Leaky Gut and “Skilled Relaxation”
It was 2001 when my symptoms started. Namely, big, chronic, mysterious, ever-present bloating. No matter what I ate, when I ate, which supplements I took, I looked six months pregnant for a long time. It was awful.
Each night I’d search on the internet for hours, trying to find the answer to my health problem. It was in these early days when I stumbled on Dr. Walt Stoll’s website. My mouth fell open as I read about chronic muscle tension, or what he called ‘bracing’. That was me! I did that! I tensed my stomach muscles all the time without realizing it, or my jaw, or my arms. Dr. Stoll wrote that most health problems were due to the storage of chronic stress-effect in the hypothalamus, and that almost everyone who ‘braced’ had Leaky Gut Syndrome. And that most of those who had LGS had Candida-Related Syndrome. Whoah. I was in for a lot of learning.
To me it made perfect sense that if my muscles were chronically tensed, blood flow was being shunted away from digestive organs all the time, and bloating could be a very likely result. Treating yeast with anti-fungals would not work unless I set out to fix the underlying problem. So I embarked on the prescription: skilled relaxation, or ‘SR’.
SR reverses the effects of chronic stress-effect (bracing). But you need to do it consistently. Stoll advocated two 20 minute sessions of relaxation per day. The goal is to engage in a technique that produces an alpha or theta rhythm in the brain (4-12 cycles/second) and keeps it there for a while. Examples of methods to achieve this are meditation, biofeedback and breathing techniques.
The Relaxation Response, by Herbert Benson, MD, is an excellent book to get started on this vital step to health. I’ve read it many times, and am always impressed when I think about the ridicule he risked facing from his conventional medical colleagues. But his findings were clear: skilled relaxation produces very real health improvement, no matter what the illness.
Dr. Stoll advises people to confirm that they’re getting into the right brain pattern. So I actually paid $100 to a technician to test my brain waves. I was glad to find out that I was doing it right. My method back then was to listen to an alpha tape with headphones for 20 minutes two times each day. I knew it was working because I was feeling calmer and happier over the weeks. I wrote about it in my journal (though I’ve forgotten the name of the place I went to in NYC):
Today I saw Kamron from Iran who hooked me up with electrodes on my earlobes and one on my scalp. He tested my brain waves for amount of alpha production:
a. with eyes open Alpha 8-13H Mean: 8.56
b. with eyes closed Alpha 8-13H Mean: 15.32
c. with eyes closed listening to Kelly Howell alpha tape: Alpha 8-13H Mean: @14.50
Which MEANS that with my eyes closed I’m producing about 2 times as much alpha than with eyes open, which is pretty good he said. I produced more WITHOUT the tape compared to with the tape but basically the same. Which means I can do it without any music/sound. Which is great. So he said I am reaching the relaxation state in which the good benefits can occur. Twiching does mean relaxation as I thought ( I twitch during relaxation). He said keep going, trust that I’m getting there, trust it. As you can imagine I am quite happy to be doing this right.