron, and other vitamins. Plus, it’s a great sweet and flavorful addition to many dishes.
7. Kale: 188 mg (19% DV) in 2 cups raw (chopped)
This superfood is filled with calcium and antioxidants, and is perfect to use as the base of any salad when shredded into thin strips. Add lemon and herbs as a salad or steamed side dish.
8. Black-eyed Peas: 185 mg (18% DV) in 1/2 cup canned
These beans are filled with calcium, potassium, folate, and more! Skip the fat-filled mayo and whip up this black-eyed pea spread to pump up any sandwich or appetizer.
9. Almonds: 72 mg (7% DV) in ¼ cup natural & raw (about 20 nuts)
They’re the most nutritionally dense nut, packing a crazy amounts of nutrients per calorie and ounce. Aside from calcium, they also contain potassium, vitamin E, and iron. Sprinkle on a salad or make your own almond butter. Just watch out for portion size!
10. Oranges: 65 mg (6% DV) in 1 medium fruit
Full of vitamin C and calcium, enjoy this fruit as a mid-morning snack, or use its citrus flavour to brighten up any dish.

Taking control of chronic pain may well require taking responsibility for the emotional responses you have to the world you experience. When it comes to integrating the complexities of living within the physical system we inhabit, there can be a great deal to consider and navigate. Past, present and future thinking and feeling, seemingly, gets stored within the cells in our body.

In Part 1 of this blog post, I explored the concept of pain within the body and how it is  inextricably linked to the emotional pain and false beliefs carried by an individual, sometimes over a lifetime. How the nervous system can become wired toward negative  rather than positive sensation depends on our thoughts and emotional responses. Be it  o perceptions of our environment, circumstances and to ourselves.  These emotional patterns form physiological patterns,  that can become chronic in thought and expereince without the awareness and introspective capabilities practiced by the individual; YOU.

In Part 2 we will look at:

  1. The physiological connection between our emotional state and pain.
  2. How different emotional experiences (guilt, fear, resentment) present in the body and where.
  3. In Part 3, we will look at some key ways that self awareness and introspective modalities like meditation can help manage and often eliminate the pain cycle.

Lets take a moment to consider what is actually going on in the brain when we experience strong emotions and all the areas that interrelate:

• The limbic system, the site of our instinctual emotional reactions.
• The hypothalamus, which connects with the endocrine system and the gut organs.
• The amygdala, where we process sensory information into memory and learning.
• The cortex, where we regulate emotion.

Every emotion we experience leaves a trace throughout these areas of the brain. Strong emotions can also be reignited by future experiences; be it in reality (through sensory experience) or in our minds (through memory experience).

“Pain Is Pain”!

We Process Emotional & Physical Pain The Same

The body and brain process both types of pain in absolutely the same way.  Psychology Today reported “When people feel emotional pain, the same areas of the brain get activated as when people feel physical pain: in the anterior insula and the anterior cingulate cortex.” Researchers have found that people who endure trauma as children and still have lingering feelings of helplessness or despair have higher levels of inflammation in the body. Our early, unhealed wounds leave us more vulnerable to the many forms of pain.

Without awareness and having the courage to look a little deeper than surface at what could be going on when pain strikes, there is a real chronic danger that we will be hauling our entire personal history around with us in our cells and nervous system, for life. Pills can mask the pain briefly, but it will keep recurring until we ‘deal with it’.

Dr. Candace Pert, a neuropharmacologist who worked at the NIH and Georgetown University Medical Centre famously stated that “Your body is your subconscious mind. Our physical body can be changed by the emotions we experience.” . Dr Pert explains:

“A feeling sparked in our mind-or body-will translate as a peptide being released somewhere. [Organs, tissues, skin, muscle and endocrine glands], they all have peptide receptors on them and can access and store emotional information. This means the emotional memory is stored in many places in the body, not just or even primarily, in the brain. You can access emotional memory anywhere in the peptide/receptor network, in any number of ways. I think unexpressed emotions are literally lodged in the body.  The real true emotions that need to be expressed are in the body, trying to move up and be expressed and thereby integrated, made whole, and healed.

