A collection of health and wellness book covers focusing on sleep, stress, detoxification, energy, maintaining health, and calming inflammation.

Identify Your Health Priority

Take Our FREE Assessment Today!

Season 4, Episode 1: Limbic System Reset with Dr. Neil Nathan

By Jodi Cohen

Promotional graphic for "essential alchemy" podcast featuring photos of hosts jodi cohen and neil nathan on a purple background, with the title and description of the episode "limbic system reset.

In this episode of Essential Alchemy, Jodi Cohen interviews Dr. Neil Nathan, a board-certified doctor who has been treating chronically complex medical illnesses for over 30 years. Dr. Nathan discusses his upcoming book, “The Sensitive Patient’s Healing Guide,” which addresses the increasing number of patients who have become unusually sensitive to normal stimuli such as light, sound, touch, food, chemicals, and EMFs. He attributes this sensitivity to the toxicity of our modern world and the fear perpetuated by media, especially in relation to COVID-19. Dr. Nathan explains how the limbic and vagal systems in the body monitor safety and how they can become hypervigilant, leading to a heightened sensitivity to stimuli.

Tune in to learn more about:

[00:00] Introduction to Essential Alchemy and Jodi Cohen
[01:50] Introduction to Dr. Neil Nathan and his upcoming book
[02:01] Why patients are becoming more sensitive to normal stimuli
[05:54] The safety response in the body and the role of the vagus nerve, limbic system, and mast cells
[10:15] Recommendations for addressing sensitivity in the limbic and vagal systems and mast cells
[14:13] The impact of anxiety and social anxiety on sensitivity
[21:54] The interplay between the limbic system, vagus nerve, and mast cell activation
[22:55] Ways to treat these three systems simultaneously for improved health.

About Dr. Neil Nathan

Neil Nathan, MD has been practicing medicine for over 50 years, and has been Board Certified in Family Practice and Pain Management and is a Founding Diplomate of the American Board of Integrative Holistic Medicine and a Founding Diplomate of ISEAI. He has written several books, including Healing is Possible: New Hope for Chronic Fatigue, Fibromyalgia, Persistent Pain, and Other Chronic Illnesses and On Hope and Healing: For Those Who Have Fallen Through the Medical Cracks. He has hosted an internationally syndicated radio program/podcast on Voice America called The Cutting Edge of Health and Wellness Today. He has been working to bring an awareness that mold toxicity is a major contributing factor for patients with chronic illness and lectures internationally on this subject which led to the publication of his ebook, Mold and Mycotoxins: Current Evaluation and Treatment, 2016, (now updated to 2022), and then to his best-selling book Toxic: Heal Your Body from Mold Toxicity, Lyme Disease, Multiple Chemical Sensitivities and Chronic Environmental Illness.

Winter of 2021 saw the publication of Energetic Diagnosis, a discussion of the value of intuition and energetic devices as an aid to both diagnosis and treatment of medical illness. His newest book is planned for release by January, 2024, The Sensitive Patient’s Healing Guide.
He can be contacted most easily through his website www.neilnathanmd.com, through which consultations are available. He is currently providing mentorship in the treatment of chronic inflammatory illness to approximately 200 physicians, with Jill Crista, ND and for those
interested in mentorship, please use the website to register.

Dr. Nathan has been treating chronic complex medical illnesses for 30 years now, and Lyme disease for the past 20 years. As his practice has evolved, he finds himself increasingly treating the patients who have become so sensitive and toxic that they can no longer tolerate their usual treatments, and his major current interest is in finding unique ways of helping them to recover.

If you’re enjoying the Essential Alchemy podcast, please leave Jodi a review on iTunes.

 

Jodi: Hello, I’m Jodi Cohen and I’m so incredibly honored to be joined by Dr. Neil Nathan, who I have admired for years. He is a board-certified doctor who has been treating chronically complex medical illnesses for over 30 years, and he’s also the author of several books, including his bestselling book, Toxic: Heal Your Body from Toxic Mold, Lyme Disease, Multiple Chemical Sensitivities, and Chronic Environmental Illness. And his upcoming, much-anticipated book, The Sensitive Patient’s Healing Guide.

He has noticed in his practice, that many patients who like you, through no fault of their own, have become unusually sensitive to normal stimuli of light, sound, touch, food, chemicals, EMF, and they can no longer really tolerate this stimuli without significant suffering. And I’m so excited that he’s finally talking about what is causing that and what helps. So welcome Dr. Nathan.

Dr. Neil Nathan: Yeah, thank you for having me.

Jodi: It’s such an honor. I’m so curious. You’ve seen this in clinical practice, you’re sharing this in your upcoming book. Why are patients becoming more sensitive? What are you seeing?

