Alternative Medicine
Health Map 2: Internal Healing Environment

For the last several years I have been working on and conceptualizing a 3-Step Health Map, a logical, predictable way to look at, “Why people get sick and how they recover.” Here is a brief review of the three steps:

1. Primary Causes. This was the focus of the last article. These include: infections, toxins, trauma, emotional stress, problems with digestion and absorption, genetics, and more. We looked at more than 30 Primary Causes last month.

2. How the Body Responds to Primary Causes . That is what this article is about.

3. Metabolic Chaos. Chronic illness is a domino effect, a progressive cascade of events, starting with Primary Causes to which the body responds in three different ways. The cascade continues until total body chemistry is thrown way out of balance. By dry weight, amino acids make up more than 50% of our body. Metabolic Chaos mainly consists of head to toe problems with amino acid chemistry.

Nearly all disease and all symptoms can be explained by understanding these three steps.

Level II: How the Body Responds to Primary Causes

Chronic Illness is not caused simply by the presence of numerous Primary Causes. Illness, with rare exception, is caused by our body's response to Primary Causes. The body responds in three main ways: 1) The Inflammatory Response, 3) The Stress Response (Fight-Flight–Freeze), and 3) Mind-Body Adaptation.

This Health Map is not intended to explain emergencies. If you're in a car accident (with blood loss, broken bones, and possible loss of consciousness), large organ systems move into emergency mode. The cardiovascular system shifts blood pressure, cuts off blood supply to certain areas, and increases blood supply to other areas. The heart beats in emergency mode to keep us alive. The body is reacting at the level of “organ systems” like heart, lung, and kidney. The Health Map is not about emergencies or organ level responses.

1. The Inflammatory Response

For the last 10 years medical literature has been examining the role of inflammation in causing illness. Eighty chronic illnesses are now known to be caused by inflammation. In order to understand inflammation, let's look at what the body does when we get a scratch or cut.

Blood vessels dilate, and a variety of white blood cells pour into that area to kill infections, carry off wound debris, and heal the area. The white blood cells have several functions, but an important function is the explosive release of free radicals, or what are more correctly called “reactive oxygen species” (ROS). Free radicals are positively charged molecules that do their damage by stripping electrons, which have a negative charge. Once the free radical has grabbed a free electron, the free radical is neutralized. If free electrons are being stripped from an invading bacterium, bacteria will die. However, the Inflammatory Response is a shotgun approach. Our immune response pours out large amounts of free radicals to kill infections, but the amount of free radicals is not carefully measured, and so large amounts of free radicals enter the blood stream, where they are not needed or wanted.

Inflammation causes the cut and surrounding area to develop redness, heat, swelling, and pain. When inflammation becomes chronic, a 5 th sign develops, and that is “loss of function.”

In chronic illness, the Inflammatory Response, our first line defense against so many Primary Causes, turns against us, attacking healthy tissue throughout the body. A cut will be healed in about a week. In chronic illness, the Inflammatory Response does not get turned off, and so the immune system sprays healthy tissue with positively charged free radicals (ROS), causing a buildup of a huge positive charge within us. Let's look at arthritis. Any “itis” is inflammation. In arthritis, the Inflammatory Response takes aim at bone and joint, spraying healthy tissue with free radicals, stripping electrons until we develop pain and disease.

In 2007, I wrote about the Barefoot Connection several times in The Light Connection. Barefoot contact with the earth, allows billions of free electrons per second to pour into our bodies, neutralizing free radicals, and turning off inflammation. The process of connecting with the earth is called “Earthing” and the products that deliver Earthing indoors (to our bed sheets, for example) are called “Barefoot Connection.”

Wherever you have infection or toxicity, the Inflammatory Response rushes in. We are born with about 10 different strains of herpes viruses, which are normally kept in check. Likewise, we have yeast in our digestive tracts that are normally kept in check. For a variety of reasons, viruses, yeast, and other pathogens can get out of control. If you have chronic gum disease (gingivitis), the bacterial overgrowth in the mouth will spill into the blood stream. Many of us have yeast, viruses, bacteria and/or parasites throughout our body. In virtually every location of infection, the immune system arrives, and like the ill-fated “Shock-and-Awe” approach of George Bush in Iraq, white blood cells “open fire,” spraying each and every area of infection with free radicals.

