Durban - Autoimmune disease is often explained as an overactive immune system which attacks the body, but many chronic conditions are rooted in stress, according to integrative clinical psychologist Malvina Bartmanski.
In her book “Autoimmune Survival Guide: Support for people suffering from autoimmune and other trauma-driven conditions”, she draws on allopathic, natural medicine and psychological therapies that can complement and support conventional Western medicine to chart a pathway for those wanting to improve their health.
In her practice, Bartmanski has witnessed an ever-increasing number of patients who have been diagnosed with complex trauma and autoimmune conditions, especially women, and in the book she explains the link between body, mind and spirit, while also drawing on the works of experts in various fields.
“People don’t know where to turn to with these symptoms and the psychological impact they have. I have had my own health journey here; perhaps this was my preparation for guiding many through theirs,” she writes.
For instance, she says many women seem to live in a perpetual state of fear and her patients often say they feel “chronically unsafe”, while very few men mention this. “Women’s safety is frequently violated, especially in a country like South Africa where the statistics about this are astounding. Women are more regularly subject to sexual violations and trauma than men,” she writes.
Bartmanski, who is doing her PhD on autoimmune disease, demystifies conditions like chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, inflammatory bowel disease, endometriosis, psoriasis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Graves’ disease as well as long Covid and psychiatric conditions, and links it to psychological traumas which might have caused it, or have resulted from these illnesses.
“There were probably many traumas and micro-traumas that drove my adrenalin up and immune system down, and I became a sickly child” she says.
Scientists have listed more than 80 autoimmune conditions and Bartmanski says her understanding is that everyone has vulnerabilities in their bodies and these are the areas that fail first when they are pushed too hard by trauma and stress.
Joints, thyroid, kidneys, liver, lungs, skin and nerves are the main areas that are affected, she says.
An example of physical complaints caused by emotional experience are disorders of the intestinal tract, and she writes that the gut has often been called our “second brain” because it seems to be sensitive to emotional conflict and stress. “The intestines are packed with their own neurons which actively send messages to the brain that may affect systems of consciousness and memory.”
The 225-page book discusses adrenalin, genetics, inflammation, allergens and decreasing organ function like fatty liver, leaky gut, adrenal fatigue as well as autoimmunity on a cellular level.
At the end of each section there is a task that can be done immediately to help you plot your conditions and a way to understand its effect on your life.
Bartmanski looks at the role of various health modalities which can be used to improve your health, like integrative or functional medicine, psychology, massage, reflexology, ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine.
For instance, under family constellations she says that often while sitting with her patients she wishes she could have a conversation with their family members, but often they are not open to the idea because the patient is “the black sheep to be treated and the family dynamics that led them to this place are not considered”.
There’s a chapter on personal healing practices which can be used to repair the body and she looks at the many liver-cleansing systems and diets to treat fatty liver, such as raw foods like lemon, kale, parsley, spinach and avoiding alcohol, added sugar, deep-fried foods, added salt, white bread, rice, pasta and red meat.
The impact of diets like the Autoimmune Protocol Diet, acid-alkaline diet, keto, vegan, prebiotic and probiotic food, fasting and eating for your symptoms comes under the spotlight. There are also chapters on hydration, supplements, herbs and regulating yourself through nature, animals, breathing, meditation, rest and exercise. The book doesn’t just provide information, but also clear guidelines that can be worked into your daily life to take control of your well-being. The book is available from Booksite Afrika at [email protected].
The Independent on Saturday