Dr. Neil Nathan: I think the bottom line, there’s several answers to that question, but I think the bottom line is that our world is becoming so polluted, not just with chemicals but with EMF, that our bodies have not evolved to the point that we can handle that. And so the patients who are becoming extremely sensitive, I think of as the canary’s in the coalmine, we’re all going to be this way pretty soon if we don’t clean up our planet and really come to our senses as to what we’re doing to the planet and how we’re not honoring it. I mean, there are 350,000 chemicals in our environment now that did not exist 50 years ago. It’s just extraordinary what we’ve done. And we’ve done it by honoring the chemical companies, but not human beings, so that we’ve tested 500 of these for safety.

So we’re putting all of these chemicals in the environment and not checking to see, oh, is that safe for human beings? Because we’re being silly about this. I mean silly to the point of being, forgive my language stupid, and that we have horribly polluted our planet. If we add EMF to that, we just keep thinking that it’s safe and we’ll just bombard people with more and more and more. So when we changed from 4G to 5G, oh, it sounds like we just up the ante by one. We just went from four to five. No we up the ante by 1000 fold of exposure. And with the advent of 5G, we began to see, again, an epidemic of folks who are reacting to what they were getting exposed to. And we combined that by making every man, woman, and child on this planet reliant on their cell phones and computers to function. So kind of like a double whammy.

Dr. Neil Nathan: So I think the underlying issue, Jodi, is the toxicity of the world we live in and how it has affected our nervous systems. And there’s one more piece to it, which is the fear that has been promulgated in our world since Covid, which is still existing, which is the way the media has handled this, which is what they’ve been doing actually for 20 years, which is to provide news to us that is scary so that we’ll tune in and listen to more news. Oh, this is a scary piece of information. I better check this out. And so we’ve been scared for the last 20, 25 years by media. And Covid was a field day on a global scale. We were all terrified that if we didn’t separate from our neighbors by six feet, which is a very silly concept, and wore masks, which we know don’t work very well, then we would be safe. If we gave ourselves all of these vaccines, which we now know don’t work very well.

So all of this was a media-driven scare process, which is still going on. I mean, I still walk around and there are people with masks on driving in their cars with their masks on, and I’m going, what do you think you’re protecting yourself from? So it’s that fear, and we’ll get into it I think when we talk about the limbic and the vagal system here, has pervaded all of us. The isolation that we went through had a profound effect on our whole civilization if you will. So if we take this perfect storm of fear, and toxicity and look at it, I think that’s driving a lot of the sensitivity that we’re seeing.

Jodi: Yeah. No, I love that. And I have heard that called the perfect storm. It’s the combination of the mold, the EMF, the metals, the parasites, and the glyphosate, which kind of causes the gut to be more permeable. There are so many factors that are kind of attacking us, but let’s really dive into the safety response and what happens in the body when we think we’re in danger.

Dr. Neil Nathan: Sure. Where do we start?

Jodi: You said something to me that I thought was so brilliant. One of the things that I noticed in your book is that you’re really good at kind of connecting the dots of the puzzles. And I think maybe when you started practicing 30 years ago, if you did one thing, if you healed the gut, then everyone got better. But now it’s a combination of things that you need to address.

And you specifically mentioned the vagus nerve, which is kind of the safety gauge, the limbic system, which also plays into your sense of safety, and then mast cells and histamine response. And I’m wondering if you can elaborate on those factors and how they kind of coalesce to cause these really over reactive sensitivities.

Dr. Neil Nathan: Sure. So what we’re about to talk about, just to put it in context for your audience is how does someone’s nervous system become sensitive? Why does one human being become super sensitive to light, so sensitive that they have to wear sunglasses inside or so sensitive to sound that the slightest excess of sound will make them jump or startle like a newborn baby would with a sound like that, or especially chemicals, exposure to chemicals of any type? And by chemicals, I mean scents, smells, odors.

So we’re talking cigarettes, diesel fuel, perfumes that people wear, et cetera, where an increasing percent of people on the planet can’t be around that or they have a profound immediate reaction to their nervous system that can either shut them down, they can become fatigued, and some people will even have neurological events like what looks like seizures or things that are called dyskinesias, which there’s a twisting writhing movement that they go through.

And it’s not rare. And the rest of the world looks at them of, well, what’s wrong with you? I’m sitting in the same environment as you are and I’m not having any reaction at all. So this must be in your head. And if I don’t communicate anything else, being sensitive is not in someone’s head. It’s in their physical body, it’s in their nervous system, and it’s in the cellular system of the mast cell.

