Podcast 302: Reduce Stress and Illnesses

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Featuring Dr. Michael J. Amendolara
There are other stress illness symptoms that the Zero Pain Now program wasn’t really designed for. Things like chest pain or abdominal pain or nausea/vomiting or palpitations or dizziness. Stress illness can manifest as almost any symptom of group of symptoms.

So, Dr. Mike works with people whose symptoms haven’t responded to medical treatments of who suspect that their symptoms are related to stress or patients who have had extensive diagnostic workups but their doctors couldn’t come up with an explanation for their symptoms. So, he acts like a detective and ask the patient lots of questions to figure out which particular stress or stresses are causing their symptoms. Then I give them tasks to do to eliminate that stress (like journaling or writing a letter to someone or helping them deal with childhood stresses). When the particular stress is addressed successfully, then their physical symptoms go away.

Podcast 302: Reduce Stress and Illnesses

SCOTT: Welcome, everybody! This is the Life Enthusiast Podcast, restoring vitality to you and the planet! I am your co-host, Scott Paton, and joining us, as usual, is our health coach Martin Pytela. Hi Martin, how are you doing today?

MARTIN: Good, Scott! Thanks for having us all together. I am not here alone, we have a guest today! Dr. Michael J. Amendolara has fast become 

our resident expert on the connection between the subconscious and the physical manifestation, the emotional side of what we feel in our bodies. Welcome, Dr. Mike!

MIKE: Thank you. It is great to be here again with you guys, and with your audience.

SCOTT: So, Dr. Mike, tell us a little bit about how people can get sick. Sometimes it doesn’t look like it is a bacteria, a virus, a broken bone, or any of those things that you would go to the hospital to get fixed, yet there seems to be this epidemic occurring of illnesses that people have with no obvious source.

MIKE: Yes. It all comes down to stress. Stress illness is a very common thing. Everyone has stress. You get tense about things, you get stressed about things, and what a lot of people may or may not know is that stress can cause a lot of physical symptoms. So you might see your doctor for chest pain, and maybe your doctor does all the tests that they’re supposed to do to rule out a heart attack or rule out some other problem with your heart, or your lungs, or anything in your chest area, but they can’t find anything wrong. It is very common in a case like that for the physical symptoms to actually be caused by stress. There are some estimates that at least in the United States, about 50% of all adult visits to the primary care doctor have something to do with stress.

The patient may or may not realize it relates to stress at that time, but it has something to do with stress. It is a big epidemic. When I was on your show a while ago, we spoke about Zero Pain Now, and how I use specific Zero Pain Now techniques to help people when they have pain that comes from stress and repressed emotions. What I do in regards to stress illness per se is similar to that, but it is a little different in techniques. I use that work when someone has symptoms that are not really covered by Zero Pain Now. Zero Pain Now is basically developed for pain, mostly for things like back pain, neck pain, fibromyalgia, physical pains like that, but there are a lot of things it has not really been designed for. This is where the other stress illness techniques I’ve learned can really help people a lot.

MARTIN: When I think about what you are saying, it seems that stress, I guess, is not the input, it is how we react to that stress event. Basically, it is not what happens to us, but what we do about it, or how we react to it.

MIKE: Yeah, I would agree! Everyone deals with stress differently, what really matters is how you react to it. Two people can have the same experience, but one might have a very stressful reaction to it, and the other might not. So that is a very good point. It is how you receive the experience or react to it, that probably makes the biggest difference

SCOTT: I remember situations that occurred with my ex-wife when we were still married, and she would have a lot of problems with her digestive system. I wouldn’t say she lived a stressful life because there weren’t people dying around her or anything, but she was a highly stressed-out person. And I can remember once just trying to massage her stomach muscles, and they were hard as rocks from tension. I often thought that she just held everything in so tight, so for me, the idea of this emotional upheaval happening to cause a physical problem is real, I saw it happening right before my eyes, and now she is depressed, she has fibromyalgia, pain all over her body and everything else. I often thought that she was holding everything in so tight, it is like holding a fist, you know, after a while your hand gets tired, so you usually stop, but she never stopped holding it in.

