This article is intended as a very practical, results-focused explanation of how properly engineered brainwave entrainment when combined with guided visualizations can be used to support Chronic Fatigue Syndrome sufferers. We are not medical professionals and this information is not intended to replace your primary medical care from a qualified physician.
One of the most notorious illnesses that a vast number of people have and continue to suffer from globally is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) – traditionally known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) – with related conditions such as Fibromyalgia and Multiple Chemical Sensitivity. Typical symptoms include extreme and persistent fatigue, together with a variety of other symptoms such as depression, short term memory loss, muscle and nerve dysfunction, sleep disturbances, brain fog and other related issues.
Perhaps one of the more frustrating aspects for a large number of those sufferers have is the tendency of others, including many medical professionals, to label them as having a psychosomatic illness with comments such as – “maybe it’s all in your head” or “perhaps you’re just depressed?” This can be enormously frustrating when you have this innate knowledge that something physically is very clearly wrong and is zapping the life out of you.
Fortunately in recent years, CFS and its underlying physical basis have been validated through the term ‘mitochondrial failure’ (ref: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Mitochondrial Dysfunction, Prof Booth, Dr McLaren-Howard and Dr Sarah Myhill, International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, 2009).
So what causes mitochondrial failure? The truth is there is no simple cause that covers the spectrum of people suffering from CFS. For many, the initial cause may be a pathological infection such as a retrovirus or parasite, which the brain and immune system are not properly recognizing or eradicating. For others, the problem could be severe toxicity or prolonged/severe emotional trauma that establishes a vicious cycle within the body that won’t recover without the right intervention.
More recently however, CFS has begun to be understood (at least in some circles) as a form of chronic limbic system dysfunction. The limbic system refers to your emotional or reptilian brain that is outside your conscious control (subconscious). Due to persistent exposure to a virus, chemical toxin or severe emotional drama, the limbic system (particularly the amygdala) and the locus coeruleus (which is in your brainstem) become hypersensitive and may over-respond to a variety of stimuli that would otherwise not normally cause problems. The hyper-sensitized amygdala and locus coeruleus then overstimulate your sympathetic (excitatory) nervous system through the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. Your body becomes flooded with a variety of neurotransmitters and stress hormones, such as noradrenaline and cortisol that can cause a variety of symptoms in the body. A vicious cycle may be created at this point, as your overly sensitized limbic system then responds to these symptoms and continues to activate your sympathetic nervous system on a repeating basis. Your nervous system literally gets put on overdrive and is constantly aggravated by your limbic system. Key brain and body circuits, like the hypothalamus and adrenal glands, literally get overrun to the point of exhaustion and hence various symptoms such as extreme tiredness, muscle pain / fatigue, temperature dys-regulation, immune system weakness, brain fog etc can arise. Note: it’s important for the suggested visualizations set out below to Google each of these brain structures referred to above and particularly what they look like and their location within the brain (particularly the amygdala, the locus coeruleus and the HPA axis).
Some may be more pre-dispositioned than others to this heightened limbic/stress response and hence develop CFS. Arguably, you may been at a very stressed period of your life prior to contracting a virus, or being exposed to significant chemical toxins, and hence your limbic system was already prone to reacting much more sensitively to the event than it otherwise would have in others. The vicious cycle that is then established will not naturally correct itself unless you find an effective way to consciously override this mechanism. Note: this is not just a psychological condition. It leads to some very real neuro-physiological changes.
Oversensitive Limbic Response and Entrainment
This recent finding about an overactive and dysfunctional limbic system response is highly significant when it comes to the application of properly engineered brainwave entrainment for CFS sufferers.
CFS sufferers need to find a way to desensitize their limbic system response. Moreover, they need to establish effective ways to increase their parasympathetic (relaxation) response, and ‘switch off’ or desensitize their sympathetic (excitatory) nervous system response. This is essential if they are to successfully re-establish a more balanced limbic system response where they don’t respond so intensely to life’s stressors and hence avoid this continual cycle of exhausting their bodies’ resources.
Properly engineered brainwave entrainment is not the be all and end all for CFS sufferers but it can be a highly effective tool when combined with specific mental visualizations to help support and manage your condition.
We will show you, step by step, how the key recordings from our RevitaMind product can be used to support some of the key aspects of CFS. The beauty of this approach is that it is effortless and all you need to do is sit back and listen to just two brainwave entrainment recordings while engaging your imagination in some creative visualizations. Other programs that target the limbic system require an investment of six months or more of several hours per day. Lastly, the real advantage of this approach is that the underlying brainwave entrainment recordings are unlike any other entrainment technology available and will provide benefits alone. At times, you may not feel up to engaging the visualizations below and it’s more than fine to just listen effortlessly to the recordings.
Step 1: Restoring the relaxation response and decreasing the limbic system response
The Neural Agility track on RevitaMind is ideal for helping to re-activate your parasympathetic response. It is designed to take your brainwave state down to a specific frequency within the Theta range. Not only will this help you to relax just by listening effortlessly, but it will also support improved cognitive function & memory (the original design of our RevitaMind product), as well as help you to achieve a deeper sleep state when used at night before bed. Due to the way in which it induces a specific theta brainwave pattern, it is designed to support the new neural pathway growth required to establish a more balanced stress response (often referred to as ‘neuroplasticity’).