So I want to increasingly, again, talk a little bit about EMF sensitivity, sensitivity to touch, and sensitivity to anything that has increased dramatically in the world that we live in. And so I wrote this book to help everybody understand that there are reasons for this. It’s not in anyone’s head. And so what you’re alluding to is, I call it the trifecta of sensitivity, which is the limbic system, the vagal nerve system, and mast cell activation are the three things that are involved in sensitization.

And keep in mind, none of these are psychological, they are neurological and they are biochemical. So I think what you’ve asked for is to talk about the limbic and vagal and mast cell systems and understand that they’re totally interconnected. They’re not separate things, but the vagal system connects to the limbic system, both connect to the mast cell system. And so when we talk about getting better or healing sensitivity, if you only approach it from one perspective, if you only work on the limbic system, the way I describe it as what happens to a nervous system over time is it becomes increasingly hypervigilant.

And so we have a hypervigilant sensitivity to stimuli. If you work on just the limbic system and you don’t work on the vagal system, you’re going to stay hypervigilant. And the same is true of mast cells. So patients need to understand that they have to work in all three areas to settle their system down to become less reactive.

Jodi: I love that. And I know, I’m curious what you recommend for each component, for mast cells, for vagal nerve training, vagal tone, and then also for the limbic system and how you combine those so that they can do all three at the same time.

Dr. Neil Nathan: Well, that’s what the whole book’s about, how to understand it and to understand that once you understand what’s causing it, then you can understand how to treat it.

Jodi: Exactly.

Dr. Neil Nathan: But before we go there, I want to communicate how these protective safety systems of our body get out of whack because it happens over time, gradually, slowly in fits and starts. So from the moment that we are born, in fact, in our mother’s uterus, we are subjected to different kinds of stresses. They vary. Some people minimal stress, some people extreme stress.

But as a child, if you have had recurrent ear infections of sore throats and needed antibiotics, if you have required surgery, if you have had an abusive childhood with either sexual, emotional, or physical abuse, if you have had recurrent infections of different types, whatever the stresses have been, our brain in the form of our limbic system and vagal system is looking at these stimuli, these stresses, these events and going, whoa, this is a pretty scary world we live in. I need to protect you better by becoming more alert, more vigilant, more aware of incoming stimuli so I can protect you from the next threat that comes down the pike. So throughout our lives to different degrees, all of us have had to work with this hypervigilant system to deal with the world we know.

Jodi: It just confirms that.

Dr. Neil Nathan: Yeah. And as I mentioned as an example with Covid, that affected all of us to different degree, again, making us hypervigilant. The message to all of us from our nervous system was, uh oh, world’s not safe. There are things out there that can kill you, and I don’t want to die, so I need to protect myself more thoroughly. So within that context, which affects all of us, if you have other new threats, this can trigger the emergence of a more severe reaction. And what I mean by that is within that context, a number of other things that we’re seeing right now, particularly mold toxicity, Lyme disease, other types of infection, Covid is included.

Those things can then be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. And you can go from being, I’m kind of coping to, I’m swamped, I’m overwhelmed. I have these stimuli coming in, light, sound, chemicals, EMF, food, different stimuli and I can’t deal with it.

Dr. Neil Nathan: So that’s the overall context of safety that the limbic and vagal systems operate with. The limbic and vagal systems are very simply the parts of your brain that are designed to monitor you for safety. And if they don’t think you’re safe, they’re going to shut you down. When they do that, that’s when we see the emergence of this type of sensitivity, which is not rare.

For example, a study that was done in England a few years ago showed that 1% of the population was so chemically sensitive that they were disabled and couldn’t work. And up to 35% of the English population had enough sensitivity that it affected people’s lives. So we’re not talking, and this is just chemical sensitivity. So,-

Jodi: Well, I would even throw anxiety in there as a symptom, anxiety and social anxiety and overwhelm with people. And I think almost every child at this moment in time has anxiety and that,-

Dr. Neil Nathan: I agree.

Jodi: Yeah.

Dr. Neil Nathan: I mean, I’ve said for years that the curriculum of our schools really needs an overhaul so that every child in this planet needs to have meditation or methods of how to quiet their nervous system so that they can start rewiring themselves from this avalanche of stimuli that we have to deal with so they can start normalizing their body early on and will be much less at risk for having the straw that breaks their camel’s back because they’re going to be safer and their nervous system will be more improved. That’s just me. I just think that that should be an integral part of what every child learns to do on this planet.

Jodi: No, I agree. And for all the parents that are listening, that’s why I would like them to buy your book and to kind of figure out how they can, it seems like the straw that breaks the camel’s back used to happen later in life when people were older. Now it’s happening earlier and earlier because these adverse childhood experiences are hitting them harder and younger.