Let's say you have yeast or candida anywhere other than in your digestive tract, where a small amount is normal. For the sake of argument and understanding, let's say you have 5 yeast cells growing in your lungs. It might take 25 free radicals to eradicate those 5 yeast cells, but that is not how it works. The Inflammatory Response will attack that area with hundreds of thousands of free radicals. Now, that is overkill! Five yeast cells are killed, along with thousands of healthy lung cells.

The same response occurs wherever we have toxic buildup. Almost all of us have a burden of toxic heavy metals in our bodies, such as: mercury, lead, arsenic, antimony, and nickel. If you were or are a heavy smoker, you have nickel toxicity. If you have or had a mouthful of silver (mercury) fillings, you have mercury in your tissues. Every tiny speck of mercury, whether in muscle or your brain, will be surrounded and attacked by inflammation. It is possible, and very expensive, to test for hundreds of environmental pollutants. Every tiny speck of toxicity brings on the Inflammatory Response.

Because Earthing, prolonged barefoot contact with the earth, turns off inflammation; because the Inflammatory Response is a universal response to many Primary Causes, and because inflammation is the known cause of eighty diseases, I have integrated Earthing in my total treatment approach. It is the key to healing Level II of the Health Map. Understanding Level II is at the heart of understanding the entire Health Map. Primary Causes (Level I) must be treated separately.

2. The Stress Response: Fight-Flight-Freeze

The best way to explain, “fight-flight-freeze” is through the analogy of caveman going on the hunt, entering a cave, and running into a large cave bear. The fight or flight response is activated, which prepares the individual to “fight to kill” or “run for his life.” The Stress Response is mediated by the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the endocrine system (hormones). The SNS and endocrine system work together to produce: increased heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration, pumping more blood to the muscles. Blood sugar rises to allow for rapid energy use. Our senses are sharpened; pupils dilate. Adrenaline, cortisol, and other stress hormones are pumped into the blood stream, mainly by the adrenal glands. Endorphins, natural painkillers, are also produced, providing immediate defense against pain.

Our mind-body reflexes do not know the difference between an attacking mountain lion from an out-of-control, angry boss. One of the most important Primary Causes is chronic, ongoing stress. Daily our bodies respond to major and minor stressors with the Stress Response. Over time, chronic stress leads to adrenal exhaustion . . . leaving us drained, sleeping poorly, over-reactive to “normal stress,” and fighting roller-coaster blood sugar levels. As with the Inflammatory Response, prolonged barefoot contact with the earth (Earthing), normalizes adrenal function — making contact with Mother Earth one of the most powerful level II “treatments.”

When animals are under real attack, fight-or-flight kicks in. The animal lives or dies. With human beings, because of our cerebral cortex, after a real or perceived attack, we can get stuck in fight-or-flight physiology, leaving us in a “Freeze Response,” in which the sympathetic nervous system never revs back down. A “deer in the headlights” is an example of the freeze response.

3. Mind-Body Adaptation

It is fairly easy to understand and measure inflammation and the Stress Response, our two main ways of responding to Primary Causes. I'd like to keep things simple, but in the service of a more complete understanding, we need to go deeper. There are a number of internal mechanisms, and inner resources that are constantly working to keep us in balance. Collectively, I call these resources our Internal Healing Environment (IHE). Primary Causes throw us out of our normal balance. Level II of the Health Map is all about how the body responds to Primary Causes to restore balance and wholeness. The mind-body connection plays an enormous role in our ability to re-calibrate after we have encountered a Primary Cause.

Mind-Body Adaptation through the IHE takes us into a realm that is difficult to define or test for. Nonetheless, it is very real. Let me illustrate through the example of a surgeon I met during medical school. He was known to have by far the highest success rate. When he was asked why his success rate was so high, he replied, “When I am evaluating a patient for surgery, one of the questions I ask is, ‘Are you a lucky person?' If they say, ‘Yes,' I will operate on them. If they say, ‘No,' I won't operate. It's that simple.”