MIKE: It is a very good observation that you made. When it comes to stress illness, a lot of it has to do with the person’s personality, how they deal with their emotions, and how they deal with stress. And the real reason people get stress illnesses (and when I say stress illness I am referring to physical symptoms from stress, like stomach tightening or digestive symptoms or irritable bowel syndrome), is because they are not processing the negative emotions either from their current situation, or a lot of times from their childhood. So someone may not know how to consciously deal with anger, and then the anger comes out in the body because if you don’t process your emotions in your mind, emotionally, if you stuff them inside, they very often will turn into physical symptoms. That is very common. You also made another really good point. GI symptoms are probably the number one type of symptom that you see with stress illness. Irritable bowel syndrome is definitely related to stress. Things like acid reflux, spasms of the esophagus, or spasms of the stomach, or ulcers, are all very common stress illness symptoms.

SCOTT: So what are some of the things that we can do to relieve these stresses?

MIKE: Well you want to jump right to the end? (laughing)

MARTIN: (laughing) It is so easy, just relax about it, right?

SCOTT: Yeah right, that works really well. (laughing)

MIKE: Right! There are actually quite a few different, pretty simple techniques you can use. First of all, I should say fortunately, if you have a stress illness, like chest pain, and you are pretty sure it is coming from stress, you don’t have to become a completely unstressed person in order to get free from that pain, to have a really nice, happy, relaxed life. Most physical stress illness symptoms come from one or a couple of specific stresses. So if you are like Scott’s ex-wife, that sounds like she is very uptight in general, and it was most likely a stress illness. What I would do is I would sit down with her for two or three hours, and do a very detailed stress history, going all the way back to her childhood, and then come up with one, two, or maybe three at most, specific stresses that were leading to her physical pain, and I would give her suggestions for what to do about those specific stresses. Fortunately, when we are talking about physical stress illness, most of the time you don’t have to become a completely unstressed person, because that takes time. You just have to identify the specific stresses that are leading to the physical symptoms you have.

SCOTT: Oftentimes people don’t think of their symptoms being a stress-related thing. I worked as a grocery store manager for 20 years, I had 50 to 300 employees, depending on the store, and it was a very high-stress environment, but I didn’t perceive it as a high-stress environment when I was in it. And one of the results of my career was TMJ, I had pain in my jaw. No doctor ever said: “You know, you are really stressed out. You need to do something to relieve some of this stress.” And then when I left the company and I was now no longer in this high-stress environment (don’t forget that for 20 years I was in this same type of environment, so it wore me down) All of a sudden I didn’t have any TMJ anymore! My jaw was perfectly fine! Now I understand that all the teeth grinding and everything else was because of stress, so it gives me an idea of where I am on the stress spectrum. If I happen to have a particularly stressful day or week, and all of a sudden I notice some jaw pain, I can actually consciously relax my jaw now, and then do a little meditation, or walk in the woods, which I like to do, and it relaxes that stress level down. But I think awareness is crucial, because most of us, I think, are not at all aware of the stress that we have in our daily lives.

MIKE: Yeah, I definitely agree. And I can relate to what you said. I used to have TMJ problems, and TMJ problems actually respond very well to Zero Pain Now techniques, but like you said, it can be caused by specific emotions that you haven’t dealt with, but it could be from overall stress. You noticed your life used to be a lot more stressful day to day than it is now. And I noticed the same difference. I used to have moderately severe TMJ problems in the past couple of years. They’ve just been barely there at all. But my life stresses have also decreased greatly over the past couple of years. One thing that is interesting, that just came to my mind, is when I was doing my own Zero Pain Now program to get rid of my pain two and a half years ago, one of the things you do early on is make a list of all the things that stress you, whether it is stresses from today or stresses from 40 years ago that you still think about.