Dr. Neil Nathan: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, the kids went through an incredible isolation period during Covid. I mean, it affected everyone.

Jodi: Affected everyone.

Dr. Neil Nathan: You couldn’t emerge unscathed from that event, and it’s not over yet. So I mean, we’re still wrestling with how do we cope with this safely but also have a life?

Jodi: Correct.

Dr. Neil Nathan: It’s not healthy for human beings to isolate themselves and shut themselves down from the rest of the world. It’s not a healthy strategy.

Jodi: No. Well, your friend Dr. Stephen Porges talks about how facial recognition is one of the calming factors of the vagus nerve. When you can’t see people smile, when you can’t touch people, that makes you feel unsafe. I love how you explained the vagus nerve and the limbic system. Can you talk a little bit about the role of mast cells and the histamine response to safety?

Dr. Neil Nathan: Sure. So mast cells are one of our immune cells, in the same family as white blood cells that the immune system uses as a bridge between our immune system and the nervous system. Their role also is protective in that although there are mast cells in every tissue of the body, the largest collection of mast cells is the parts of our body that are most connected to the outside world, our sinuses, our GI tract, pelvic areas, but the parts of our body that are in direct connection to the outside world where the threats are coming in, where the virus is, bacteria, parasites, toxins, whatever the threat happens to be.

So the body stations a larger number of mast cells in those areas to monitor our body for safety. When those mast cells don’t think we’re safe, they get what we call activated. And an activated mast cell is poised to release hundreds of biochemical mediators into the body that sets off the alarm response. It’s literally, danger, danger.

And it does so in such a way that it’s not trying to hurt us just as with the limbic and vagal system, but it’s trying to alert us. And it does so by giving us symptoms which will look a lot like allergy. So for example, if you eat something and your mast cells are activated within seconds of eating it while you’re chewing, sometimes a little bit later, you can suddenly have sweating, hives, itching, severe abdominal cramps, sinus congestion, difficulty with focus, memory, fatigue. These are symptoms that get your attention immediately.

And it’s your body’s way of saying you just put something in your body that I think is a threat, so stop what you’re doing.

Dr. Neil Nathan: It looks like an allergy, but it’s not an allergy. It has to do with how activated the mast cells are at that moment. And that fluctuates with what’s causing mast cell activation.

The things that cause mast cell activation are primarily mold, mold toxicity, Lyme disease, especially Bartonella, EMFs, and a wide variety of other environmental toxins as well. So that the key is we used to think that mast cell activation was rare. It was a rare disorder, never saw it. And then in 2016 with the publication of Larry Afflein’s book Never Bet Against Occam, we suddenly realized, whoa, this is not rare at all. It’s now known that 17% of the population has mast cell activation. We’re not talking rare here.

Now for some people, it’s relatively minor, but for some people, it’s so intense that they’re afraid to eat because every time they eat, they have this horrific reaction. And if you don’t know what that is, it’s mast activation, then you don’t know how to proceed. And this is a fairly new concept in medicine, so a lot of physicians still don’t know anything about it.

And unfortunately some of the people who should know about it, like many of the academic medical centers are stuck on, well, I can’t make a diagnosis until I have a piece of paper from a lab that proves this. And the testing for mast cell activation is notoriously horribly inaccurate. When the mast cells release their hundreds of biochemical mediators, this is fleeting, it’s transient, it’s a fluke. So if you don’t test someone while that’s happening, you’re not going to get a positive test. But once those mediators are released, they will have a domino effect on the body and those reactions can go on for hours or days afterwards.

So the testing is notoriously inaccurate. And unfortunately, I’ve had, I can’t count, hundreds of patients who’ve been seen at major academic centers by experts supposedly in mast cell activation and been told, “No, your tryptase level is normal, so you can’t have mast cell activation.” These people are suffering horribly with it, and this is a diagnosis of clinical input. So if I hear from someone that they react within seconds of eating something, you have mast cell activation, nothing else causes that. So to me, it’s a travesty that untold numbers of people are being told, no, you can’t because you don’t have the right labs. That’s horribly incorrect, that if you think you have it because you react to food that way, yes, you could. Food allergy takes longer to come on.

So there’s a distinct difference between having an allergic reaction to food. Now this looks like an allergic reaction. We’re talking hives, itching, things of that nature, but it comes on so quick that it’s not an allergy. And I think that that helps people understand if you’re having that kind of reaction, find someone who knows what they’re doing to treat it because it’s really treatable. And that’s again a travesty. I’d like to, okay, go ahead.