Read through the following process several times and get comfortable with it before listening and then use the following steps consistently each night:
- Turn on Neural Agility at a comfortably loud volume with over the ear headphones. Note: if for some reason you find you are too sensitive to the pulsed tones then just adjust the volume to a lower level until you become used to it. The volume acts like a gas pedal for the benefits you will receive, so you may need to go easy at first.
- Sit back in a comfortable but upright chair with neck and back support (so that you don’t fall asleep).
- Close your eyes and just listen to the pulsed tones. Observe your breathing and allow yourself to breathe slowly and effortlessly through your nose, expanding and contracting your diaphragm (stomach area, rather than your upper chest). The pulsed tones will naturally take your brainwaves down to a more relaxed level.
- Now to really activate your parasympathetic response, use your imagination to visualize walking into an elevator. See your comfortable chair in the middle of the elevator. Visualize sitting down, relaxing and imagine that you are at level 10 and that you press the ground floor button. Feel the elevator slowly moving down and that your whole body and mind are moving down as well – relaxing more and more at each level. Take several minutes to go down level by level and that as you do, you relax more deeply and just let go of any mental and physical tension, worries etc. Imagine that your stress levels are decreasing and the stress hormones are leaving your body and returning to a natural state.
- Now after you have reached the ground floor, mentally acknowledge to yourself that you have reset your stress levels.
- It’s now an ideal time to engage the next key visualization to help decrease your limbic and sympathetic nervous system response. While still listening to the remainder of the Neural Agility track, use your imagination to visualize your amygdalae in your brain. They are two almond like structures in both the left and right sides of your head around the region of your left and right ears that control your emotional response in the body. You might imagine that they are an intense red colour and slighted oversized (relating to hypersensitivity). Now imagine that there is a light switch on each amydala and that you see yourself mentally turning the switch from ‘on’ to ‘off’. As you do this, continue to relax and visualize both the color and the size of the amygdalae decreasing and shrinking in intensity. You might see them shrink much smaller to almost nothing, and change color to a healthy, cool blue or green. Take several minutes to do this. Now do the exact same thing with the locus coeruleus which is located in the brainstem at the base of your skull (again, have a look on Google at its location and shape so that you become more familiar with them). Or you could visualize all of these structures at the same time and do this process all at once. Whatever works for you. Just having the intent to undertake this process is what counts.
- Once you have undertaken this complete process in a few listening sessions over a few days, the next essential step is to visualize the various emotional, chemical and physical events that typically make your symptoms worse. Isolate the mains stressors one by one. At the point in step 6 above after mentally ‘switching off’ the amygdalae and locus corelius, visualize the specific emotional/chemical stressors in front of you but just see these key brain structures remaining small, unresponsive and a healthy green or blue colour. Essentially you are directing your conscious mind to switch off the limbic system response to these events (which don’t typically affect most people).
- You might also want to visualize your Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) axis referred to above, which is stimulated by your Amygdala and activates your sympathetic nervous system. Again have a look on Google Images at this pathway of three key glands. You might imagine them being over-active like a fast flowing waterfall or white water rapids. As you are relaxing while listening to this track, just imagine the white water rapids slowing down until they become three calm ponds with water trickling between them. NB: it’s important to engage your imagination like this as your subconscious communicates in this way through imagery and symbols, rather than literally.
- Lastly, before finally finishing the listening session, visualize a really positive experience that is meaningful for you, e.g. a really relaxing massage, walking along somewhere scenic, eating your favorite food, or some other activity you really like. Now really feel into these positive feelings and let it wash over your head and entire body before finishing the end of the Neural Agility recording.
- Repeat this whole process once every night before sleep, or as often as you possibly can. As noted above, you should be able to gauge after a minimum of three weeks of persistent listening whether this is helping your situation. Just undertake this process meaningfully and consistently and enjoy being creative with it.
Step 2: Revitalizing your mitochondria
The above process while listening to Neural Agility can go a long way to supporting your situation and hopefully restoring a more balanced limbic system and autonomic nervous system. However to really help restore your energy levels, we strongly suggest listening to the Mind Revitalizer track, also on our RevitaMind product, each morning upon waking. This recording is a special ‘dual brainwave’ track designed to produce a specific Alpha frequency in one ear and a specific Beta frequency in the other ear (not to be confused with Binaural Beats technology which we don’t use, nor endorse). This track is ideal to use for supporting increased energy, motivation and developing a positive attitude.
Again, we suggest using a creative visualisation while listening to the recording:
- Follow the same set up as above, with headphones, eyes closed etc but listen in the morning upon waking or after you’ve attended to morning activities. For this track, it is essential to have the left earphone on the left ear and vice versa.
- Using your imagination, place your attention on the mitochondrial structures inside every cell in your body (have a look on Google Images as to what they look like).