When most people start the Zero Pain now program, they can list anywhere from 50 to 150 things that are literally causing them stress. When I did the program, I would get maybe 60 or 70 per day. Now I am doing the program again, because I am having very slight neck pain for the past couple of weeks, very slight, but it is there, and I don’t want it to be there. When I do my stress list, I come up with about 15 things now. So two and a half years ago I had 60 or 70 things that were really stressing me on a daily basis. Now I am down to about 15, so that is a big improvement.

SCOTT: That is awesome.

MIKE: Yeah. I guess there are two things to look at. How stressed are you overall? And how is it impacting your life in general? You might think a lot of doctors would know about this sort of thing, or maybe you wouldn’t, I don’t know, but most doctors are not taught in their training how to recognize stress-related symptoms at all. And the thing that is scary is most psychologists and psychiatrists wouldn’t be able to recognize that either.

MARTIN: What’s interesting to me is that the doctors that I have met, and I have met many because, in my previous life I was a software engineer developing a software that managed medical clinics, so I saw a lot of doctors at work, and it was amazing how unwell they are as a population. How ‘not great’ they are as far as longevity or enjoyment of life, so clearly they are not trained to do well as far as life itself goes.

MIKE: I would totally agree with that. As a doctor, I’ve worked in a lot of different practices, and I have yet to find a medical practice where the doctors get to spend more than 10 minutes per patient. It is partly a function of insurance reimbursement and that sort of thing, but also, doctors don’t take control over their professional lives in the sense of stress, or stress reduction, because anyone who has to see a patient for 10 minutes and do a thorough evaluation and come up with an answer and explain the problem to the patient and their family in 10 minutes, that is going to drive you crazy. I used to be very stressed when I was doing primary care medicine, because I always had to do so much in such little time. There was never enough time. I took control of my life and started to do the Zero Pain Now stuff and stress illness stuff. The nice thing about what I do is I am much less stressed. I can talk to a patient about their stress illness and I could spend three hours with them, if that is the time I need to spend to figure out their problem. And since I am not working under insurance anymore, I have the luxury to spend the time that I need to spend, so I am a lot less stressed than I used to be. But yeah, you are right, doctors as a group are very stressed, yeah.

MARTIN: Indeed, that is a factory model of production per unit. It is horrendous, I don’t know how…. Well, I know how we got here. It is just bizarre that we are still willing to put up with it.

MIKE: Yes, yes, definitely.

MARTIN: I see the biggest problems in our society: time, money, pressure, poverty. These probably create the most illness.

MIKE: Yeah, there are a lot of things that cause stress. There are actually five categories that I look at. One is childhood stress, that is a big problem. Childhood trauma and childhood neglect. And even when people haven’t been traumatized during childhood, something smaller could cause a lot of stress that can lead to stress illness 30, 40, 50 years later. It doesn’t always hit you right away. The current stress is another category, obviously a big one. It would be poverty, addictions, habits, relationships, domestic abuse, difficulties with relationships. Another big stressor are traumas that happened to an adult, like a really bad car accident, or you happen to be in a bar in a bad part of town and you end up seeing someone get shot, you know, real trauma. And then the other two things that are big on causing stress illness are depression and anxiety. So if someone has untreated depression or untreated general anxiety disorder or PTSD or something like that, those are big sources of a lot of different problems. To have a happy, relaxed life, you have to deal with all the stresses to get rid of the specific physical symptoms. You have to find the specific stresses and eliminate those.

MARTIN: So if deep breathing and meditation didn’t take care of it, I guess it is time to call Dr. Mike!