Jodi: No, no. I was just going to ask about the interplay between the limbic system, the vagus nerve and mast cell activation, how it seems like it’s a perfect storm. They maybe get activated by the same thing like possibly mold or stress or other things, but I’m curious how they combine to kind of make it really hard to untangle.

Dr. Neil Nathan: Well, there are three systems that are all doing the same thing. They’re all trying to protect the body by dealing with safety.

Jodi: Right.

Dr. Neil Nathan: So whatever gives the body a signal of, I don’t think that’s safe for you to be doing or to be near, or then all three systems will shut you down. So you literally have to reboot all three systems in order to restore normalcy. And here’s the message, my take-home message to everybody out there, every single thing we’re talking about today is treatable. You don’t have to suffer with it. We can figure out what’s going on, and we have the tools now to treat it and treat it effectively.

Jodi: I love that. I really appreciate your offering that message of hope, and I’m going to encourage everyone to read your book and unpack that. Is there anything that you can share about some of the ways that you do kind of treat these three systems simultaneously?

Dr. Neil Nathan: It depends on how sensitive someone has become.

Jodi: Right.

Dr. Neil Nathan: When they’re super sensitive, I usually start by combining treatments for the limbic and vagal systems first. Many of my patients are so sensitive that they can’t take the materials we want to give them for mast cell activation until they’ve quieted down the limbic and vagal pieces. So I typically start with treating the limbic and vagal system concurrently, then treating the mast cell system, and then going into, okay, well what’s triggering all of this?

This is all fine and you can make a great deal of improvement doing these three things. But it begs the question of what set this off in the first place. What caused it? And again, for most patients, what I want to communicate is mold toxicity is in my experience, the number one medical condition that triggers it. You may not have heard about mole toxicity, but I assure you it’s a very real thing, again, like Lyme disease, which is the second on my list for what causes it.

Dr. Neil Nathan: Both of those conditions are still not household words in the medical community. There are still doctors who don’t believe that we have an epidemic of Lyme disease for example, even though the CDC has recently admitted that there are 675,000 new cases of Lyme disease every year. This is an epidemic. It is estimated that there are 10 million people in this country currently having symptoms of and struggling with mold toxicity. These are not rare. These are really common, and unfortunately, people don’t know about it. Worse, your doctor may not know about it, and they may look at the symptoms that you’re having and go, oh, this has got to be in your head. Nobody could have those kinds of symptoms. Nobody could be experiencing anything. What they’re really saying is, I don’t know what’s causing it. And so if I don’t know that, then it must be psychological.

Jodi: Well, as we know, it’s a little hard to test and people, it requires remediation, which is a lot for people, so that sometimes,-

Dr. Neil Nathan: But we have very simple tests for mold toxicity.

Jodi: Which one do you like to test?

Dr. Neil Nathan: Of the labs, and I’ve extensively used all of the labs that are available, the RealTime Lab has been the most consistent and accurate of the tests that are out there. Now, this is a very simple test, and if you are on Medicare for example, that test is free. Medicare covers it but,-

Jodi: It’s a real-time lab. And what’s it specifically called so that people can find it?

Dr. Neil Nathan: It’s simply called RealTime Labs.

Jodi: What do you think of the vision test?

Dr. Neil Nathan: I’m sorry?

Jodi: That $15 vision test that you can do online?

Dr. Neil Nathan: Well, the visual contrast test, which you can do online is a very crude test, and it is not specific for anything. So it will be abnormal with mold, with Lyme, or with mercury toxicity, and probably some other conditions we haven’t figured out yet. So it’s a tip-off that you are inflamed to the point that your vision is impaired in ways you might not anticipate. So it has uses just to tell you, yep, you’re inflamed, this is not in your head, but it doesn’t tell you where to go with how to treat it or what’s diagnosing it.

Jodi: Okay, cool. Thank you. So I loved that system. So you start with kind of the limbic and the vagus system simultaneously. I know you’ve worked with thousands of clients. What protocols are the ones that you, kind of that you start with for people?

Dr. Neil Nathan: Well, in the book that I’ve just written that I’m really excited about, which is called The Sensitive Patient’s Healing Guide, I have 20 guest authors and Annie Hopper wrote one of the chapters on the limbic system, and Ashok Gupta wrote another chapter on the limbic system.

Jodi: Right. They both have great programs.