- Vizualise them starting to glow brighter and brighter (e.g. a vivid yellow gold or white color).
- Now imagine that you are breathing in and out directly through them as if they were each a tiny pair of lungs (metaphorically of course!). See the mitochondria in every cell in your body becoming much stronger and much more efficient – generating energy for your body and brain throughout the day.
- Now imagine a warm golden glow of positive energy that you feel spreading through each cell and across your whole body as you breathe in and out. Up and down each limb, up and down your spine and into your head.
- Finally before finishing the track, see yourself as relaxed but energized, knowing that you can easily cope with the day’s events ahead of you. As you have practiced in the visualization process in step 1 above, remind yourself that you don’t need to react so strongly to the various physical and emotional events in life as and when they may arise.
- Undertake this process for all or just part of your listening session each morning.
Other tips and suggestions for managing your situation
- Effective nutrition: it’s important to ensure a varied and balanced diet. Ideally, consider following a paleo or stoneage diet as much as possible with lean meats, fish, eggs, a wide variety of vegetables, nuts & seeds, some limited fruits and avoid quick release carbohydrates such as bread, rice, flour, corn etc.
- Supplements: there are many, many suggestions on supplements to support CFS and you have probably tried most of them. Just ensure you are taking a highly absorbable form of magnesium (magnesium malate may be particularly beneficial for CFS and Fibromyalgia), as well as a ‘bio active’ b-vitamin complex (such as from Thorne Research, ProThera etc) and also d-ribose powder, which helps to support the energy manufacturing process in your mitochondria. You may also want to consider the kava kava herb or other similar stress herbs such as valerian or passion flower, as they may help to lessen the amygdala stress response.
- Glutathione depletion and under-methylation: another interesting theory gaining momentum in the last few years is that some CFS sufferers may have depleted their levels of glutathione due to a block in the methylation cycle that occurs in the body. This glutathione depletion can be consistent with the limbic system dysfunction referred to above as chronic neurophysiological stress can exhaust these vital nutrients to the point where the methylation cycle no longer functions properly. It is beyond the scope of this article, but you may wish to read further on this subject.
- Probiotics and gut flora: A lot of CFS sufferers have reported success from taking specific probiotics to help restore beneficial bacteria in their guts and restore a more balanced gut flora. Note: it’s particularly important to choose a high quality probiotic that contains Bifidobacterium as the principal active ingredient and does not contain Acidophilus. Have a look at the following link for further information: http://cfsremission.wordpress.com/2014/01/28/for-new-readers/
- Restorative sleep: deep sleep is essential for CFS sufferers. Our Neural Agility track should really help with this, particularly when combined with the visualizations to engage your parasympathetic nervous system and lessen your limbic system response. Do all you can to ensure your environment is conducive to sleeping well. Don’t watch television or engage your brain in other ways prior to going to sleep. Ensure your bedroom is as dark as possible and that you only have dim reading lights on from 7pm onwards. Conversely ensure you get up each morning and get sufficient natural sunlight.
- Pacing: you’ve no doubt read elsewhere how important it is to pace yourself and not over commit. Take periodic breaks during the day where you mentally acknowledge to yourself that you are relaxing and not constantly on the go. Plan ahead as much as possible and manage your workload. However this leads to another key point set out in the first step above.
- Consciously desensitize yourself: Other than undertaking the step 1 visualization process above with Neural Agility, probably the single most important other thing you can do with CFS is know your physical, emotional, chemical and/or food triggers and just mentally acknowledge to yourself as and when they start to arise during the day or week that these no longer affect you. You no longer place significance in them. Surrender any fear or judgment and just let them pass over you like water off a duck’s feathers. Instead, at that same instant, replace the impulse with a positive relaxed feeling that you enjoy and let that sweep over you instead. This will take practice but should really help once you get a better grasp on your limbic system response and your triggers.
Footnote on brain fog and mental exhaustion
When you look at the effects of prolonged fight or flight syndrome on the body, it’s easy to see why the brain becomes impaired and cognitive abilities such as memory suffer. Although the brain represents only 2% of the body weight, it receives 15% of the cardiac output, 20% of total body oxygen consumption, and 25% of total body glucose utilization. With this failure at the mitochondrial level, you can appreciate how brain function can be easily impaired with resulting poor memory, brain fog and mental exhaustion. MRI scans of CFS sufferers verify this impaired brain function and particularly in the area of the hippocampus, which is a key area associated with memory formation and can be impaired with CFS sufferers.
Restoring a more balanced limbic system response and autonomic nervous system will help to restore cognitive function but the beauty of using our brainwave entrainment recordings is that they will directly address this ‘brain fog’ factor. Even if at times you do not feel like undertaking the visualizations, it’s absolutely fine to just lie back and listen to the recordings. They will still provide the primary benefits of parasympathetic relaxation and increased energy but also stimulate the brain and the hippocampus region in particular.
RevitaMind is optimally formulated to support people suffering from conditions such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and Fibromyalgia. As noted above, nothing in this article should be taken as medical advice and this approach is not intended to replace the primary care from your medical physician.