Transcript

Table of Contents

0:00:00 – Introduction

Dr. Sandeep Gupta

Okay everyone, welcome to the Gupta strikes back webinar. I’m Dr. Sandeep Gupta and I’m very, very pleased to be here with Ashok Gupta from London. How are you today, Ashok?

Ashok Gupta

Very well thanks. Yes, very good. How are you, there in San Francisco? I don’t know. Where are you?

Dr. Sandeep Gupta

I know, I’m culturally confused here sitting in the Sunshine Coast, Australia, but with the background of San Francisco, but really looking forward to just jumping into this idea of what the role of amygdala and insular retraining in mold illness is. I’ll jump into sharing my screen, once I’ve just had that enabled by the host.

Talking a little bit about Ashok Gupta and myself, Ashok Gupta has studied a Bachelor of Arts and Masters of Science in England. And while studying at Cambridge, he himself suffered from ME or chronic fatigue syndrome, but through neurological research and a system of brain retraining, he was able to recover a hundred percent, which is very encouraging. He started a clinic specifically looking at brain retraining in the late 1990s, and published his hypothesis on ME and chronic fatigue syndrome in 2002. The Gupta program first launched in 2007 and in 2012, he published the first randomized controlled trial on fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome patients. In 2020, he published a larger randomized control trial in fibromyalgia patients. And in 2017, he launched the meaning of life experiment, which is a video and meditation app.

For myself, most of you listening will probably know me, but I graduated from medical school in 1999, from The University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. I worked as a resident in the hospital system for around 10 years, and specifically worked in the hospital intensive care in Brisbane for five years. I looked after a range of critically ill patients, including sepsis patients, which led to my interest, or it’s one part of my interest in inflammatory disease. I’ve now had a private holistic practice for 12 years on the Sunshine Coast Australia, called Lotus Holistic Medicine. I became interested in mold and related illnesses in 2012, after having a house flood. My partner at the time became very, very unwell. I became Surviving Mold certified in 2014 with Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker and launched this online course, Mold Illness Made Simple in 2016. I do consults throughout Australia and worldwide.

Ashok Gupta

Firstly, the very important historical context here. For those who don’t know what the Gupta empire is. It was a ruling class around, from 350 to 543 BC. Some people consider it to be the golden age of Indian history. We we’re kind of trying to bring that back today. I’d like to now hand over to Ashok, to talk about brain retraining and his thoughts on the importance of this in chronic fatiguing illnesses, such as CIRS.

It’s interesting, there was also an Ashoka empire, which many people may know of. So I have dual empires, and not to be narcissistic about this, but that ran in the period just before [The Gupta Empire].

Dr. Sandeep Gupta

The intersection of the Ashoka and Gupta empire belong to you. That’s why you have such great power in this domain.

0:04:45 – The Map is not the territory / Phantom Limb / PTSD

Ashok Gupta

Yes. People will get worried now, won’t they? Thank you for inviting me to this webinar. I want to start off by saying that this idea of the map is not the territory. I think the previous slide that was up, really highlights how our brains are mental maps of a physical territory. This idea of the map is not the territory, means that when the mind thinks of the situations around us, the people, the situations, the experiences, it is not an actual physical map. It’s not the reality. It’s a representation. Everything is representative. Our whole minds are a mental model of everything around us, which is why we all have different mental models.

Otherwise we’d just be robots, fully understanding the environment around us. That’s very important when it comes to illnesses such as this, because we have to realize that each of us has a unique mental map and a unique mental representation. If we go onto next slide, there are a hundred billion neurons in our brain, that make up this kind of lump of gray matter that sits inside the skull. Each of these neurons is part of that complex web of a mental map of our environments, and the people and the situations. Within those hundred billion neurons, there are different brain structures that perform different functions, obviously. There’s different kind of collections of neurons within different structures. If we go on to the next slide. These mental representations can make errors. Those bunches of neurons can make errors. An example of this is in Phantom limb pain, where let’s say war veterans, or people with diabetes, they have limbs amputated.

Yet even once the limb is amputated, the brain still believes that that part of the body exists, and keeps signalling pain signals. What then happens is, they use certain rehabilitation techniques to train the brain out of those responses, out of that perception or that mental map that that part of the body still exists. There are still pain signals coming from that part of the body. This gives us a clue that as brilliant as the brain is, it errs on the side of caution and makes errors, software bugs, if you like.

The reason I’m using this as a background, is that there’s nothing unusual about then mapping this onto mold illness and CIRS and all these kinds of different illnesses. In many branches of medicine, there is quite a lot of evidence that the brain does make mistakes. It doesn’t mean it’s not efficient or effective at what it’s doing. It’s just that it maps out something, or an appropriate response. Then once the world changes, the brain doesn’t necessarily catch up with a new environment or the new situation.

A classic example of that would be PTSD, where you have war veterans who have experienced trauma and such danger on the battlefield. They come back to civilian life. This can happen in Australia, America, UK. Even though the war is over, when they hear a car backfire or a balloon pop, or suddenly you’re walking down a dark alley, their whole system will respond as if they are back in that war zone. Their nervous system will overstimulate, they’ll have hyper anxiety, they’ll have a heart racing. It becomes such a difficulty for them, that they can’t lead a normal life. Because once again, the brain has made a decision back at one point in time, and continues with that response. It’s a protective response.

Let’s always forgive our brain. Let’s always thank our brain. It’s always doing what it thinks is best, as the appropriate protection response. Anything you wanted to jump in on that, Sandeep?

Dr. Sandeep Gupta

II think that’s a really good point. I think for me, what I relate this to is the idea of trauma in general. Let’s say someone has PTSD, the trauma often was so severe and so threatening that it makes sense that the brain creates such an over reactive response to it. It’s not that it doesn’t make sense. It’s just that if it does become dysfunctional, when that threat is no longer around. That’s kind of the way I think about it, does that kind of fit with what you’re saying, to some degree?

Yes, it does. The reason that the brain does all of this, is not because it actually makes a mistake, but because it believes that survival is far more important than wellness.

00:10:00 – Neural differential activation / Modern Environment / ACEs

Ashok Gupta

So why are we here? The biggest question of all, why are we here? We’re here because this nervous system and this immune system has been refined over millions of years to all the plants and all the animals to survive, to pass on the genes to the next generation.

The brain in its own view is making the correct decision to err on the side of caution, overprotect so the person can survive and pass on genes, rather than us feeling well.

When we really associate with the idea, then all of these illnesses make complete and total sense.

Dr. Sandeep Gupta

Right. You could say that’s similarly, in the case of having a major exposure to mold or another biotoxin, that is a major threat to the body and therefore the brain going into such a massive over inflammatory response, does make sense on one level, in that it is a threat to survival.

The question is how can we then recover and live full and happy lives, once we’ve had that exposure, and how do we regain our wellness? That’s going to be the subject of the rest of this webinar.

Ashok Gupta

Absolutely. Something that is really key in this, if people can get their head round this one thing, it will really make sense. In neurology there is this idea of differential activation. What that means is, let’s say you had 100% mold exposure where 100% was life-threatening at that point in time, to that biotoxin. Whether it’s mold, a chemical, a fragrance, petrol, whatever it may be. Now, with differential activation, the brain makes a decision that if I am now exposed to 1% of what I was exposed to earlier on, the appropriate response is still to have a full-on defensive response. Differential activation is the idea that the brain, once it’s learned to do something and it learns that that is a survival response, it will continue to do that, even with 1% of what it was originally exposed to.

I hope that is kind of aha moments for people that, ah, now that makes sense. Yes, I did have one exposure at one point in my life, but then not only did I start responding to just the minor aspects compared to the original exposure, but my brain started generalizing and I started responding to many different chemicals or many different environments, or even light or sound. It’s because the brain, once it goes into that hypersensitive mode, will generalize that sensitivity in defence response.

Dr. Sandeep Gupta

I think that’s a really good framework to understand these illnesses. Let’s jump into talking more about why we’re getting exposed to all of these different inflammatory triggers.