Emotional Pain Chart-Figure Genie Files

Where Pain is Held In The Body & Its Possible Meaning 

Common Sites for Deep-Seated Emotional Pain

  • SubscapularisEmotional Pain Sites-Subscapularis

The subscapularis lies beneath the scapula, filling the subscapular fossa and inserting into the lesser tubercle of the humerus and the front of the capsule of the shoulder-joint (coracoid process).  It is thoroughly protected and is often identified as the ‘tickle site’ below the arm pits. Because the subscapularis is well-hidden beneath the scapula, it is the most likely place for neurotransmitters, toxins, and other metabolic waste to be stored in the shoulder area. For instance, chronic depression could result in deep-seated pain being stored in the subscapularis due to subtle postural imbalances from slumped shoulders, a defeated stance, or cowering.

This habitual behavioral pattern will create trigger points, and will usually eventually negatively impact the myofascial connections of the subscapularis, which can lead to problems with the rhomboids, trapezius, pectoralis major, pectoralis minor, and the coracoid process.  If given enough time, the shoulders will become immobile thereby creating strain on the levator scapulae, which can further reduce range of motion in the neck.  This chain reaction can also alter the curvature of the spine resulting in further pain and discomfort in the lower back, which can spread to the gluteals, and down the legs.  Some patients suffering from deep tissue problems in their subscapularis have been misdiagnosed with fibromyalgia because of its similar far-reaching ill-effects that can eventually result in nerve damage and joint pain.

  • PsoasEmotional Pain Sites-Psoas

The psoas is the deepest abdominal muscle, originating on the spine near the solar plexus and inserting at the top of the femur.  The purpose of the psoas has, until the late nineties, been somewhat of a mystery.  Additionally, the common consensus remains that the psoas muscle is one that is out of reach and cannot be directly palpated or massaged. Because the psoas is a deep – and thoroughly protected – muscle, it is a perfect place for the body to store deeply-rooted emotions.   There is nothing that can touch the psoas, with the exception of internal organs, so it is therefore the primary resting place for deeply rooted emotional trauma.

Much like any species, people are born with the ability to protect themselves.  When faced with a fearful or dangerous situation, the strong psoas muscle is (1) the source of the ‘jolt’ we receive when we’re surprised, (2) the power behind the initial burst of speed when we need to get away, and (3) the primary muscle used when ‘playing dead’ until danger passes.  It also causes the reflex of the spine when a person assumes the fotal position.  Regardless of the strain placed on the psoas, emotional traumas can constrict the psoas to the point of causing chronic back, leg, hip, and knee pain and can even lead to joint deterioration, bursitis, and other ailments without the presence of any trauma.

 

The psoas muscle  is most central to our fight/flight response.  When we don’t respond, these stress hormones go unspent and become stored in the body. This can bring many health problems including insomnia, lowered immune system, anxiety, eating disorders, depression, and living in a constant state of fear or alert. 

Chronic Recurring Pain & The Emotional Connection

Guilt

Guilt can affect us in a variety of ways, because it is a judgement of self, based on your unique experiences. Forgiveness of your judgements or addressing the source of the emotion will help in healing this.

Rejection

If it is in a personal relationship or in a professional context, a slight snub from a  friend or a relationship break-up, rejection, can have a detrimental effect on anyone and make them question their self-worth. Understanding that rejection is a part of life and not a reflection of your personal worth is key to navigating this.

Grief

We all experience grief in various forms through our lives. The key is not to bury the emotion and to understand that the 5 stages of grief have time frames, experientially, that are unique to the individual.

Failure or Fear of failure

The pain felt with failure can often be similar to that of rejection, both have the ability to strike a blow to your self esteem and may be tinged with shame. The key with failure is to reframe the experience as a learning opportunity.

Emotional Pain Meanings and Body Sites

Where do you store your emotional pain?

In conclusion,  lets not forget that we all have stresses and challenges to navigate, that is what life is about. Training pain has a very unique feel and experience compared to chronic pain. In my experience, both personal and with my clients the connection between the emotional experience and the physical cannot be ignored and I believe that to do so is to a small extent naive and in the extreme, arrogant. We are understanding more and more the positive effects that practices like meditation and yoga have on changing the nervous system and managing stress when engaged on a daily basis. As a preventative measure these self management modalities put responsibility for personal health and wellness squarely back with the individual and the over reliance on pharmacology may, hopefully, finally begin to diminish.
If you are a sufferer of chronic pain, reading through this blog, much of the information if not new, may well be confronting. I hope however that by looking at the emotional link to the pain experienced,  insights and greater understanding may follow.
The key is to explore the possibility of being pain free via combined modalities to achieve overall wellbeing. In Part 3 we will look at how Talking Therapy and/or Meditation may be some of the modalities utilised to unlock the emotional triggers to the pain model.
The key is taking an honest and uncensored appraisal of your inner world and the possible physical markers as your road map to guide you through.