Dr. Neil Nathan: Right. Both of them have really good programs. Annie Hopper’s program is called DNRS, which stands for DyDr. Neil Nathan: Both of those conditions are still not household words in the medical community. There are still doctors who don’t believe that we have an epidemic of Lyme disease for example, even though the CDC has recently admitted that there are 675,000 new cases of Lyme disease every year. This is an epidemic. It is estimated that there are 10 million people in this country currently having symptoms of and struggling with mold toxicity. These are not rare. These are really common, and unfortunately, people don’t know about it. Worse, your doctor may not know about it, and they may look at the symptoms that you’re having and go, oh, this has got to be in your head. Nobody could have those kinds of symptoms. Nobody could be experiencing anything. What they’re really saying is, I don’t know what’s causing it. And so if I don’t know that, then it must be psychological.

Jodi: Well, as we know, it’s a little hard to test and people, it requires remediation, which is a lot for people, so that sometimes,-

Dr. Neil Nathan: But we have very simple tests for mold toxicity.

Jodi: Which one do you like to test?

Dr. Neil Nathan: Of the labs, and I’ve extensively used all of the labs that are available, the RealTime Lab has been the most consistent and accurate of the tests that are out there. Now, this is a very simple test, and if you are on Medicare for example, that test is free. Medicare covers it but,-

Jodi: It’s a real-time lab. And what’s it specifically called so that people can find it?

Dr. Neil Nathan: It’s simply called RealTime Labs.

Jodi: What do you think of the vision test?

Dr. Neil Nathan: I’m sorry?

Jodi: That $15 vision test that you can do online?

Dr. Neil Nathan: Well, the visual contrast test, which you can do online is a very crude test, and it is not specific for anything. So it will be abnormal with mold, with Lyme, or with mercury toxicity, and probably some other conditions we haven’t figured out yet. So it’s a tip-off that you are inflamed to the point that your vision is impaired in ways you might not anticipate. So it has uses just to tell you, yep, you’re inflamed, this is not in your head, but it doesn’t tell you where to go with how to treat it or what’s diagnosing it.namic Neural Retraining, and Ashok’s is called the Amygdala Retraining program. And there’s one other that is more recently developed that I like a lot, which is called Primal Trust developed by Cathleen King. Those three systems you can all get online and they’re self-explanatory. Annie, and Ashok, and Cathleen do a great job of explaining what the limbic system is, how important it is to healing, and they then have a specific way of approaching it so that they can literally reboot the limbic system and make it less sensitive. So for people who become sensitive, I’ll toss this out.

The limbic system primarily works on monitoring, regulating, and controlling two main things, emotion and sensitivity. So if you have sensitivity to anything, light, sound, touch, chemicals, food, EMFs, limbic. If you have any emotional shift in your body so that if you weren’t anxious, or depressed, or had OCD, or depersonalization, or derealization, or mood swings, if you weren’t that kind of person and all of a sudden you are now okay, that’s also limbic.

So either or both emotional or sensitivity issues, slam dunk, you have a limbic issue and it really would benefit you to get that treatment. Now, working hand in glove with the limbic system is what we talked about, the vagal nerve system. Now, it also monitors the body for safety by scrutinizing the stimuli in our environment, but it does so with a different spin on it. The vagus nerve controls amongst other things, intestinal motility, so any symptoms that you have in the GI tract, constipation, gas, distention, bloating, and pain, almost always have a vagal component to it.

The vagus nerve is also a key component of what we call the autonomic nervous system, which is the part of your nervous system that controls your autonomic behaviors, heart rate, breathing, appetite, food, and sleep. So many of our patients have what’s called temperature dysregulation where they’re either too hot or too cold and they can’t get their temperature.

Dr. Neil Nathan: That’s from the vagus nerve dysfunction, what we call autonomic nerve dysfunction. So again, other symptoms are a tip-off that the vagus is involved, and most of my patients have symptoms in both of those arenas. So as a smorgasbord of vagal treatments, if you will, there is a wide variety of ways you can work on the vagal system. Relatively new is the introduction into our culture of things that are called vagal nerve stimulators, which are devices that can help to reboot the vagus. Many of the recommendations from the manufacturers of those devices don’t take into account the sensitive patient. So my one caveat about using those devices is if you are a sensitive patient, please do not use it the way it’s directed. For example, one of my favorite devices is called Apollo Neuro.

Jodi: Right.

Dr. Neil Nathan: It’s a band you can wear on your wrist and you can program it by an app on your phone, and it’s a very nice device, but the company says to use it for five to eight hours a day.

Jodi: Right.

Dr. Neil Nathan: Please don’t do that.

Jodi: Right.

Dr. Neil Nathan: That would throw almost all of my patients under the bus, so.

Jodi: It throws me under the bus. That’s why I do the oils because you can kind of pick and choose when you use it, and it’s gentle and plant-based. No, I 100% agree with you.

Dr. Neil Nathan: So if you’re going to use that kind of device, start really slow, three to five minutes once a day.