Ashok Gupta

There are two aspects which make us prone to getting this kind of condition. The first way is our modern way of living. For thousands of years, millennia, we lived in small fishing villages, or on the plains of Africa and we were outdoors. We didn’t have exposure to these artificial chemicals necessarily. Suddenly fast forward to the modern world, last couple of hundred years, we live in boxes. We’re not exposed to as much daylight and sunlight. We’re eating food, which is riddled full of artificial ingredients. We’re not sleeping as much. We’re stressed, we’re living a sedentary lifestyle. We’re exposed to pollution, chemicals and mold. Already our whole system is primed to defend. So there’s this idea of a background pro-inflammatory bias in our system, inflammation simply meaning the Th2 response. So essentially, we’re kind of just slightly stimulating our immune system continually in the backgrounds to try and detoxify and get rid of these kinds of biotoxins in the body.

We called it in our course, “a silent fire in the body”. It’s a silent fire, which involves almost all organs of the body. It causes symptoms of almost all organ systems.

Ashok Gupta

Exactly. So one risk factor is the modern way that we’re living is increasing the number of these illnesses. Secondly, ACEs, adverse childhood experiences. In my experience, and Sandeep I don’t if you have this experience as well, there is a higher chance of somebody having quite a challenging childhood, whether that’s been involved in bullying or abuse of some kind or some kind of early bereavement early in childhood. Which means that the brain becomes more reactive, and this can even happen in a difficult childbirth or difficult pregnancy. We know that the amygdala, the kind of defensive part of the brain, becomes hyper-stimulated in people who’ve gone through difficult pregnancies or difficult adverse childhood experiences. Which means the amygdala actually ironically shrinks, but becomes more reactive. When that person becomes an adult, they become more prone to these types of conditions. These are the kind of predisposing factors. There can also be genetic predisposing factors as well.

Dr. Sandeep Gupta

That’s right. I think that’s been emphasized a lot when it comes to CIRS, the genetic predisposition, but as you’re saying here, the adverse child experiences can also be a really, really important predisposing event.

00:15:16 – Model of how mold Illness may perpetuate

Ashok Gupta

How might mold illness begin? Well, we’ve mentioned that the genetic vulnerability. The two key factors are that mold exposure or exposure to a fragrance or whatever the biotoxin may be, combined with chronic or acute stress. In the case of fibromyalgia, it’s often some kind of accident, car accident or local pain syndrome which generalizes. In the case of ME/CFS, it tends to be some kind of virus, bacteria, infection, inoculation, or some kind of medical procedure that can then trigger this over response. All of these factors then come together to then create the vicious cycle. Now, before you kick off the next slide, what I was going to add is that when these factors come together, generally our immune system is compromised, because we know that through psychoneuroimmunology, when we were exposed to acute or chronic stress, that lowers the effectiveness of our immune system.

What that means is, when we have that mold exposure or chemical exposure, or even Lyme disease, the brain is even more prone to going into this hyper defense mode because it thinks, “Oh, dear, I’m being exposed to this biotoxin, yet I don’t know if I’m going to be successful in eradicating it from the body, or what impact it may have on me. Therefore, I must make a decision to literally bring in the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, I got to bring in all the resources of the body to defend against this. If we’re going to go with a theme, I’ve got to bring in Darth Vader, I’ve got to bring in Luke Skywalker, or I’ve got to bring in every potential person to help me fight this kind of biotoxin that’s arriving.”

Once there’s awareness of that biotoxin, the brain then makes that decision that “I must over respond.” That’s where that differential activation then kicks in. I believe this happens in those two brain structures, the amygdala and the insula, which you’ll now click on the next slide, please. I believe that there is trauma or conditioned responses that occur in the amygdala of the insula, two brain structures that we’ll talk about. Which decides to over trigger the sympathetic nervous system, the aspects of the immune system and the kind of allergy response. Which then creates the symptoms of mold or chemical exposures at number 6, which then feed back at number 8, to a sensitized brain. A highly sensitized brain takes in signals from the body as representations of whether we’re in danger. Detects those signals, which feed back to this hypersensitive brain at number 9.

The brain says, “Yes, I knew it. I knew we were in danger. Look at the physical response that I’m getting. This is further indication that we are in danger. Let me trigger sympathetic arousal or immune dysfunction.” We get into that vicious cycle. Then the external trigger on the right-hand side, when we are exposed to even mild forms of mold, which the average person would not respond to, once again that triggers the response. And then that trigger generalizes to, as we said, a whole range of different biotoxins. Then people even notice they become more sensitive to stress, stressful people, stressful situations, life in general. Number 5. Then as you can see at the bottom, they can be general secondary illness cycles that can occur, according to each person’s genetic and physiological vulnerabilities. So why does each patient have a unique set of symptoms, if this is the same illness?

It’s because actually the illness is not defined by the symptomatology. The illness is defined by what is the unique pattern of vulnerabilities that each patient has. Someone may have a lot more fibromyalgia with mold, or they may have a lot more mold symptoms with fatigue. It all is a collection of different symptoms, depending on the nature of this vicious cycle and the nature of the unique stress signature. In my hypothesis in 2002, I called it a stress signature, which essentially meant, what is the unique pattern of nervous system and your immune response based on the original conditioning event, the original sensitizing event.

Dr. Sandeep Gupta

You can see the similarities here to Dr. Shoemaker’s diagram, which he calls the biotoxin pathway.

Where again, he’s got the external trigger on one side, but he’s focusing more, you could say on the inflammation piece. You could say, with the different proteins and so on, which are released. I think what’s happening here is you’re focusing in on a different part of the process that hasn’t been brought to light as much, until now. It’s clearly very, very important, at least in some patients, maybe it’s in all patients with these conditions. I don’t know.

Ashok Gupta

What we’re doing is, we are looking at every illness from many layers. Traditional medicine looks at it, purely the physical layer, the measurement layer.

But each illness we know, has an emotional and mental component. A conditioned opponent, even a spiritual component.

It’s all at the different layers of which we kind of observe these conditions.

I also wanted to add that the neuroinflammation is very important within this. We know from the NeuroQuant and the work that you’ve been doing, that there’s high levels of inflammation in the amygdala, the thalamus, the anterior cingulate, all of these structures which are involved in modulating defense responses. The very response itself feeds back to the brain, and causes those modulating structures to also become inflamed and not be able to fulfill their role of inhibiting these systems.

Dr. Sandeep Gupta

I think Dr. Dietrich Klinghardt made the point of, in some of his lectures, that the more holistic you are, meaning the more layers at which you address your illness, the more long lasting and satisfactory your healing is likely to be. Therefore, I feel the fact that Ashok is bringing in this other layer, into looking at mold and CIRS, is going to help us to get more long lasting healing result, than just focusing on the physical layer.

Ashok Gupta

We’re moving towards this idea that, even the idea of mental and emotional, isn’t quite accurate, what it actually is, is hardware versus software.

Hardware is measurable changes in the body. Say, “Right, that hormone has gone up, let’s put it down. That neurotransmitter has changed, let’s change this.” It’s operating on the micro-reductionist level, but the software is really where the issue lies. These modern illnesses that medicine can’t treat, is because medicine is designed to treat hardware problems, not software problems. When there’s a software problem, it then creates all kinds of challenges and all kinds of symptoms in a multi-system approach in effect. We want to retrain that software. It’s like rebooting the computer, so it goes back to its default settings.

0:23:03 – Mold illness/CIRS observations

Dr. Sandeep Gupta

Just talking a little bit about the fact that when we look at brain scanning on patients with mold illness or CIRS, the predominant thing we find is that they’ve got a very inflamed brain. That particularly pertains to a certain area, which Ashok also already mentioned, particularly including the amygdala, thalamus and anterior cingulate area. There can also be atrophy, meaning shrinkage of other areas as well, and in some cases, this can result in a whole range of cognitive deficits. Brain fog is extremely common. The brain generalizes that stimuli, that indicate the presence of a dangerous chemical. Can you explain that statement a little bit more, Ashok?

Ashok Gupta

As I’d mentioned earlier, what happens is there are quick and dirty circuits in the brain, in the unconscious brain, in the limbic system, which essentially mean that it generalizes stimuli and that mental map, and we talked about that the map is not the territory. It generalizes stimuli to indicate danger. Even if that original mold isn’t there, but when you first stepped into that house, there was, say, a fragrance of something else, it will then make the connection and say, “Right, we need to respond to everything that reminds us of mold.” Then even a fragrance that’s nothing to do with the original sensitizing event, the brain might think, “You know what? That’s a danger. Let me respond to that as well.”

