When I think about disgusting foods, one of the things on my list is a potato that has been sitting in the back of the cupboard for a few weeks in a plastic bag. It gets all mushy and watery. Disgusting, right. Well actually, not everyone thinks so, there are a number of studies showing that in people with damage to the brain areas of the basal ganglia, the putamen and the insula as in Huntington’s disease and some forms of Traumatic Brain Injuries, there is a decrease in the ability to read the expression of disgust on other people’s faces and feel their own disgust.
This might not seem like such a big deal but “the adaptive significance of disgust has been related to a specific form of threat response associated with an internal defense system, as opposed to an external defense system related to fear.” (Hennenlotter,2005 in Neural systems for recognizing emotions from facial expressions.) This means our emotions and ability to read the emotional states of other people keeps us safe - safe from internal things like food poisoning and from external things like bears. In other words our ability to feel and recognize disgust keeps us safe from the inside out.
The way health coaches can use this information is two fold. One is to know that although Huntington’s is a genetically based disorder, studies with identical twins (hence identical genetics) shows that there are environmental factors that influence quality of life and the progression of the disease. One identical twin may have a different symptom picture and progression from the other twin.
Our environment is created by our choices in the areas of diet, lifestyle, exercise and more. Knowing that these choices make a difference in our quality of life, even in genetically based conditions, helps people consider their choices, stick to plans and all of this is supported and facilitated by a great health coach.
Imapact of Nutrition, Glueten-Free, Self - Help Exercise, Wisdom Healing Qigong and Walking on the Quality of Life of people with Huntington's disease:
The second way is to create a questionnaire or individual coaching program for the client with the coach that weird as it sounds encouraging them to think about disgusting things for a few minutes a day. This is a sample plan. Take about 10 - 30 minutes to do this exercise. First, notice how you feel, walk around a little and notice how you are walking, how your balance is, etc. Check in with yourself. Then answer these questions and then re check how you are feeling and notice what has changed. 1. What is the most disgusting food you have ever eaten? 2. What foods do other people like that you find disgusting? 3. What was the last disgusting smell you experienced? 4. What has a disgusting feeling (touch) for you? 5. Whose face did you see with a look of disgust most recently? 6. If you imagine someone offering you something that looks disgusting, how will you respond to them?
Answer the questions before reading on.
For example, this is what I wrote while thinking about disgusting things.
The most disgusting food I have ever tired is Natto, it is a Japanese food that many Japanese people love and is very good for you heart but imagine soy beans with a little water left out for, oh lets say, a month until they are all slimy, mushy and smell rotten. Imagine being offered these fermented soy beans on a cracker. Ugh....disgusting and they taste worse. For me cooked slimy okra is not far behind. The only thing that might be more disgusting is when celery has been left too long in the fridge in a closed bag and leaks out on the refrigerator shelf. I won’t even put it in the compost. It goes right into the garbage can outside when I find it lost at the back of the fridge.
When I was at university every spring I noticed someone didn’t get the memo about never ever ever planting a female Ginko tree. The male tree is awesome. I love the fan shaped leaves and the fact that Gin means silver in Japanese and Ginko trees are called money trees but the female tree produces a fruit that splats all over the sidewalk and smells like puke from several blocks away.
So, back to why would you put effort into thinking about disgusting things.....If as neurosciences research shows, Huntington’s compromises brain function, movement and the ability to recognize disgust, then dwelling for a short period of time on the feeling, sensation and recognition of disgust may activate those neural pathways and improve the symptom picture. Activating those pathways also improves walking, just via a different route than from practicing motor skills or walking which is know to improve health and symptoms in Huntington’s disease.
There is an osteopathic journal article which talks about the mobility of the low back [T11- L1] which is compromised in a specific way in people with diabetes, which is different from people with regular low back pain. The article notes that it is possible if you know what you are looking for to know who has diabetes or is going in that direction by feeling their back. At the end of the article they suggested that further study be done on whether mobilization of the spine would have an effect on the diabetes. I find it does, just as I am finding the presentation of Huntington’s can be changed by activating the neural pathways of disgust that have been damaged.