Jodi: Right.

Dr. Neil Nathan: And then slowly nudge up from there. And that’s true for all of these devices.

Jodi: Right.

Dr. Neil Nathan: So that’s one. I’m a huge fan of osteopathic cranial treatments. They’re fabulous for helping to reboot it. I’m a huge fan of another medical device called Frequency-Specific Microcurrent,-

Jodi: Oh, I love that.

Dr. Neil Nathan: Which has a ton of uses. They have a great program for the vagus nerve. I’m also fond of a device called BrainTap, which uses light and sound to reboot the inflamed parts of your brain. With that one, you’ve got to be a little careful because if the patient has a sensitivity to light and or sound, that might backfire. So that’s only for people who are sensitive, say to chemicals or EMF, but not to light and sound. So you need to be a little bit careful with it.

The bottom line is the more of these things you can do limbic and vagal, the more quickly and effectively you’re going to reboot those things and patients will feel better, almost guaranteed within six to eight weeks of starting those kinds of treatment. So again, here’s the good news. We can treat that, but I want to emphasize many of my patients have responded beautifully to that and they think, oh, okay, I did my retraining here for two months. I’m much better now. I feel so much better. I don’t need it anymore. And the answer is, you’re going to need to keep doing that until you fix what’s triggering this in the first place.

Jodi: Exactly.

Dr. Neil Nathan: Be it mold or Lyme or any of the other dozens of things that can trigger that. So that’s a very brief discussion of the vagus piece. Again, in my new book, I have a chapter that I wrote with Steve Porges, who is the researcher who put our understanding of the vagus nerve on the map. And Steve has a new book, by the way, called Our Polyvagal World, which is an exceptionally readable book about how our nervous systems have become so vagally challenged to really help people understand, yes, this is a global issue that we all need to be aware of.

Jodi: It’s a great book. His son is an amazing writer. He makes it really clean and accessible. I love that. So basically, you regulate the nervous system and the limbic system so that patients are stable enough to then tolerate support for mast cell activation and for unpacking whatever is driving it. So you stabilize them first before, because if you just jumped in with the mast cells or the mold remediation, it might be too, they couldn’t handle it.

Dr. Neil Nathan: Well, it becomes really clear. A lot of my patients have tried some of the mast cell treatments and are very frustrated that they can’t take those things. They need them, but they can’t take them. The body cannot heal if it doesn’t feel safe. And I can’t emphasize that as being super important to understanding it, that you could do all of the right things, but if the body doesn’t feel safe, it’s basically going, Hey, I’m on survival mode here. I can’t deal with that yet. I’ve got to get out of survival mode first before I can actually utilize what you’re trying to give me.

And I think that for some practitioners don’t fully understand that. They’re going, oh, I’ve measured that your hormones are low. I think you have mitochondrial dysfunction. Your methylation isn’t working well. I’m going to give you those supplements and that’ll reboot you. They will if the body is ready to receive them. But a huge percentage of my patients, when they try that, they backfire and they get worse. So the main reason for that is we haven’t timed our treatment properly in terms of when we’re giving them these materials. So again, even if you understand what a patient needs, what they really need is to get safe first, then those treatments will have an incredibly better effect on the body.

Jodi: What an incredible gift you’re giving to the world. Please, please share the name of your new book, where people can find it, and how they can find out more about you.

Dr. Neil Nathan: Okay. It’s called The Sensitive Patient’s Healing Guide. Okay. It currently exists, and by the time this podcast airs, you can get it on Amazon. It’s available from Amazon either as an e-book or a printed book. And hopefully we’ll have an audiobook out before too long as well, that’s in the works, but it doesn’t exist quite yet.

So I would, if this resonates for you or for your loved ones or people in your family or for friends, my hope in writing this book was to help you understand what’s causing this sensitivity. Then you can understand how to treat it, because we haven’t gotten into mold toxicity, Lyme disease, and there’s a bunch of other issues that will trigger this sensitization. For example, there are structural issues in the body that will trigger it, uniquely jaw discomfort or jaw pain.

Jodi: Oh, so anyone who has TMJ.

Dr. Neil Nathan: Many people with TMJ, but not all.

Jodi: Okay.

Dr. Neil Nathan: The body puts an incredible emphasis on wanting the teeth to occlude properly, that if the teeth don’t occlude properly, more than many other things going on in the body, the body freaks out. And it goes, this is not right. Your teeth aren’t fitting properly. This is not right. You have to deal with this. So that’s another neurological process in which you need to get the teeth to occlude properly in order for them to feel safer so that they can move forward. Although it’s not super common, I have had dozens and dozens of patients who couldn’t move forward, even with limbic or vagal retraining until they got their jaw fixed first. And again, not every dentist knows how to do it, and not every dentist knows how to approach it. And so again, there’s a whole chapter in my book by Tasha Turzo, who’s an osteopathic physician who specializes in working with dentists to get the jaw to fit just so, so that people can then make progress.