MIKE: Yes! I think this would be a good time to mention the name of a book where I first learned about stress illness, and then I did a lot of additional research. This is a book written by a doctor. It is called “They can’t find anything wrong.” You know you go to the doctor with chest pain, you are in the hospital, they do all tests they can think of, and it is all negative. They can’t find anything wrong. So that is the title of this book. They can’t find anything wrong by David D. Clarke, he’s a medical doctor. If anyone who is watching this wants to see if they might have a stress illness, or they’re pretty sure they do, just want to read that book first. Then, if you come to me, I would sit down with you for two or three hours or however long it takes, and do a very detailed stress inventory. I would act like a detective. I would try and look for patterns. What types of stress were occurring when the symptoms came on? Were there any anniversary dates? Sometimes, people will have significant stress illness start one year after a family member died, on the first anniversary of their death. So what I do is I look for patterns, and I look for all types of different stress-related questions, basically to see which one or two stresses could be causing this, and then I treat the person.

Journaling is one of the best ways to relieve stress. When I determine that someone is having stress that relates to how their mother treated them when they were a kid, and something now is triggering all that stress to come up, then I might suggest that they write a letter to their mother. Not to actually give it to their mother, but just to vent all their feelings related to their childhood, relating to their mother, because writing is one of the best ways to relieve stress of all sorts. When stress can’t come out in your emotions, it’ll come out in your body. So to reverse that process, you want to get the stress to come out in the emotions, you want to get emotional about the stress. The best way to do that, one of the very best ways, is to write, to journal, to write letters about whatever I can identify as likely the most important stress that is causing those symptoms.

MARTIN: So I guess either tell it to somebody or put it on a piece of paper, right?

MIKE: Good point. Telling someone is good, but writing is much better. I’ve had the occasional person that couldn’t write because they had arthritis in their hand or something like that, and I told them to speak into a voice recorder. The experience clearly showed that if you can write or type, that is much more effective than just verbally speaking. So if you go to therapy or a support group, it is great that you verbally say what’s on your mind, but even more powerful for stress relief is writing it, just letting it flow.

SCOTT: Great. There’s definitely something about handwriting particularly that I find that really connects the emotion, the feeling and the thoughts, and you get it out on paper and you see it all there, right?

MIKE: Yeah. One thing I used to do, this was maybe 10 years ago, I was seeing a therapist. I had abuse issues when I was a kid, and I had some anger issues with my father. My therapist would have me get a piece of paper and a box of crayons. He suggested I use crayons because that makes the association between the child, the younger person in me. I am right-handed, but he would have me draw pictures with my left hand, the non-dominant hand. That helped a lot of anger and things like that come out. 50% of the people I see with stress illness have it because of childhood trauma. It could be that your parents got divorced. It could be that someone abused you. It could be a situation where you were seven years old and your mother couldn’t handle life, so she made you become really grown up really fast and take on responsibilities that you shouldn’t have. 

One thing that is very effective is to talk to the patient and help them to understand how much they survived, and how well they did to make it into adulthood, and then give them a ‘hero award,’ actually write on a piece of paper the words: “You are a hero,” have him put it on their bathroom mirror and look at it every day and have them remember that. Because when you’ve had childhood issues, you may feel ashamed, and you feel like you didn’t survive very well. But to remind them that they did very, very well to survive the abuse or the neglect or whatever it was. And every day when they look at the mirror and see that they survived and they’re a hero, that builds their self-esteem. And self-esteem is very important for helping people to get over all kinds of stress. When you have low self-esteem, it is hard to get over stress. When you have high self-esteem or improving self-esteem, it is a lot easier.

MARTIN: We actually have a pill for that, if you can believe it!

MIKE: You offer a self-esteem pill?

MARTIN: As bizarre as it may seem, this product that is called The Gift, this professor of behavioral science turned alchemist has essentially put into this liquid the vibrational quality of having your act together and having self-esteem. When you use that, that vibration echoes through the vibrational body and gives you about four hours of having your act together.

MIKE: That is very interesting! And it doesn’t surprise me. Are you guys familiar with Candace Pert?

MARTIN: I’ve read her book, Molecules of emotion.

