Free “brain retraining for MCS”

 

review of Gupta Amygdala RetrainingTM, by Tamara Lewis, a psychotherapist who has taught graduate psychology classes, gives more information about the programme than I’ve seen anywhere else. She says, ‘The first thing he teaches about is from, what you would call in my business, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. I am unclear why some of his literature says that his approach is not CBT. CBT includes what is called Thought Stopping. Ashtok teaches people to be aware of their anxious, negative or even destructive thought patterns about the illness that he believes serve to keep the up-regulated brain in over-drive, and then consciously stop those thoughts, “stop, stop, stop.”’ Then there is what she would call Cognitive Restructuring. There is also visualization of being well, and ‘stress management and relaxation techniques such as a yoga breathing and mindfulness meditation’.

There is no evidence that these “brain retraining” techniques can treat Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS), and there are no explanations of mechanisms by which they could treat MCS. However, since there are people who say their MCS has been cured or improved by this programme, the techniques are worth a closer look. Here are links to free information and instructions.

Here is an explanation of thought stopping and how to do it: http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/positive-thinking-stopping-unwanted-thoughts#uf9939.

There are explanations of cognitive restructuring and how to use it here: http://www.mindtools.com/stress/rt/CognitiveRestructuring.htm and here: http://prc.canadianpaincoalition.ca/fr/cognitive_restructuring_challenging_your_thinking.html.

There is a free mindfulness meditation mp3 here: http://www.aliceboyes.com/mindfulness-meditation-free-mp3-download/.

There are instructions for yoga breathing on many websites. According to Susie Collins (http://www.thecanaryreport.org/2011/12/01/gupta-programme-session-6-technique/), Gupta teaches alternate nostril breathing. There are instructions here: http://www.stress-management-for-peak-performance.com/alternate-nostril-breathing.html.

One of these links is from the Canadian Pain Coalition. It is important to realise that they suggest Cognitive Restructuring as a way to cope better with pain, not as a way to cure the medical condition that is causing the pain.

Most of the links above are to websites offering help with anxiety. That’s because these techniques are used to treat anxiety. One study used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to look at changes in brain activation as a result of cognitive behavioural therapy in people suffering from spider phobia. They found that “therapy-related reductions in experienced somatic [physical] anxiety symptoms were positively correlated with activation decreases in the amygdala and the insula. We conclude that successful treatment of spider phobia is primarily accompanied by functional changes of the medial OFC [orbitofrontal cortex]. This brain region is crucial for the self-regulation of emotions and the relearning of stimulus-reinforcement associations.” (Schienle A, Schäfer A, Hermann A, Rohrmann S, Vaitl D (2007) ‘Symptom provocation and reduction in patients suffering from spider phobia: an fMRI study on exposure therapy. Eur Arch Psychiatry Clin Neurosci. 257(8):486-93. Epub 2007 Sep 27. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17902000)

If someone has symptoms that can be caused by anxiety, and techniques used to treat anxiety relieve the symptoms, it seems likely that what they are suffering from is anxiety, not MCS. It is important to tell the difference between MCS and anxiety because different treatments are effective for each, and they are not always compatible. If you have both MCS and anxiety you may find some of the above techniques helpful. However, avoidance of chemicals and foods you are sensitive to is the most important part of treating MCS, and avoidance can make anxiety worse (see http://www.montrealcbtpsychologist.com/userfiles/373150/file/Exposure_Therapy.pdf).

If you don’t know whether you are anxious or not, there is a brief questionnaire here: http://www.patient.co.uk/doctor/Generalised-Anxiety-Disorder-Assessment-(GAD-7).htm.

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or health professional and none of this is medical advice.

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4 Comments

  1. Thanks for linking to my site Catherine. I also have a more comprehensive page of free mindfulness and self compassion meditation resources here http://www.aliceboyes.com/free-meditation/
    Thanks again for finding & sharing my site 🙂 Alice

  2. Hope Cross

    I am disappointed with your review. While I have no personal experience of my own with these two techniques, you seem to oversimplify what I understand to be a very real correlation between MCS and the brain. And in fact, new research into multiple chemical sensitivity shows that the brains of sufferers respond more easily and more strongly to stimuli than those of healthy individuals, supporting the ‘central sensitization’ theory as an explanation for the illness. If this is true, then the science of neuroplasticity supports brain reconditioning and training as a way to heal from MCS, not just anxiety.

  3. Alice, thanks for making these resources available.

  4. Hope, Gupta and Hopper don’t address central sensitization. If you want to know how to treat it, google “central sensitization” and “treatment”. You will find that Martin Pall’s approach to MCS is far more relevant than Gupta’s or Hopper’s, particularly Martin Pall’s comments on NMDA antagonists.

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