So that’s a little piece that some people don’t know about, but other structural issues, a neck that’s not balanced properly, particularly at the base of the skull here, there’s a joint which we call the OA joint, the occipital atlantal joint, where the base of the skull connects to the first cervical vertebrae. If that joint is a little bit, if you don’t mind the pun, out of joint or out of whack, again, the body puts a huge emphasis on that and cannot relax and cannot get comfortable until that gets treated properly. Now, to tie this into mast cell activation, there is a concept, a new concept, and again, there’s a chapter on this in the book in which mast cell activation releases a number of these biochemical mediators into the body, which specifically makes the ligaments looser. So that the structure at the base of the skull becomes distorted. Has a fancy name, which goes by the abbreviation of CCI, cervical cranial instability.

And many, many, many people are now also dealing with what we call Ehlers-Danlos syndrome in which the ligaments get looser. What many people don’t understand is it’s not just genetic, is that mast cell activation can trigger that, triggered by mold toxicity and Lyme again. So that can improve greatly if we understand the trigger and how to work with that. So again, these are structural issues that can be helped by osteopathic manipulation, which I’m a huge fan of. But again, not everyone understands that. Mold toxicity, I’m going to tie some things together. Mold toxicity can trigger an elevated oxalate level in the body because mold makes oxalates. And so you can get oxalate issues in the body, which adds to the inflammation and often needs to be treated in sensitive patients, and if you will, on and on and on. So there’s a whole host of triggers, which we discussed in the book in detail, so you can understand what should I be looking at, and if certain chapters resonate for you as, oh my goodness, I’ve never looked at this before. Maybe I should be looking at that. That’s really the point.

Jodi: Well, no, and you also, I know you and Jill kind of mentor practitioners. Do you want to share for the practitioners that would like to work with you more deeply where they can find out more about that?

Dr. Neil Nathan: Sure, absolutely. One of the best decisions I ever made in life was I was already leading a mentorship group for, I don’t know, 70 or 80 physicians and after hearing Jill speak a couple of times, I decided, wouldn’t it be wonderful to combine my medical knowledge of how to treat mold and Lyme and these other inflammatory conditions with Jill’s profound knowledge of the naturopathic approach? And so we have teamed up, and for the last four years, we’ve had a mentorship program, which now has almost 200 physicians in it in which we teach what we know about mold toxicity, Lyme disease, other infections, and environmental toxins.

The underlying theme here is the inflammatory processes that lie pretty much behind almost every chronic illness known, we now know that inflammation is the primary driver of almost every chronic condition, and what’s causing inflammation in those conditions. So Jill and I have this mentorship, if you’re all interested, please go to my website, which is very complicated. It’s simply Neilnathanmd.com. And there’s a little video explaining what the mentorship program is, and I certainly welcome every practitioner who has what we call prescriptive authority. So not just MDs and DOs, but also PAs, nurse practitioners are also very welcome to, and naturopathic physicians are very welcome to join our group. We welcome that. So I hope that is of interest to some of you.

Jodi: Well, no, and I’m so excited for your book to come out and for all of the hidden gems so that people who are kind of trying to heal themselves can see their blind spots and practitioners can also see better ways to help people. Is there anything I haven’t asked you that you’d like to share?

Dr. Neil Nathan: I think we’ve covered the major points. If I wanted to sum it up it’s if you have any chronic condition, I’m going to go beyond the sensitivity process, if you have any chronic condition, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, you have a child with autism, on the spectrum, any neurological issue, MS, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, all of these are inflammatory processes, and we have linked them to an inflammatory process triggered by most often mold toxicity and Lyme disease and some others. So if you have that, dig deeper, and learn more. Again, my other book, which you alluded to, which is simply called Toxic, goes over those in more detail. Learn more. Find a practitioner who knows what they’re doing, and if you haven’t been helped, there is help available.

Jodi: I love that. That’s very inspiring. Thank you for everything you do and for your time today. This was so wonderful. I really appreciate you.

Dr. Neil Nathan: Okay, you’re very welcome, Jodi. Take care. Have a lovely day.

Jodi: You too.

About The Author

Jodi Cohen

Jodi Sternoff Cohen is the founder of Vibrant Blue Oils. An author, speaker, nutritional therapist, and a leading international authority on essential oils, Jodi has helped over 50,000 individuals support their health with essential oils.