MIKE: Yeah, yeah, yeah! There is a lot that we don’t understand yet about how our physiology and the chemicals in our body relate to our emotions. It is more than just electrical synapses in the brain, it has a lot to do with neurotransmitters and different chemicals in the body. I don’t know a lot about this, but I know about things like Reiki and energy healing techniques, those seem to affect people’s emotions also. So yeah, I am not surprised, there is a lot to it.

MARTIN: All right. Let’s explain to people what they can actually get out of working with you. I’ve worked on my stuff, and I am still not done. What do I do to get myself free of my crap?

MIKE: I want to make sure people understand I am not a therapist. I am not trained as a therapist, or licensed social worker, or a psychologist, or a psychiatrist for that matter. I don’t tend to work with people just for general stress and things like that. I leave that to the people who know the most about it, which tend to be therapists. What I can do is if someone is having physical symptoms that either they think might be related to stress, or that their doctors can’t figure out, I can figure it out using my experience and my expertise. I can speak with them and figure out what stress is causing that symptom to help them get rid of their symptoms. If you are dealing with anxiety in general, honestly, there’s not something I can do for you that a therapist couldn’t do for you.

But if you are having chest pain, you’ve had it for six months, and your doctors can’t figure out what’s wrong with you, what’s causing it, that is an area where I can zoom in there and use my expertise to identify which one or two stresses is causing the chest pain. Then I can give you recommendations for what to do, and make that chest pain go away. I had a very interesting stress illness myself. I already allude to the fact that I had some issues with my dad when I was growing up, and I can remember when I was a teenager, my dad would talk very loudly, and I always said: “stop talking so loudly, stop talking so loudly,” because I thought he talked really loud, but it never bothered me with anyone else in my family, only when my dad spoke. And then for years, as an adult, I had to use earplugs in my ears, because noise kept bothering me. It was like everything around me was too loud. And when I dealt with the issues with my dad in therapy, after a while my sensitivity to sound just went away, and it turns out in retrospect it was because of the issue with my dad.

If I had known about a doctor who knew how to identify stress, the causes of stress illness, maybe I could’ve made that hypersensitive hearing go away sooner. It eventually went away, I just decreased my stress level overall, and dealt with specific issues relating to my dad. But if someone came to me with that sort of thing, I would hopefully be able to quickly identify how that symptom came up, and what the exact stresses were, and break that cycle.

SCOTT: You look at stress and its impact on people’s health a lot differently than most people do, I guess.

MIKE: I mean, I don’t know if these ideas are brand new, but I am certainly different from most doctors. I think there are a lot of people who are more in tune with alternative health modalities, that probably have a pretty decent understanding of stress and how it leads to physical symptoms. But it is definitely not something that most doctors think about.

MARTIN: So in practical terms, we have your website to contact you through!

MIKE: Sure, sure FreedomNowMD

MARTIN: It sure is appropriate to say, ‘freedom now!’ Let me out of my little jail! And that is self-imposed, right? When we indeed get there, here’s our opportunity to essentially untie the ropes that hold us.

MIKE: Yeah, it is all about freedom. It is all about getting free. I think of getting free as the same thing as getting healthy, because when people are not free, they’re not healthy, at least not emotionally, anyway. So the more healthy you get, the more free you are. You can contact me through the website, and there is a signup form, where you can just basically send me a message, and I would either email you or give you a call. Then we would eventually talk on the phone, and there’s no charge to talk about your symptoms. It is meant for me to get a general feeling of whether I can help you. If it looks to me that this could be a stress-related symptom, then I would ask for a payment, and my rate for it is a flat rate of $500, which I charge for figuring out your stress symptom. Then we would sit down either in person if you happen to be near me, or by Skype, and we would talk for two to three hours. I would ask you all sorts of questions about stresses and determine which stresses are likely to be causing your symptoms. Then I would give you recommendations on what to do, like journaling or writing a letter, there are a lot of different possibilities for what I could tell someone to do. And then, hopefully, the physical symptoms would come to an end. I follow up with my patients, usually about a week after the session, and I give them a call a month later to see how they are doing. I don’t have a set number of calls or follow-ups that are included in the package, I just want to make sure you are doing okay. If it is just a fairly quick follow-up, there’s no extra charge for that. If you come to me with a brand new problem that you want me to solve, then that would be another fee. But if it is related to what we’ve already discussed, then that is included with no extra payment.