Dr. Sandeep Gupta

As you say, it crosses over with a range of other conditions, such as chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, Lyme and tick-borne disease in general. Sometimes you can’t actually really clearly differentiate these syndromes based on the symptoms. They’re that similar. Would you say that that relates to the fact that their physiology and the brain chemistry is very similar?

Ashok Gupta

Yes. We call all of these conditions NICS, neuro-immune conditioned syndromes. So neuro because they involve the nervous system and the brain. Immune because there’s some kind of hyperimmune response or deficit. Conditioned because the brain has become trained to respond as a protective response. And syndrome because it’s a unique collection of symptoms based on the vulnerabilities. Therefore, when we are looking at these illnesses, what we’re really saying is it’s the same underlying illness, but there is a unique set of symptoms. So, that’s more pain: Okay, that’s fibromyalgia. That’s more fatigue: Okay, that’s CFS. That’s more response to biotoxins: Right, that’s mold and CIRS. So ultimately, the underlying cause is what we’re trying to get to rather than the symptoms.

Dr. Sandeep Gupta

This is a really important part, I think. The detoxification systems of the body, which are obviously responsible for getting rid of foreign substances and metabolites, shut down during a severe sympathetic response. This relates to the fact that certain parts of the brain, the sympathetic centers of the brain, are being activated, and that has a negative effect on the detoxification systems. What would you say is the biggest effect of that, Ashok?

Ashok Gupta

Well, there can certainly be heavy metal build-up. There can be biotoxin build-up. There can be measurable increases in things that represent mold in the body. Once again, sometimes we create this dichotomy of the medical versus the brain and actually, these things which are measured within the body are as a result of the brain overstimulating that sympathetic response. That can magnify the brain’s feeling of danger, where it’s saying, “Not only am I being bombarded by external stimuli, but actually, I can detect that the body itself is not able to detoxify these biotoxins. Therefore, I must stimulate even more of a danger response,” which then creates another vicious cycle. So there’s little sub cycles of vicious cycles going on.

Dr. Sandeep Gupta

That’s a little aha thing for me, because even in functional medicine, the way we think about detoxification is very much based on different physical nutrients and how well they’re functioning, various biochemical pathways and so on, including glutathione and so on. But here, what you’re saying is there’s such a direct interaction between brain functioning and those physical biochemical pathways that it really highlights the fact that they’re totally intertwined.

Ashok Gupta

Yes, exactly. I totally support people taking supplements and medications to improve detoxification, but ultimately, our bodies are its best own detoxifier. Nothing that I’ve seen so far can detoxify as effectively as our own bodies. We just need to put our bodies in the right state of being, which is stimulating the parasympathetic response, which is the rest, heal and digest and detoxify system stimulating the vagus nerve, all of those systems that enable our bodies to come back to its normal state of balance.

Dr. Sandeep Gupta

Right, and that’s one of the important roles of brain retraining, I presume, is to bring back that balance again to that autonomic nervous system. So that’s great. Can you talk a little bit about this, the difference between peripheral sensitization versus centralized sensitization?

Ashok Gupta

There’s quite a bit of controversy about this. For me, there are some people who believe that there’s a cell danger response, let’s say, where cells at the peripheral level are making their own unique decisions as to whether to go into this defense mode, to kind of close up, for the mitochondrion to not function effectively versus the model that I’m describing is a more centralized model where the brain itself and certain brain structures are instructing the rest of the body. It is both/and, but ultimately, where is that intelligence that coordinates how the cells respond? I don’t believe necessarily that the cells communicate with each other in a mysterious way. I believe it is the nervous system and that centralized signaling which enables a coordinated defense response. I just want to say that from our view, in our hypothesis, there is peripheral effects, but that is always coordinated with the brain itself.

Dr. Sandeep Gupta

Okay, great. Then could you talk a little bit about the difference between local and global inflammation?

Ashok Gupta

Let’s take the example of fibromyalgia. Often, it starts in a localized place where someone starts with an injury somewhere in their body after some kind of incident, it might be an accident or whatever. Once again, may be a localized response, but then when the brain detects that localized response, it then thinks, “Oh, we’re still in danger. Something is going very badly here. I must send much more inflammation to that part of the body.” When that doesn’t fix it, the system then switches to that generalized inflammation. It starts inflaming the entire body, the entire brain, because those inhibition systems have completely shut down. Once again, from a reductionist point of view, there is a local part of the body deciding on its levels of inflammation, but really, once again, it’s centralized.

0:30:38 – Brain areas affected by biotoxins/Mold including limbic system and insular

Dr. Sandeep Gupta

All right. We move on to this diagram now. Would you mind talking a little bit around that?

Ashok Gupta

I could spend the next 40 minutes explaining what’s here. But the only reason I bring this diagram up is because this is a map of how internal signals such as pain interact with the brain. We can see it’s very complex. It’s a very, very complex system of things, and we’re only beginning to really understand how it essentially works. But if we go to the next slide, then I kind of stylize this process for us.

So we have the amygdala, which are two almond-shaped structures that sit behind our eyes, and they’re our defensive structures. They create the emotional or danger responses, the fight or flight response, the fight, freeze and flight response. They’re also responsible and involved in immune responses and nervous system responses. It’s essentially our, I’d say the military general that decides where we need to defend. The insula is the part of the brain that kind of sits just above the limbic system, it’s not technically part of the limbic system, and it monitors the body, decides whether we’re in danger, not in danger, decides what the appropriate response is, in terms of autonomic and immune responses, to maintain homeostasis. Now, it has many functions, but that’s one of its major functions in what we’re talking about here.

These parts of the brain don’t differentiate between physical threats, emotional threats, immunological threats. The brain simply cares about survival. I think that then becomes very, very important when we understand that when the brain is reacting to mold or it’s reacting to this, that, and the other, we become aware of that feeling of vulnerability that accompanies it. There is a little speck of anxiety or sometimes major anxiety that accompanies our reactions and that’s simply because the brain creates a coordinated response to defend us from danger. That emotional discomfort, that fight or flight, is because the brain is telling us, “Get out of here. Run away from here,” as well as the allergic response with the streaming of the eyes and the nose to try and remove the biotoxin from the system.

Dr. Sandeep Gupta

You’re saying that, for instance, when you have an emotional trauma that could be something as massive as being held up or a sexual trauma or whatever it might be, the physiology of that versus a physical trauma are very, very similar at the level of the amygdala and insula. Is that right?

Ashok Gupta

It’s not that they’re similar, but the processes might be similar, but the unique package of response will be unique to meet the danger. If the danger is a wild animal running towards you, more of the blood flow will go to the muscles in order to defend, right?

Dr. Sandeep Gupta

That’s still coordinated by the insula and the amygdala. But if the danger is suddenly a Lyme infection, then the similar pathways are used, but the unique package of response is different.

Ashok Gupta

It always involves emotional, physical, the different layers. Yeah.

Dr. Sandeep Gupta

Would you mind talking around this particular diagram?

Ashok Gupta

This is just showing us roughly where these kinds of brain structures are. You can see, some of them in the limbic system, some of them in the cortex, and they have a coordinated response. A lot of these structures, including the amygdala and insula, what they want to do is take in the data from the external world and the internal world, interpret it, and then decide the appropriate response. This is where the mistakes start happening.

This is just showing us more of where these things are. We’ve already been through this in terms of the role of the insula and the amygdala. So we can go on to the next one. The anterior cingulate is interesting. That’s also inflamed, I believe, in the NeuroQuant research that you’ve been doing.

The anterior cingulate is very much involved in attention, present moment attention. It also is involved in autonomic functions, processing of stimuli. But the main thing that we can talk about here is, it’s part of the inhibition network. So inhibition means holding back the system from overresponding. If it’s neuroinflamed, once again, it may compromise its ability to inhibit this overstimulation of the nervous system and immune system

0:35:31 – Mold Illness/CIRS/NICS hypothetical model

Ashok Gupta

This is a stylized model of what may be happening here. All of these brain structures are communicating with each other constantly, all with a kind of unique role. There can be signals that come in, perhaps if it’s in terms of a smell, it could be through the olfactory bulb, and it could be other ways that the body is sensing those mold toxins. That sensory data enters all of these different structures who then literally talk to each other to decide what to do. Once again, in normal circumstances, they would recognize the level of threat that’s posed and create an appropriate response, which might be a very mild defensive response. We know the training in the amygdala and insula then means that there is an overresponse.

