Are you struggling with a stress-related illness (e.g., chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, IBS, or anxiety)? Dr. Ashok Gupta suggests that stressful events can often trigger an endless cycle of inflammation that can create these problems. In other words, according to his theory, chronic inflammatory diseases and fatigue often stem from neurological overstimulation. Thus, finding ways to reduce and better manage stress can break the vicious cycle. Inspired by his own struggle with chronic fatigue syndrome and anxiety, Gupta developed the Gupta Program, which uses a combination of mindfulness and amygdala and insula retraining (MAIR) to help to heal others who also suffer from chronic pain. The amygdala and insula are two parts of the brain that can create chronic stress responses.
In 2002, Dr. Ashok Gupta published a paper suggesting that chronic illness and fatigue could result from stressful neurological events (this was often a combination of emotional stress, genetic predisposition, and environmental factors such as bacteria). Building on his research, he developed the Gupta Program in 2007. The Gupta Program combines holistic health and wellbeing programming (focusing on nutrition, sleep, and exercise) with practices meant to retrain the amygdala and insula.
The Gupta Program’s central premise holds that much chronic inflammation stems from a neurological response. Thus, retraining your brain can heal your body. Guides trained to practice the official Gupta Program aim to help you retrain your brain while managing your inflammation. According to Gupta, this approach can cure a wide range of chronic illnesses triggered by inflammation.
How It Works
One of the ways your body protects itself from danger is by triggering an inflammatory response. When working properly, inflammation is a good sign; it signals that your immune system is defending your body against a threat. According to Gupta, however, a traumatic event affects the amygdala or insula, which, in turn, may trigger the hippocampus to become hyper-aroused and cause an immune system dysfunction. Individuals genetically predisposed toward certain conditions and/or whose immune system is fighting something off are especially vulnerable. The body can respond with any number of symptoms or diseases (e.g., autoimmune disorders, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia), and those symptoms can trigger more inflammation in a vicious cycle. According to the Gupta Program, to break this cycle, one needs to retrain the brain to mitigate hyperarousal. The Gupta Program relies on teaching participants to retrain their brains while also using holistic health techniques to reduce inflammation.
Although research into the Gupta Program and MAIR is still in its infancy, the following two studies support the efficacy of the Gupta Program.
Pilot Study: The Gupta Program and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Gupta’s seminal study on his program’s effectiveness was published in 2010 in the Journal of Holistic Healthcare. Twenty-seven (27) patients with chronic fatigue syndrome were asked to assess their ability to function prior to treatment. They were then reassessed after a year of treatment with amygdala retraining techniques. At the end of that time, 93% of patients self-reported improvement in their ability to pursue physical activity and daily tasks. The group’s average self-reported functioning level improved from 41.5% to 77%, of which 67% reported that they had reached “full functioning.”
You can read more here: https://www.guptaprogram.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/amygdala-retraining-jhh-sept-2010.pdf
Several issues have been identified in the first study, however. For example, it was too small to generalize from, it had no control group, and 11% of participants were pursuing other treatments simultaneously. Moreover, the results may have been biased because the researcher and participants have a vested interest in positive outcomes. A more recent study, however, may prove more reliable.
The Gupta Program and Fibromyalgia
Sanabria-Mazo et al. (2020) conducted a randomized controlled trial evaluating MAIR’s efficacy in treating fibromyalgia. It separated 41 fibromyalgia patients into two groups: a treatment group and active control. Each group received traditional medical treatment for fibromyalgia plus one supplemental treatment. The treatment group, which used MAIR, showed greater reductions in both the psychological ability to handle pain and the intensity of their symptoms.
Research into MAIR is still in its infancy, so people who feel more comfortable using practices that have been extensively tested may prefer to look into other modalities until more research is available.
The Gupta Program aims to heal chronic stress and inflammation. Still, it may not be a good fit for all illnesses, and, as with every modality, different people may respond differently to the same treatment. However, while the Gupta Program may not be a panacea, understanding that the amygdala and insula may be contributing to chronic illness can be an important step toward healing.
Gupta Program will help you identify holistic lifestyle changes that you will implement in your daily life. However, it is important to understand that such changes may be permanent for these changes to be effective long-term. If you choose to explore the Gupta Program in more detail, you’ll work with a Guide or the official Gupta Program to develop a holistic understanding of how you’ll heal your body and mind, including learning how your mental states affect your physical health.
During treatment, you can expect to spend about one hour every day practicing mindfulness and limbic calming and retraining techniques, including meditation, breathwork, and visualization. You may also utilize various techniques to heal the traumatic emotional event(s) that may have triggered your condition. These techniques may include internal family systems therapy, inner child work, or neurolinguistic programming.
To manage your symptoms, you’ll build habits to reduce chronic inflammation (e.g., eating an anti-inflammatory diet, improving your sleep schedule, and seeking out sunlight to increase vitamin D levels).
To work with a Gupta Program-certified guide, you may need to join the official Gupta Program via Ashok Gupta’s website. You can enroll in a free trial here. No license is required to practice the Gupta Program, but all Guides must complete Gupta’s two-year coach training program before charging for their services.
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Gupta A. Can amygdala retraining techniques improve the wellbeing of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome? A clinical audit of subjective outcomes in a small sample. Journal of Holistic Healthcare. 2010 Sept; 7(2); 12-15.
Sanabria-Mazo JP, Montero-Marin J, Feliu-Soler A, Gasión V, Navarro-Gil M, Morillo-Sarto H, Colomer-Carbonell A, Borràs X, Tops M, Luciano JV, García-Campayo J. Mindfulness-Based Program Plus Amygdala and Insula Retraining (MAIR) for the Treatment of Women with Fibromyalgia: A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of Clinical Medicine. 2020; 9(10):3246. https://doi.org/10.3390/jcm9103246
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