SCOTT: Cool. Obviously, we have a large group of people who are suffering from fibromyalgia. I always like to kind of bring that specific problem to the forefront, because we’re going to be sharing this podcast with the group, and a lot of them might be interested in hearing what you have to say. So for something like fibromyalgia, how much of a stress component do you think that is? I think a lot of them would agree that there definitely is some, because we get comments like: “I felt great in the summer, and now it is getting cold and rainy, which is a stress trigger for me, and I am getting worse.” Or: “I was doing fine until my mother-in-law yelled at me.” If you were to read a lot of the posts, you see some pretty obvious stress triggers in there, but I wanted to get your opinion on it.

MIKE: Sure. As far as fibromyalgia goes, I have absolutely no doubt that the cause of fibromyalgia is stress, tension, and repressed emotions. The reason why I say that is because Adam Heller, who designed that work for people with chronic physical musculoskeletal pain, he’s had at least several hundred fibromyalgia patients go through the Zero Pain Now program, and every single one is now completely free from pain. There are other fibromyalgia symptoms, including things like fibro fog and chronic fatigue. So if someone came to me with fibromyalgia, what I would do is I would recommend the Zero Pain Now program, because in the past it had a 100% success rate for fibromyalgia. Now, what you alluded to about stress, dealing with daily stress and stuff, is all part of fibromyalgia. I wouldn’t do a stress illness evaluation on someone like that, because I know how effective the Zero Pain Now techniques are for that thing. If someone came to me with chronic low back pain, that is a stress illness, but that is one that has an excellent track record of a success rate of like 97.4% with Zero Pain Now. So if someone came to me with back pain, then I would also direct them to a Zero Pain Now program. If someone came to me with chronic dizziness, that is not something the program would work for, so I would do a stress illness evaluation, figure out what stress was affecting the patient first. But of course, it is not for every kind of symptom, not every symptom is really stress related.

SCOTT: Excellent! Martin, any last comments before we sign off?

MARTIN: I guess I would put it really harsh, and I would say this: Those of you who still want to hang on to your illness, go on and hang on. But I tell you, I mean, I did it myself, I was putting off spending some real money, wanting to figure it out for myself, and do it on the cheap, because I thought I could pull it off. But the truth is, when I finally put the money down and spent it on an expert, I made a huge improvement in my outcomes. It sounds salesy, but it is the truth. Get real help, and get it from somebody who knows how to do it. Then you will not have to be living in the hell of this chronic inflammatory jail you are in.

MIKE: Yeah, definitely. If you keep doing what you’ve been doing, you are going to get the same results. I understand that a lot of people have tried so many other things that just haven’t worked, and so it can be discouraging, and it can make you hesitate to try something new. But when you have something that has verified results, like whatever it is that you did, Martin, it is worth trying. I just spoke with someone this past weekend who got free from fibromyalgia by using some sort of chi energy technique from Asia and is now completely free from fibromyalgia symptoms. I am not telling people that Zero Pain Now is the only way, but it is the way I have success with, and I know it works. Whatever techniques you found that work for you, that is great. But the key is – don’t just wallow in your misery. You have to take a step to get free from it. Otherwise, you are going to be miserable for the rest of your life.

MARTIN: The question then is: Dear viewer, are you ready to let it go?

SCOTT: Great. Well, we’re ready to let this episode go! Thank you very much for being with us, Dr. Mike, it has been wonderful having you! For those of you who are still listening, visit www.freedomnowmd.com. This has been the Life Enthusiast Podcast, restoring vitality to you and to the planet! Thanks for joining us, everybody, see you next time!

Author: Scott Paton