There are inhibition channels here. So some of the internal signals at the bottom, symptoms of fatigue, pain, et cetera, they enter through two brain structures in the brainstem called the periaqueductal gray and the parabrachial nucleus. Those structures then release that data to the thalamus and directly to the amygdala and that’s where the coordination of the different responses occurs. Now, there are inhibition signals that say, “Hey, brain, stop over-triggering these responses from the prefrontal cortex back to the periaqueductal gray and parabrachial nucleus.” Sorry, I’m using some complicated terms here. It just gives you an overall view to say, “Stop throwing all these signals up. You’re overstimulating the number of signals.” The amygdala could also inhibit the number of signals.

If the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex and the insula can no longer perform this modulating role, and we see that the number of signals from the internal viscera and the external environment just overwhelm the brain. I’m sure people who have these illnesses, and I experienced it when I was ill, it’s like, you can feel that you are constantly being bombarded with information about the environment, about what you can smell. We become hypervigilant unconsciously. Sometimes we may even not be hypervigilant, but then walk into a space and suddenly have this huge reaction, when nobody else is having a reaction. It’s all down to these brain structures creating this survival response.

Just to let you know, the hippocampus is our short-term memory and processing. That can actually be damaged in severe stress. The hippocampus may bring up memories of when we last were exposed to mold or the original mold exposure and signal to the amygdala that, “This is dangerous because last time it was dangerous and the time before it was dangerous and the time before it was dangerous. Therefore, this is the right thing to do.”

Dr. Sandeep Gupta

The obvious thing that’s coming into my head here, Ashok, is that many patients with these kind of illnesses have been told that it could be in their head, right?

Sometimes that can create a little bit of a resistance to taking this on board. But in a sense, what you’re saying is it’s not imaginary. It’s not in their head in an imaginary sense. It’s in their head in a very real, physical way. Is that right?

Ashok Gupta

I would describe as it’s not in the mind, it’s in the brain, two very, very different ways of looking at things. When people say, “Oh, it’s all in the mind,” they’re accusing patients of making it up, imagining it, or worrying so much that more signals are coming up. That is not the case. It’s in the unconscious brain. When these processes occur, it’s totally unconscious. We’re not aware of what’s going on, and these systems are generally unconscious.

With brain retraining, what we’re looking to do is bring these unconscious processes to conscious awareness so that we can do something about it because there’s always a safety valve there. I want people to know, that it’s a subtlety here so important, this is not in the mind, it is not in the head. It is in the brain. It’s a dysfunction in the brain. It’s a physiological response. These are all real physical illnesses with real physical symptoms. We’ve got tons of data on the physiological, measurable effects. Don’t let anyone say, “It’s in the mind.” It’s in the brain, but there are things we can do about it.

I think we described the conditioning in the brain. I just want to just add here the kind of evidence that we have in terms of increases and decreases in certain kind of gray matter, increases and decreases in the volume. The amygdala is uncertain because it starts off smaller but will actually increase in size with these types of illnesses. There can be a kind of mixed bag of information there as well. We’ve also already talked about the inflammation that we see.

Dr. Sandeep Gupta

If you have someone who has a shrunken amygdala versus a enlarged amygdala, how do you feel that that will relate to how their brain dysfunction is working?

Ashok Gupta

In these situations, we know that people who’ve been exposed to trauma and adverse childhood experiences are more likely to have a shrunken amygdala, which is counterintuitive in some ways. But it’s recognizing that although the amygdala is our danger response, it also moderates and inhibits response. It’s attempting to create the appropriate response. If it’s shrunk, it can no longer perform that role effectively. Then when it’s being used more, when there’s more danger signals and more things to sort out, it then enlarges. People may have a predisposition to a smaller amygdala, but then it may increase in volume when these kinds of experiences occur.

The more important thing is the increased activity. That’s more important than the size with these particular conditions.

There’s been some really interesting EEG studies from Stanford doctors in the delta wave function. They did a lot of research on patients with ME/CFS and they found that their brains were functioning as if they were in deep sleep, in delta wave sleep, which explains a lot of the brain fog and the malfunctions that people experience and that the sleepiness and the inability to have full cognitive function. It’s because the brain is so exhausted from overstimulation it is showing aspects of delta wave function, which I found really fascinating.

In animal studies, this is really, really fascinating, which reinforced our hypothesis, what they found is that they gave rats sweet water with an immunosuppressant. They repeated that process four or five times, and obviously, each time the rat’s immune system was reduced. Then they gave the rats just sweet water by itself, and guess what happened. The rat’s immune system reduced. There was conditioning or learning in the system as a way of efficiently responding to the environment. When they did the studies, they found that the amygdala and the insula were the two core structures that defined this particular immunological response, which is fascinating.

Although it’s difficult to do that in human beings, but we know from animal studies that those are the structures that are involved, which is incredible. We’ve always thought of the hypothalamus as the kind of master gland that triggers these responses, but the hypothalamus takes instructions from the amygdala and the insula as to what is the appropriate response. In fact, it shouldn’t be called the HPA axis. It actually should be called the amygdala insula hypothalamus pituitary adrenal axis, actually in terms of the flow of information

0:44:02 – Using NeuroQuant (MRI) to see brain changes in CIRS

Dr. Sandeep Gupta

That’s a really important piece right there. Do you want to very quickly just cover the NeuroQuant examples of what a NeuroQuant may look like in a patient with mold illness or CIRS? As Ashok mentioned before, some of these key areas here, such as the thalamus, amygdala and hippocampus, are often swollen or hypertrophied in patients with CIRS. There may be many other abnormalities in other brain areas, but really, he’s just pointing out the importance of these areas as to this process of brain activation that’s keeping this process going on. Would you say that someone who’s showing these signs, that they’ve got hypertrophied amygdala and thalamus and perhaps hippocampus, these would be people who would be particularly benefited by doing brain retraining?

Ashok Gupta

At the moment, I don’t think there’s enough evidence to say that X plus Y equals Z. That just because they have this, they necessarily have it. It’s a strong indicator that there’s neuroinflammation, which is a strong indicator that there’s overstimulation of it.

Dr. Sandeep Gupta

Certainly you couldn’t say it the other way around, that if you’re not seeing that there’s a major hypertrophy there that you’re not going to benefit from brain retraining.

Ashok Gupta

Exactly. I think it’s still early days for this kind of research, but I certainly find it fascinating. I want to learn more about it myself. I think what I’ve learned in this is that no two patients are the same. No two patients show exactly the same pattern in terms of inflammation, neuroinflammation, but there are themes that come through.

0:45:53 – NCIS hypothetical model / Amygdala as the smoke alarm / Neuroplasticity

Ashok Gupta

Basically, what this is about is that inhibition system, the brain retraining is designed to create inhibition in terms of the number of chemical signals that are entering your olfactory bulb, and then stimulating these different brain structures, as well as an overall relaxation of the brain, retraining of the amygdala, so the amygdala is able to stop the number of signals that are being received. These are just some of the pathways that may bring the system back to balance.

It’s the idea of it’s like a smoke alarm. You burn your toast and there’s all this smoke going up there. The alarm believes that there is a fire, right? Now can you have smoke without fire? Well actually, yes, you can have smoke without fire. And this is the equivalent of what the brain is doing. It’s learnt that smoke is dangerous and keeps over responding.

Dr. Sandeep Gupta

The analogy would here would be an environment, for instance. If someone’s going into an environment with a small degree of mold, that could then trip the smoke alarm, is that the analogy that you’re making?

Ashok Gupta

Exactly. For the brain burning toast is the same as the house burning down.

Dr. Sandeep Gupta

Therefore, even minor stimuli can still trigger the amygdala to have these conditioned responses. That’s what we’re trying to address with this brain retraining.

Ashok Gupta

Yeah. I always share this story. It’s a picture of the last Japanese soldier taken off duty after the Second World War. Now, what year would you imagine this is?

Dr. Sandeep Gupta

’42, it would be?