It started when I was about 13 and continued until I was 21. That was when I hung up my pointe shoes and turned my back on my dreams of being a ballerina.

Chronic stress fractures in my shins meant that every step and indeed every waking moment was unadulterated agony.  Having spent yet another dance class at the London Pineapple Centre in Covent Garden sitting on my ass watching (rather than doing) my mental health was not faring so well. Injuries and depression often go hand in hand.  The swelling and pain in both shins had become so bad that even the slightest touch sent me through the roof. To look at the bone through the skin was like looking at corrugated cardboard, I was a mess, so  I decided I had to face facts. This ballet lark was  simply not good for me.

I was angry, frustrated, ashamed at my ‘weakness’, terrified what the future held and mourning turning my back on a future I had worked for very hard since through my entire childhood.  The sense of loss I felt at giving up on my dream of being a ballerina  was in truth minimal compared to the gripping fear of what the hell comes next? Added to which I felt like a total failure; I couldn’t ‘hack the pace’, was too weak mentally to be able to ‘gut it out’.  I had been working toward this dream since I was 8 years old, later than most to start ballet admittedly, but it was all I had ever really wanted to do.  Or so I thought. I did have a fleeting interest in Archeology but the lure of feathers and sequins was much stronger than that of dust on old bones.

It has taken me many years of study and 20 years of self reflection and understanding my clients as a trainer, to realise that the chronic pain in my body was showing me that unconsciously I knew dancing was not the path I was supposed to take. I was just too determined to follow through and too young to be able to admit, dancing was not my true path, to myself or anyone else. So the emotional dis-ease manifested in other ways until I had to take notice. Thankfully I have never ever had any issues with stress fractures or shin pain since; these days I run, have had a successful athletic career and not once has the issue ever resurfaced.

Over time I have seen chronic issues with clients be resolved by looking deeper than just their physiology.  Looking closer at the emotions behind certain beliefs and behaviours. After all, in transforming your body you must address the transformation of attitudes, beliefs and behaviours to achieve a ‘stick-able’ outcome. Your emotional state fits squarely into that arena. Sometimes chaotically, but still squarely.

The Neurobiological Connection

There are a number of phenomena that occur in the body and brain during the experience of different emotional states. In a Psychology Today  article the neurobiological connection of emotions is outlined; “The brain is massively interconnected with the rest of the body. There are direct neural connections via the brain stem and spinal cord. The circulatory and lymphatic systems also carry neurotransmitters (hormones and immune cells) that find receptor sites in the brain which feedback and modulate the links between brain and body. In this way, every cell in the body – every cell — is linked into the nervous system and as such, can be sensed and felt, whether or not we allow ourselves to be aware of this psychobiological fact.

Russian space scientists were the first to discover in the 1960’s that every thought or feeling triggers the release of tiny chemical proteins called neuropeptides (NP’s).   In the late 1990’s American cellular biologist Candace Pert began to explore this phenomenon.  She outlined the critical role neuropeptides play in metabolic function. Your cells produce hundreds of different NP’s, each with its own unique function.  Hormones, endorphins, cortisol, and adrenaline are some examples. While Candice Pert identified the connection between emotions and neuropeptide (NP) release, further research has demonstrated that every emotional state has its own identifiable frequency.  That’s how your body knows which specific NP’s to release. As you experience an emotion, its frequency activates photons within your cells and throughout your neural pathways.  Your body releases appropriate NP’s in response.  Positive emotions release NP’s such as endorphins or oxytocin.  Negative emotions release NP’s like adrenaline and cortisol.

In Part 2 we will look at the physiological connection between our emotional state and pain. How different emotional experiences (guilt, fear, resentment) present in the body and where.  Plus look at  some key ways that self awareness and introspective modalities like meditation can help manage and often eliminate the pain cycle. Shifting the nervous system into a calm state through awareness is something that can benefit everyone not just the ‘injured’ or the ‘athlete’, but everyone, no matter their age.