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Podcast #105 - Releasing Trauma that Underlies Health | Amanda Ferris, ND

The Science of Self-Healing Hosted by
Dr. Sharon Stills With Amanda Ferris, ND

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About Amanda Ferris, ND

Dr. Amanda has been a licensed Naturopathic Doctor since 2005, specializing in homeopathy, Bowen Therapy, and nutritional and botanical medicine. She owned a clinic and health food store in a small town in Ontario, Canada alongside raising her three boys.  She was very active at the community level, doing health fairs and promoting health at schools. She taught classes to parents and helped create access to more support for stress and mental health. The last few years have been dedicated to researching the mind-body connection of past trauma and disease. Dr. Amanda realized that at the root of all her patient's health that remained stuck (despite good therapies and diet changes) was past trauma. She created and hosted online group programs, courses, Facebook groups and taught workshops. She authored the workshop manual called Address Your Stress which is now used in the Brain Optimization Program that she runs at the Advanced Naturopathic Medical Clinic with Dr. Melina Roberts.  She is also a certified HeartMath practitioner and uses this with her patients now as a critical tool in rebalancing the nervous system.  

Resources Mentioned:

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Episode Highlights with Amanda Ferris, ND

  • Dr. Ferris’s journey to self-healing stemmed from an autoimmune disease called Hashimoto's disease. Dissatisfied with conventional medicine, she pursued naturopathic medicine and tried various detox and therapies to improve her overall health. However, it wasn't until she explored the mental-emotional connection to her health through homeopathy that she made significant progress. Homeopathy allowed her to discuss past traumatic events and use remedies to release them.

  • There is a lot of new interesting neuroscience that's come out in the last ten years that really explains why we hold trauma.

  • Dr. Ferris’s new book, Address Your Stress, is a compilation of all of her research about how the nervous system stores and processes past trauma. Her goal is to help people release past trauma quickly and easily.

  • Trauma can be defined as something that you felt was unbearable, beyond your capacity and your resources to handle at the time, and inescapable.

  • When someone experiences a traumatic event, their body remembers the procedures that helped them survive. As a result, they become hyper-vigilant and are constantly on the lookout for anything that reminds them of the trauma, such as sights, smells, tastes, or sounds.

  • When someone experiences a traumatic event, the memory of it can become stuck and not be filed away in the brain. Traumatic memories can be so vivid that it feels like the trauma is still happening. This can prevent the body from healing.

  • Peter Levine, a trauma expert, describes trauma is a disorder of not being able to be in the here and now. There's this sense that if one focuses on the present, they’ll miss something really important. And they're constantly being thrown back into remembering the past or being worried about the future.

  • Resilience is developed in the first five years of life, where children learn whether they can count on their social network or whether they need to rely on their own resources, such as fight, flight, or freeze.

  • The research shows that the more resiliency an individual has, the less likely they are going to hold onto trauma. 

  • Resiliency can be built through self-compassion. It’s important to shift one’s perspective to thinking about how amazing our brain and body is.

  • Dr. Ferris believes that attacking oneself is equivalent to shame, which creates a sense of not being okay. She sees the connection between self-attacking and autoimmune diseases, since autoimmune diseases occur when the body's natural defenses, the immune system, attack the body's own healthy tissue. 

  • Experiencing trauma can cause the nervous system to have low flexibility, leading to an inability to handle stressors, triggers, and even strong inflammatory foods. Trauma can cause the brain and body to overreact.

  • According to Van der Kock, trauma can change the brain in such a way that individuals perceive events as more dangerous than they actually are.

  • When a person experiences a stressful or fearful event, their frontal lobe can go offline, which can be observed through MRIs. This can lead to a loss of access to creativity, intuition, insight, morality, and empathy, making the person feel animal-like.

  • When a person is triggered, they can enter a fight or flight state, which is controlled by the sympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system prepares the body to either fight or flee the threat. Alternatively, the person can move into the parasympathetic nervous system, which can lead to a total shutdown, dissociation, or trying to make it through whatever is happening. Recognizing when that's happening and being able to say, oh that's what's happening to my body is very helpful.

  • Learning body-based movement, such as yoga, exercise, and breathing techniques, can help counteract the fight or flight response triggered by the sympathetic nervous system.

  • Part of the process of learning to manage the fight or flight response is recognizing the physical sensations that occur when the body is in that state. By learning these techniques, individuals can help bring themselves out of a fight or flight state and experience their body releasing and coming back to a level state.

  • The HeartMath work involves using an app on your phone that connects to your ear and takes your heart rate, translating it into an HRV reading that shows how well your nervous system is functioning. The HeartMath techniques and technology allow you to see your stress response and how well your body is responding to the techniques you are using to manage stress. By using HeartMath techniques, you can get your nervous system into a coherent range, which is the range in which the body can heal.

  • Learning techniques to recognize which state the body is in, whether it's in a fight-flight-high-sympathetic state or a freeze state, can help individuals bring themselves back into balance on an everyday level.

  • The vagus nerve is one of the largest nerves in the body, originating from the brain stem and traveling down through the throat, thorax, and abdomen. It interacts with the heart, lungs, and abdominal organs, and sends information from the body up to the brain, telling it whether or not to be stressed.

  • Breathing is one of the most important techniques to calm the body from stress because it triggers the vagus nerve and tones it, sending a message from the body to the brain that everything is fine.

  • The amygdala is like a security guard in the brain, responsible for sending out an alarm if the nervous system perceives anything that could be dangerous.

  • When the amygdala is calm and the individual is feeling at ease (with relaxation techniques such as meditation and breathing), this is the ideal time to reconsolidate traumatic memories.

  • Recognizing why the impulse to engage in self-sabotaging behaviors is there in the first place involves understanding that it is a self-protective mechanism of the body to go back to whatever worked before.

  • When something in the environment presents a big stress and danger is perceived, the fight or flight system is activated. The fight or flight response is a physiological reaction that prepares the body to either fight or flee the threat. The first thing that happens in the fight or flight response is that blood flow is changed to the body, going to the big muscles of the body, the heart, and the muscles of the jaw. This is from an evolutionary perspective, so that individuals can pump really fast, run, and bite their enemy.

  • When the fight or flight response is not effective, the freeze response happens, which is part of the old vagus nerve and is like a reptile being stuck in a frozen state and not moving. 

  • The freeze response is a safety mechanism that occurs when there is a sense of something really threatening happening, and the individual checks out until it's over so they don't have to feel whatever horrible thing is happening. The freeze response is a physiological process that involves physical immobility, a drop in heart rate, and muscle tension. The freeze response is a way for the brain to decide how to respond to the threat and reduce the impact of the event. The problem with the freeze response is that there are a lot of endorphins released with it, which can feel good and lead to addiction. Individuals may keep doing the freeze response until they recognize it.

  • There are three keys to healing trauma. The first key is to understand that trauma is healed in the present and involves releasing stored energy and patterns that keep individuals repeating certain behaviors. The second key is to be aware that the subconscious mind controls about 95% of an individual's day and that some things are happening beyond their control. To release trauma quickly, individuals need to work with the level of the subconscious mind. The third key is to recognize that releasing trauma is a felt experience, meaning that individuals need to be able to feel and process their emotions in order to heal.

  • Once individuals learn how to release trauma, they can continue to release different traumas that happen in their lives going forward.

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