Ashok Gupta

Believe it or not, the last Japanese soldier was taking off commission 1974! 30 years later. Now what’s incredible about this story is there was an island in the South Pacific, Japanese controlled, and these soldiers had been posted there in the ’40s. Even though the war was over, they didn’t believe the war was over. They’re, “No, we’ve got to defend this island.” If there were planes going overhead, they’d thought that was the enemy. Because that’s what they’d been taught to do. They become hyper-traumatized by war. It was only when their senior generals came to the island and said, “Look, the war is definitely over. You don’t have to fight this war anymore.” Did they finally believe the generals. In the same way, our brain, our conscious mind, some of the structures we use is like the general coming to the unconscious mind, the amygdala, and saying, “Hey, the war’s over. There’s no need to defend anymore.”

I just want to emphasize to everybody that what we’re not saying is, “Chemicals are good. Mold is good.” We live in an overt, toxic environment. That is for sure. But there’s a difference between reducing our overall chemical exposures, that’s a good thing, versus this overreaction. I feel that a lot of the support groups and intentions practitioners have got these two things confused.

That we want to bring our responses back to an appropriate level, whilst living a low tox life. It’s good to lead a low tox life, but it’s not good to have an inhibited life where you can’t live a normal life because even small bits of things are causing these overreactions. I just want to emphasize that difference.

Dr. Sandeep Gupta

I think that’s really important and we really want to get to the stage where we’re able to live full lives and we’re still really avoiding an excess of toxins in our house. That may be by various means. Maybe we decide to build a home that has specific safeguards in it for mold. Then we should be able to then not react to minor little exposures in our daily life. We want to be able to get back to that stage where we have a degree of resilience. Is that what you’re saying, Ashok?

Ashok Gupta

Exactly. So that we can go to a supermarket, we can visit a friend who perhaps has a bit of mold in the house, but we don’t have a reaction. At the same time, lead a good low tox life and not have to have so many chemicals in our homes, which is a generally good thing to do.

Dr. Sandeep Gupta

Yeah, absolutely. Would you like to talk a little bit about the neuroplasticity approach?

Ashok Gupta

The neuroplasticity approach basically says our brains are not fixed. Up to the ’70s and ’80s, they used to believe that the brain we were born with and what we learnt in the first 10 years of life, that’s the way it’s going to be forever. Suddenly there was a lot more research into how the brain is constantly evolving and changing. Those hundred billion neurons are constantly rewiring themselves depending on our exposures to life, and our situations we’re in, and even our genes.

They used to think our genes were fixed, and now they realize though epigenetics that actually our genes get switched on and off, depending on our interactions with our environment, our behaviors, and our emotions. Therefore what it means is that just because we responded to mold yesterday, and last week, and last year, it doesn’t mean we’re going to respond to it tomorrow.

The brain is our servant. The brain does what it thinks is best to protect us and heal us, it’s on our side. It’s just that it’s been given instructions from a year ago or five years ago when there was an exposure and it’s still responding to those instructions. What the neuroplasticity approach says is, “Let’s update the brain with new information. Let’s retrain it that we’re no longer in danger.”

Dr. Sandeep Gupta

That’s a really, a very hopeful statement for many people with these conditions, that things can change. Would you like to start talking a little bit about system of brain retraining and exactly how it will work?

Ashok Gupta

You can bring up the points on this page, thanks. In animal studies, it is shown that there are neurons that come from the prefrontal cortex directly to the amygdala and the insula to control and inhibit those over-responses. There are also neurons from the amygdala to the parabrachial nucleus to stop all this incoming stimuli from overwhelming the brain. Then there’s direct projections from the prefrontal cortex to the olfactory bulb. All of these structures can be inhibited through these brain rewiring type processes. I just wanted to briefly mention some of our research.

In our Gupta program, we have the three hours of recovery. The first is the brain retraining, and that’s the core unique part of the program. Which is all about recognizing the signals, that danger signals, and retrain the brain to think something different and do something different. The reason we use this dove is because how does a dove fly? A dove needs two wings and the tail feathers to give it a direction.

If you just do the retraining and you treat it like a boot camp, right? “Do this again, and again, and again, and again,” you’re only using one wing of recovery, but it’s important to balance it with relaxing the nervous system. Because when we have a more relaxed nervous system, the brain is more inherently flexible, and resilient, and more re-wirable. We know that for meditation and mindfulness studies as well. So that gives balance to the dove.

We also support the holistic way of living through relaxing the nervous system. Good sleep, good diet, exposure to daylight, good vitamin D/sunlight, being in nature. These all help the nervous system calm down and make the retraining more powerful and effective.

Finally, re-engaging with joy. You could be doing both of those things, but if you’re depressed and you haven’t reconnected with what brings you joy in life, or your purpose in life, you’re going to be going backwards. Our patients really love this idea of re-engaging with joy. That actually laughter, and smiling, and learning more about how to reduce stress, and putting a smile back on your face and enjoying things actually is an important part of long-term healing. These are the three Rs of the Gupta program.

0:54:50 – Current research studies on the amygdala and insular retraining in Fibromyalgia and CFS

Ashok Gupta

I’d like to share our latest clinical study (Sanabria-Mazo et al., 2020), which we’re excited about, which got published just a month or so ago in the Journal of Clinical Medicine, a really prestigious journal. This is as far as we know, well, we’re pretty sure this is the first randomized controlled trial ever published on a neuroplasticity limbic retraining type program. It’s a kind of world first.

We took a group of patients suffering from fibromyalgia, and we split them into two groups, randomized them. One group took the Gupta program and one group took relaxation techniques. This was an eight week intervention. Now obviously the Gupta program is up to six month intervention, or a minimum of six months, we encourage people to take. This was a short intervention of eight weeks. It was close to a 40% reduction in fibro scores in the Gupta program group, and 0% effect in the relaxation group, which is pretty incredible.

A 50% increase in perceived health, and a halving of anxiety and depression in the Gupta program group, but very small effects in the relaxation group. For us, this was a vindication of many years of research, many years of trying to get studies published, which really showed that just a short intervention can create this impact. If people continue for a minimum three to six months, it can keep going, the positive effects and keep manifesting.

It’s about that commitment. Because we want to retrain our brain like that and get back to normal life, but it doesn’t work like that. It requires persistence. Sometimes you’ll go back, a few steps back, or feel that you’ve gone back to the way it was before. It’s always recognizing that that day that you had the dip or the relapse was just when the brain got excited again and went back to its old groves. It doesn’t mean you’ve lost the retraining or the effect of the retraining. It’s get back with a horse and retrain.

You’ll fall off the horse. Or the baby learning to walk, it falls down, but it gets back up. Keeps walking, falls down, gets back up. The people who have the best recoveries are the ones who take that bit of advice and say, “No matter what happens, I’m going to keep going with this program and these practices until I get well. I’m not going to put a time limit on it. I’m not going to have an expectation.” We know from pain research that when people have an expectation, or an anticipation, or a want, that I want my pain to go away, that pain is less likely to go away because they are resisting their pain. That sense of acceptance, letting go, going with the flow, trusting and having faith in your recovery, is what really heals us from so many different conditions.

Dr. Sandeep Gupta

This is very, very encouraging to see that you’ve had this documented now in a reputable journal and seeing such significant effects.

Ashok Gupta

We hope to have larger scale studies. This is just a summary of some of the findings there. You can see how it compares to the control groups.

Dr. Sandeep Gupta

Yeah. That’s amazing. Yeah, this is not just marginal. This is massive.

Ashok Gupta

These are major effects. Even the researchers themselves in the paper said they were surprised at the magnitude of these changes after just eight weeks, which they did not expect when we they commissioned the study. In any case, a halving of anxiety and depression in and of itself in any intervention is quite impressive. It was also hats off to the team who deliver the treatment to really encourage the patients to make sure they were doing it properly.

We would love to get large scale phase three trials. Our aim is to have a few hundred in each group, which then becomes the definitive treatment to say, “Look, this works. This is what should be embedded in mainstream medicine now.” Our aim is not to hold on to this. We don’t want to be the Gupta Program, and this is what we are. We want to have this open source.

Once we show this in a larger scale study, we want to educate health professionals who are already treating these kinds of patients and show them the tools. Say, “Look use this with clients, see how it goes.” Just spread this knowledge to everybody. We don’t want to hold on to ourselves, because there’s too many people out there who are suffering.