Exceptrt from Our Fractal nature, a Journey of Self Discovery and Connection:
The self-similar design of our brains protects us as we grow and develop efficiently using the resources, building blocks, and energy with which we provide them. There are infinite fractal layers in the brain, influencing our ability to communicate and perceive the world around and inside us. The communities in the brain “talk” with other areas in the body and with the external environment. Each nested layer contributes, including the DNA’s spiraled double helix, the retina’s tiny nervous system trees, and the thalamic neurons’ branching patterns. These neurons influence our perception of pain and pleasure while interpreting many of the sensations coming from our environment.
The fractal geometry of the balance-related neurons displays a self-similar design and provides maximal function for a fixed cost per nerve fiber. Anyone who lives on a budget can appreciate this aspect of fractals: getting maximal function from limited space and resources.
Fractal shapes and processes in the brain explain how a huge number of interconnected neurons produce a range of behaviors in a flexible and self-organized way. As information moves through the nervous system, it is like water in a river, flowing and changing shape wherever it goes. Each time we appreciate the quality of our lives and the functioning of our being, we are evaluating or measuring something different.
Our healthy brain is able to process information in a way that “fits” a personal landscape shaped by attitudes, previous knowledge, and experience. Each time we encounter something new we change the contours of our nervous systems.
Coming soon from Kimberly Burnham, The Nerve Whisperer
Have you ever wondered what your nervous system is trying to tell you? Are you ever tempted to cut the wire from your body’s red warning signal? Do you want to be able to send a message to your subconscious mind, revolutionizing your life?
In an easy-to-follow way with lots of self-care ideas, The Nerve Whisperer explores how we can each communicate better with our nervous systems, our internal organs, people with whom we have relationships, others in our communities, and even the strangers we meet.
Kimberly Burnham, author of The Nerve Whisperer, has a PhD in Integrative Medicine. Her dissertation focused on the use of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) to improve function and health in people with neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s, Macular Degeneration, Huntington's disease, Traumatic Brain Injuries and Autism. She has widely taught, written, and published in the field of neuroscience.
There are a number of complementary and alternative medicine approaches that are effective in the treatment of Huntington’s disease symptoms. Giving attention and awareness to the kind of environment you live in is another way to change the symptoms picture and influence the way the facts of Huntington’s affect the individual. Picture for a moment an environment in which you feel supported.
Five Principles of Neurological Healing
Visualize Health: Close your eyes and visualize yourself, really see it happening as you walk easily, smoothly up the three stairs to the stage. Look around, see the people sitting, waiting expectantly as you, someone they love and admire steps on stage. You are awake alert, aware in this special moment of all you have accomplished ,of the award you are about to receive. Take a moment to consider all the choices that have brought you to this moment. With healthy, balanced steps you move forward, mind clear, eyes alert, to accept the award for your contribution to your family, colleagues, the community and all the people who feel supported and sustained by you and all you do. Embody healthy movement, powerful relationships and the supportive nature of your environment.
Explore the Physics of Miracles and Matrix Energetics with a Matrix Energetics certified practitioner.
Walk Easily: Look for opportunities and approaches that improve your walking and help you move smoothly, easily in a controlled, coordinated way. Do you have enough space in the world, in your community, in your home, in your room, in your body? Tissues, especially neurological tissue needs a comfortable amount of space to heal.
Improve space in your body with strain and couster strain, muscle energy techniques and integrative manual therapy.
Balance Legs and Life: Health coaching can support you to regain balance, as in steadiness in standing and walking but beyond that in balanced brain chemistry, balanced nutrition, balanced sleep / wake cycles.
Regulate Emotions: Medical practitioners have done a disservice to the world by insisting on focusing on the negative, focusing on what might at some future date go wrong. When someone makes predictions about you, look inside and work with any part that resonates with the predictions. Make your own predictions for improvements, better walking, more comfort in your head, more self-sufficiency and self reliance.