Dr. Sandeep Gupta

Absolutely. Presumably if you’re doing all of the other things, as you say, you’re avoiding mold, you’re taking the binders, et cetera. It may well be that you’re going to get an even more effective response. Would you say?

Ashok Gupta

Definitely. We aren’t dogmatic to say it’s only doing this. If there are other treatments, like the great stuff that you provide. It’s perfectly okay to do the two things side by side. When you get physically better from the things that you’re describing, that in itself retrains the brain. When you retrain the brain that reduces the sensitivity in the body, which allows more of the supplements and medications to have the effect without having a reaction to them. So the two things definitely are symbiotic.

Dr. Sandeep Gupta

Did you want to talk about this earlier trial (Toussaint et al., 2012) as well, Ashok?

Ashok Gupta

This was an earlier very small scale trial that was done in, I think 2012. This was also .showed some similar results. The difference here was that this was where the Gupta Program was delivered by non-Gupta Program practitioners. It was delivered by their own practitioners. Obviously that’s not going to have a similar effect, whereas in the Spanish study, the latest one, it was someone trained by me personally that was delivering the treatment. Therefore it has a much better effect.

Dr. Sandeep Gupta

Did actually do some brain scanning in this previous study, is that right?

Ashok Gupta

Not in the Tucson one, but in the one that’s just been published, we actually looked at inflammatory markers, which is very interesting.

What we found was that many of the inflammatory markers, they did reduce, but they weren’t statistically significant. There was a reduction in the Gupta Program group versus the control group. When it came to BDNF, that’s brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), that particular chemical often in fibromyalgia is elevated. There was a statistically significant change. In the control group, it remained the same, but in the active Gupta Program group, there was a significant reduction in BDNF, which approached normal levels. Which was very interesting. We now have also a biomarker that was showing that the Gupta Program was having an effect at that level.

Dr. Sandeep Gupta

Then this was your 2010 study?

Ashok Gupta

This was a small clinical audit that we performed on 33 patients. We found that 80 to 90% of patients improved. Two thirds of patients reached the 80 to a 100% recovery within one year. They’d been ill for on average 10.5 years.

Dr. Sandeep Gupta

Wow. So these studies are all very, very encouraging. That this type of brain training does have a role in these kinds of chronic fatiguing illnesses. It’s certainly my hope that they get noticed by the mainstream more and more.

Ashok Gupta

Absolutely. This is all about how we structure medicine. As an example, one of my favorite studies I like to quote is a 2015 Harvard study, which should have been front page news around the world. They found that they followed 5,000 people on their usage of medical facilities for one year, how many times they visit the doctor, how many times they visited the hospital. They then taught them relaxation techniques and meditation, and then followed them for another year. They learnt was meditation and a few things around resilience, but mainly it was meditation. They found there was a 42% reduction in their usage of medical facilities.

Now imagine if we came up with a pill that reduced the usage of medical facilities by 42%, it would be the miracle drug of the 21st century. Every doctor’s office would be prescribing it to every single person, and it also has no side effects, and increases your happiness, and wellbeing, and peace of mind as the extra side effects. It’s incredible. That was a Harvard published study with 5,000 people.

Not a single news outlet that I saw actually published this in the mainstream. Because the way we structure medicine is all about you get ill, you see somebody, they fix it for you. Rather than preventative healthcare.

Even just based on that one study, we can see that just regular meditation has such a profound effect on the body and heals us from so many different conditions.

Dr. Sandeep Gupta

Absolutely. I mean, it’s extremely powerful. I think there’ve been studies that have looked at the size of various brain areas as well, just on general meditation, and found that it can have an effect on the hippocampus and so on. Meditation is powerful. There’s no doubt about it.

Ashok Gupta

There are 30 genes that change epigenetically, the ones they’ve mapped so far. Their gene expression changes and generally reduces the inflammation. Their genes that are increasing inflammation, meditation reduces those

1:04:35 – Future research studies on The Gupta Program

Dr. Sandeep Gupta

Would you like to talk a little bit about the future and what you guys are planning in terms of further research?

Ashok Gupta

As mentioned, we’d love to do some larger scale trials. And at the moment we are actively recruiting for post-COVID long haul trialing.

So We are actively now treating people who’ve got the long haul. For people who don’t know, there are many people who contract COVID-19, about 2 to 5% of people go on to still have symptoms three to six months later. We believe a similar process is going on in the brain. There may also be some lung scarring or some breathing difficulties as added complications, but essentially the underlying processes as a result of all the anxiety of COVID-19, and once you’ve contracted it, the anxiety of whether it’s going to affect you at a serious level, can then combine to create these conditioned responses.

We already had a lady who contracted COVID-19 in the first week of March in Paris, and she was bed bound for four months. She no longer tested positive for the condition, but she was still bed bound in late July. She used our program and within six weeks she was walking five kilometers a day. We’re looking to now do a trial. If there are people out there who want to work with us on a COVID-19 trial, for long haulers we’re actively recruiting for that kind of treatment.

Certainly for mold illness, and CIRS, and mass cell activation, we’d love to do some clinical trials that may involve not only subjective outcomes, but also objective outcomes in terms of brain scans, biomarkers. We think that this could be a really ground-breaking research. We’re always looking to collaborate with people on that.

Dr. Sandeep Gupta

I’m more than happy to help. If we can, with our thousands of patients here in Australia be of assistance, I think that would be great to be able to document the effects of this specifically, in CIRS.

Ashok Gupta

Yeah, absolutely. It helps people in terms of their belief. If people can see, look, there is published evidence on this, and you can see that people are getting better. Then that means that not only will they believe more in their own recovery, but they will engage with your treatment protocol more, they engage with keeping up the persistence of the brain re-training, knowing that this is now validated rather than just trusting success stories. Actually having the fibro study has been great because now patients can see that it’s not just trying the Gupta Program, it’s putting it into practice. Now if you put it into practice, we already have this type of result.

Dr. Sandeep Gupta

Possibly that it may even help with the mainstream accepting CIRS more, the fact that it’s had a large trial of treatment and then that also helped to substantiate the condition more, which is still not well-recognized despite the many, many studies on it already.

Ashok Gupta

It’s really sad that the mainstream profession is not taking this seriously. They don’t take it seriously often because they don’t have a way of treating it. When they don’t have a way of treating it, they don’t feel they have an investment in actually fully understanding it and doing the research on it.

Especially because it’s not necessarily life-threatening, or kind of how those kind of long-term effects. That’s where unfortunately, it passes through the cracks. It’s great that people yourself are doing the great work you’re doing to really bring hope and healing to these masses of patients who aren’t being looked after.

Question & Answer

1:08:29 – Does the Gupta Program replace medical treatment?

Dr. Sandeep Gupta

Would you say, and I think you’ve probably already covered this one to some degree, does it replace mold illness or CIRS medical treatment? The Gupta program.

Ashok Gupta

It’s an adjunct to [medical treatment]. We want the body to detoxify. No doubt. Now, as we said, there are various things that you can do in terms of the binders that you can support the body’s detoxification. At the same time, the body is its best own detoxifier. You can do both of those things in parallel and that’s absolutely fine.

1:09:11 – Can the Gupta Program and mold avoidance coexist?

Dr. Sandeep Gupta

The second question, which is I think quite linked, is, Ashok, how does this change the Shoemaker protocol and mold avoidance? I think it’s very linked and I understand what you’re saying, is that it’s still important to avoid mold toxins and to practice the physical parts. What you don’t want is for there to be a… how should we say, almost a fanatical emphasis on mold avoidance, is that correct?

Ashok Gupta

Yes. Let’s dive deep into this question, it’s very important. If we believe that we must 100% avoid any speck of mold in any environment we go into, what is it going to create within us? A huge amount of anxiety, a huge amount of hyper-vigilance, a huge amount of anticipation, which all is fully retraining the brain again, that we are in this dangerous environment, there’s a lack of safety, okay. What we encourage people to do is to use our program initially, whilst they’re avoiding mold, to strengthen the brain, to feel more confident about exposures. Once you’ve got to a certain stage, when you feel ready, you then very gently expose yourself to environments where previously you would have had a reaction.

You may go into that environment and have no reaction, because the brain’s been retrained, or you might have a mild reaction. At that point, we give people tools and say, “Right, if that happens, then use this tool or this tool, see which tool helps the whole system calm down, then a day later expose again, very mildly.” Through that repeated exposure, through the calming, the brain gets the message that I can be in these environments without having to react in this way, yeah. It’s mold avoidance initially, whilst we’re brain retraining and strengthening the system, and then gradual exposure to the point at which we no longer have a reaction.

1:11:06 – Do you need to believe 100% that the Gupta Program will work?

Dr. Sandeep Gupta

The next question is from Adrienne: I did your program back in 2011, and the improvements have been long lasting. I also use a holistic approach, but I never could commit to the belief that I was going to a hundred percent heal. If I was to make it into a question, it would probably be “how important do you think that belief in healing is? And what role does that play in the healing process?”

Ashok Gupta

We could do a whole webinar on that, couldn’t we? I mean, as we know in medical trials, there is this thing called the placebo effect where 40% of patients in general, on average, get better even though they’re in the dummy group, the control group. That’s because when there is an anticipation that I may heal or may feel better, that in itself is a form of brain retraining, which relaxes the nervous system, brings in the detox, and brings in the parasympathetic system.

So belief is useful and powerful, but we don’t say with the Gupta Program that you’ve got to believe it a hundred percent and brainwash yourself. We say, suspend your skepticism, which is a different thing. Which says, okay, don’t do it one day and then judge it, and think, has it worked? Has it worked? Okay, do it again. Oh, has it worked? That’s like, you’ve got a scar on your hand and it’s healing, but every day you keep picking at the scar going, is it working? Is it working? I trust and faith that I’m on the right path if I continue with the tools, this will heal eventually, is enough, and only judge it after six months.

Answering Adrienne’s question, I’m not saying that you don’t have belief, but I would just say, keep going, just have that trust that one day you will get a hundred percent better, and we’ve seen it time and time again in our clinic. Never give up. It is possible, because once again, your brain is your servant. Your brain wants to do what is best for you. It’s just about finding the right key for the right lock, to unlock it and get it back to balance.

Dr. Sandeep Gupta

She’s just posted a follow-up comment saying thanks, Ashok, for persevering, despite all the controversy around brain retraining. It does certainly help, maybe time to try again

Ashok Gupta

You’ve had those improvements before, and since 2011, we’ve really advanced our program. It’s a lot more different, it’s got some new things in there. Perhaps now with the new program, there’ll be some extra things you can learn.

1:13:42 – Laughter yoga

Dr. Sandeep Gupta

Ashok, your opinion please. I recently did a laughter yoga course, I found it to be another great way to focus, retrain, and relearn our joy. Do you recommend laughter yoga?

Ashok Gupta

I recommend laughter yoga every day. Yes, absolutely. And you know, there’s a lot of science around this. You may remember that famous Doctor Patch Adams who healed lots of patients in a hospital just through the power of-

Dr. Sandeep Gupta

I met him actually, several years ago. He came to Byron Bay, Australia.

Ashok Gupta

Incredible. Laughter has a really profound, physiological effect on us. It releases endorphins, it relaxes the nervous system, it switches off cortisol, it just is incredible. The way that we can integrate this into our lives is find your favorite comedy or stand-up comedian, and don’t laugh like a Brit, which is like, “Oh, ha ha,” but laugh like an American, “Ha ha ha!” You know, a big heaving laugh.

You will find that just by deliberately and artificially laughing at the comedies you love watching, you will just feel so good. Then you’ll go to bed with that relaxed, nervous system. You’ll have great sleep at night, and you’ll feel great the next day. So laughter yoga, especially in the evening, is so powerful.

1:15:04 – Mass cell activation and brain activation

Dr. Sandeep Gupta

Ashok, could you talk a little bit about the connection between mass cell activation and brain activation? It appears that it, particularly in the more sensitive patients with CIRS and mold illness, they tend to have a combination of two. Do you have a sense of which is the chicken and which is the egg?

Ashok Gupta

You know, at this stage, I think it’s too early to say. As you say, there’s an interaction of all these different systems. We describe it as an overall reactivity of the immune system, but if we boil it down to what is causing what, I think for me, it’s very difficult to unpick at this stage.

Dr. Sandeep Gupta

You still certainly recommend that people go along with treatment for mass cell activation at the same time as doing brain retraining, for instance?

Ashok Gupta

Yes. There are some practitioners who, when they have a patient coming in, they think, actually, before we can do anything with this patient, they need to do some brain retraining just to calm the overall system. Because anything we give this person, they’re going to react to it because they’re highly, highly sensitive. Sometimes the treatment can come before, sometimes it comes afterwards, sometimes it’s just in parallel.

What I want people to really understand, what I’d love for you to understand, is these hypotheses are not mutually exclusive, that is the point. They’re looking at this illness just from slightly different angles, in terms of one side is looking at an underlying condition response, which originally caused it. Another way of looking at it is the physiological responses, and how they can be moderated, and how there can be supplementation to support. They all have their place in some shape or form.

1:16:53 – Vagus nerve and brain retraining / Can left and right amygdala have different levels of impairment?

Dr. Sandeep Gupta

Could you talk a little bit about the role of vagus nerve activation, and does your brain retraining program include, or as a side effect, vagus nerve activation?

Ashok Gupta

You know, I’m going to say something controversial now, which is that there’s been so much talk about the vagus nerve and vagal activation, right? As if this vagus nerve is independently, and opportunistically impacting on the body with its own intelligence, without any connection to the rest of the brain. I find that fascinating, because actually the vagus nerve takes its cues from so many different brain structures, in terms of what is the appropriate response.

The vagus nerve is an integral part of our hypothesis. That when we breathe, when we meditate, and all of these other processes which can stimulate the vagus nerve, to stimulate our parasympathetic nervous system, which then enables detoxification and relaxation, there is many things that can support that. We know breathing and meditation can support the vagus nerve, we know cold water, so splashing cold water onto your face, or having a cold shower can stimulate the vagus nerve. There are also machines out there that connect to your ear, which are attempt to trigger the vagus nerve. There’s mixed results in studies around that.

Really what we’re saying is, when we are relaxed, when the brain is relaxed and retrained, the vagus nerve naturally gets stimulated. I’m not of the view that somehow the vagus nerve is operating independently and is something new. What we’re really saying is the brain is like a black box, but we can detect more about the vagus nerve, so let’s assume that the vagus nerve is the issue, and the vagus nerve is acting independently, all of its own intelligence. No, it is being signaled by the brain.

Could you talk a little bit about the role of vagus nerve activation, and does your brain retraining program include, or as a side effect, vagus nerve activation?

You know, I’m going to say something controversial now, which is that there’s been so much talk about the vagus nerve and vagal activation, right? As if this vagus nerve is independently, and opportunistically impacting on the body with its own intelligence, without any connection to the rest of the brain. I find that fascinating, because actually the vagus nerve takes its cues from so many different brain structures, in terms of what is the appropriate response.

The vagus nerve is an integral part of our hypothesis. That when we breathe, when we meditate, and all of these other processes which can stimulate the vagus nerve, to stimulate our parasympathetic nervous system, which then enables detoxification and relaxation, there is many things that can support that. We know breathing and meditation can support the vagus nerve, we know cold water, so splashing cold water onto your face, or having a cold shower can stimulate the vagus nerve. There are also machines out there that connect to your ear, which are attempt to trigger the vagus nerve. There’s mixed results in studies around that.

Really what we’re saying is, when we are relaxed, when the brain is relaxed and retrained, the vagus nerve naturally gets stimulated. I’m not of the view that somehow the vagus nerve is operating independently and is something new. What we’re really saying is the brain is like a black box, but we can detect more about the vagus nerve, so let’s assume that the vagus nerve is the issue, and the vagus nerve is acting independently, all of its own intelligence. No, it is being signaled by the brain.

They can definitely operate at different levels of impairment. There’s often right amygdala activation, left amygdala activation. Definitely there is people who go into the micro level of that, and can see the differences

Dr. Sandeep Gupta

Great, thank you. Very interesting response. Now from our good friend, Scott Forsgren, can one amygdala behave differently than the other, or be more impaired? Or do they commonly function at the same level of impairment?

Ashok Gupta

They can definitely operate at different levels of impairment. There’s often right amygdala activation, left amygdala activation. Definitely there is people who go into the micro level of that, and can see the differences

1:19:23 – Anxiety, panic attacks / Childhood trauma, somatic psychotherapy

Dr. Sandeep Gupta

Now, a couple from, Joey. My most major symptom is random anxiety and panic attacks, even if not being exposed to mold. Is this related to limbic system dysfunction?

Ashok Gupta

Yes. When the brain gets used to reacting in this way to external triggers, this once again goes back to the idea of differential activation, it will think about any little signal that reminds it of the last time there was an exposure. So when you had an exposure, there was probably some anxiety or some panic in that moment, so even whilst you’re not being exposed, any little signal in the body that I’m feeling a little anxious, or right now, I feel my heart rate gone up, that can trigger a vicious cycle of response. Where we detect heart rate increasing, or sweating, or feeling a little anxious, which tells the brain we’re in danger. The brain then says, we’re in danger, we need to trigger the danger response, which then creates more anxiety and panic, which feeds back to the brain. The brain says, aha, I knew it. I knew we were in danger because look at what’s going on in the body. It triggers more of that response. We get into a vicious cycle and spiral of panic. That’s a model for panic attacks.

Then there are people who breathe into paper bags, so we know that CO2 can actually decrease the panic and restore the breathing patterns. There are different things that we can do. Joey, I just want to say that when you’re having those panic attacks and anxiety, the most important thing to do is to not see danger in it. It’s like a fire, the fire is burning, and at that moment, there’s nothing you can do about it. You just have to allow the fire to burn out, of its own accord. Now what can help the fire burn out is for you to not get anxious about the anxiety. Don’t get panicked about the panic attack, let it burn out and accept, and say, as bad as this feels, it can’t do any harm to me. Let it burn out in its own shape and own way, and then it will go quicker.

We have a technique called soften and flow where people close their eyes, they might have severe anxiety in their body, they might have a panicky feeling. They just breathe slowly and deeply and say soften and flow, just imagining everything softening in their body, everything flowing like a flowing river. They find that then, anxiety and panic is able to dissolve away very fast.

Dr. Sandeep Gupta

Now just regarding talking a little bit about childhood trauma and mold. Some patients who have mold illness have very noticeable histories of childhood trauma. Would you say that after they’ve done brain retraining, is there a role for them to do things like somatic psychotherapy, or other techniques to actually physically reduce or expel the trauma from the body? Does that have a role, in your view?

Dr. Sandeep Gupta

It does, and so in our program, we do look at the legacy effects of childhood trauma. There’s two aspects of trauma. One is, there can be unresolved emotion, which gets stuck literally in the body. I mean, where do we experience anxiety, we experience it here. We don’t experience it here, we experience it here. It literally gets trapped in the energy centers of the body, that anxiety and that trauma.

Secondly, it creates strategies. What I mean by that is, there are behavioral responses, or thought patterns and beliefs that get developed as a result of adverse childhood experiences. Those we do deal with as part of the program, because we want people to stay well for the rest of their lives. They might retrain, but if they have, for instance, massive approval seeking and a lack of self-love, they will go back into the workplace or back into relationships, and have huge amounts of anxiety, which can re-trigger symptoms. That long-term awareness of the strategies the brain has come up with to deal with trauma, are things that we cover.

When it comes to trauma itself and releasing that, we say, first of all, go through the program. You don’t have to release that trauma necessarily to heal, because there are plenty of times in your life, before you had mold, where you had that trauma, but you didn’t have mold. The mold is simply a risk factor. It just increases the chances your brain will become conditioned. So retrain your brain, get back to health, and then look at dealing with the trauma. Now there are some minor cases where the trauma is so severe or it’s literally wanting to come out, that actually, it is the appropriate time to deal with that trauma, even now.

Dr. Sandeep Gupta

So you’re saying that by doing some brain retraining, people gain a level of greater resources to be able to then look at doing other practices too, to deal with their trauma in a more full sense. The two totally go together again. I think we’re going to wind up from questions and answers here. And I do really just want to wind up by saying, there really is a lot of hope here for anyone suffering from CIRS or mold illness, with all of these different holistic interventions. Whether it be brain retraining, or whether it be the physical program of the CIRS treatment protocol. There’s really many different options for people. It’s about finding the direction that you feel is going to be sustainable for you, if you like, to start with.

1:25:03 – About The Gupta Program and Mold Illness Made Simple

Dr. Sandeep Gupta

What I wanted to just emphasize is that we both have a course around this. The Gupta program is delivered over an online course, which can be done usually over six months. Is that correct, Ashok, or longer?

Ashok Gupta

Yes. Our program is an online interactive program and it’s got 15 interactive video sessions, audio exercises, and weekly webinars with myself. We hand-hold people through the experience and there’s also a support group where you can get support from other people who are going through the brain retraining.

What people can do, they can go to the website and sign up for free videos. When they get the free videos, you get to experience some free information about what causes the condition, and even once you purchase the program, we offer a one year money back guarantee on it. Because until we get that large phase three trial, we know that people have limited monetary capacity. If it doesn’t work after six months, you can return it. No questions asked, so we offer that. You can find more information at the website.

Dr. Sandeep Gupta

Just speaking very briefly about Mold Illness Made Simple, this is a course that’s been developed to really simplify all of the information around mold illness in general. Some of the things we’ve talked about today, such as what is inflammation, and why does this inflammation develop in people’s body? What the different mold toxins are, which different binders are useful for the different mold toxins? Really a range of other information.

Also looking at dealing with water-damaged buildings, how can we have a water-damaged building assessed? How can we have a building remediated? What are some of the pitfalls in the management of CIRS? All of these are covered in the Mold Illness Made Simple course. There are eight modules plus a bonus module as well. One of the bonus module lessons features brain retraining and the vagus nerve. That’s actually the longest module of the whole course at two hours.

Either way, what we’re saying here is whichever direction you’d like to go in. If you feel for yourself that you’d like to jump in and do the Gupta program, then as Ashok says, go and have a listen to the free videos that are on his site. And then if you decide you want to do that, use this coupon code, GUPTAEMPIRE, for 15% off. You’ll be thinking of us both and Darth Vader while doing so. The same offer is there for Mold Illness Made Simple.

If you think you want to actually go more on the medical side to start with, and really just get a good background in understanding all of the different facts around the illness and the toxins and so on, then we’re offering the same coupon code, GUPTAEMPIRE, for Mold Illness Made Simple.

The key is just finding the program that’s going to serve you the best. The same thing, we’re also recommending to work with a practitioner, at least one practitioner. Many people need a team of practitioners, Ashok has trained a number of different practitioners around the world who can help to deliver his program and support you through the process. And are the names of all of those practitioners available on theguptaprogram.com website?

The key is just finding the program that’s going to serve you the best. The same thing, we’re also recommending to work with a practitioner, at least one practitioner. Many people need a team of practitioners, Ashok has trained a number of different practitioners around the world who can help to deliver his program and support you through the process. And are the names of all of those practitioners available on theguptaprogram.com website?

Ashok Gupta

That’s correct, yes. So guptaprogram.com/coaches. We’ve got around 30 coaches now around the world, including Australia, America, Europe, and they can help tailor the program for a person’s personal circumstances. If somebody wants to even start with a coach right from the off, then that’s a good possibility as well. People use them flexibly.

Dr. Sandeep Gupta

Okay, great. Then if people want to look for a doctor or naturopath, you can also go to iseai.org. There’s a whole listing of practitioners there. That also includes indoor environmental professionals who can help you with remediating, and assessing your building.

I’d like to say a big thanks to Ashok Gupta, and also Caleb Rudd for technical support. Thank you everyone for joining us today. We hope that you found this webinar highly informative.

Ashok Gupta

I just wanted to add, just saying goodbye to everybody, that we started this thing off with Gupta Empire Strikes back from, obviously, Star Wars. The key message in Star Wars is use the force, right? So use the force. It’s this idea that within all of us is a powerful human spirit. That ability to overcome adversity, to overcome challenges and whatever challenges you’re going through now, however difficult this illness may seem, use the force. There is a way through this, connect with that powerful human spirit to say, I will not give into this. I will get better. I can do this.

Dr. Sandeep Gupta

Absolutely. Our best wishes to everyone who’s listened. And we hope you find the answers you’re looking for.