This surgeon had come to understand that luck, however, one understands it, is a mental state that is highly involved, not only with romance and money, but also health. Whether we “create” our own luck or not does not matter. If we believe we are lucky, we are lucky. And that translates into high integrity of the mind-body connection. A positive, lucky mind-set, on a daily basis, sends out positive “messenger molecules” to the body.


We cannot say where the mind stops and the body begins, but we know that the two are inseparable. A person who feels lucky has a deep inner faith that he will come out on top, that his body knows how to fight infections and other health challenges. He has faith in his Internal Healing Environment. If you believe your body does not know how to cope with health challenges, your body will agree with your mind and will not handle Primary Causes very well. What we've just considered is the overall “attitude” of the mind-body connection. Do you have a happy, lucky mind-body connection or not? If not, you can learn how to strengthen the mind-body connection. What I've described, namely “luck,” is similar to “hope.” Hope heals. Fear and lack of faith in one's IHE can be lethal.

The Human Will is another aspect of Mind-Body Adaptation. Consider a 60-year-old woman with terminal cancer, who had been aggressively treated, but now faces the end. Her doctors tell her she has four weeks to live at the most. She tells the doctors, “My daughter is getting married in five months. I am not going to die before her wedding.”

She's there for the wedding and lives another year. This is a common story. It is one we have all heard, and while it is not easy to explain, it is quite real. Voodoo death is an attack on the human will, and is widely used around the world. In those cultures in which people believe in voodoo death, a certain word or action can lead to a person's death within days.

Western doctors also practice voodoo death when they predict when someone will die. I was working with a woman whose 75-year old, totally healthy husband visited his doctor for a routine checkup. He had no symptoms. The doctor told him he had terminal cancer and had “three months to live.” The man came home, stopped all of his usual daily activities, and was dead “right on schedule” in three months. That is voodoo death.

One of the most important determinants of the health of the mind-body connection has to do with our childhood. Child abuse or neglect causes, what I call, “a rip or tear in the mind-body fabric.” The glue that holds the mind-body connection together is unconditional love. Adult survivors of abuse never felt well pieced together as children, and most still don't, as adults. They feel a kind of fragmentation'— mentally, physically, and spiritually. They feel disconnected on all levels. That—“rip in the mind-body connection” leads to a chronic low-grade depression, which eventually weakens the immune system.


Scientists use the term “hardiness” to describe how well the mind-body responds to challenges and bounces back from assaults from Primary Causes. Hardiness, like “luck,” is intangible and difficult to define, but both predict how well we respond to external challenges. Mind-Body Adaptation lets us know that our minds play a very big role in health. The integrity of the Mind-Body Connection is not easily measured, but intuitively we know that a strong, solid Mind-Body Connection is going to help us respond powerfully to whatever Primary Causes come our way.


To summarize — The key issues related to Mind-Body Adaptation are: luck, hope, hardiness, will power, faith, and a lifetime of self love that keeps us connected at all levels. This kind of all-pervading, Self-healing love can be learned at any point in life, regardless of childhood or other traumas.

Inner Battle for Health

Health is a battle between Primary Causes and how the body responds to Primary Causes—through Inflammation, the Stress Response and Mind-Body Adaptation. Let's say the battle begins with an assault from several Primary Causes (like a chronic viral infection, mercury toxicity, and protein deficiency). It is quite common that we lose the first battle in the larger war, like losing a hill, and needing to retreat. The entire Internal Healing Environment retreats from the front lines, falls back to a new position, and reorganizes at a different level. Just like in real war, you can lose a battle but win the war. We can lose the first external assault of Primary Causes, but still remain intact.

Think of it this way. The Internal Healing Environment has a number of strategies and a number of different fallback positions. The IHE is incredibly adaptable and flexible. It is true that, when we lose a battle, we may develop symptoms. The IHE reorganizes over and over again, making sure that it keeps us alive. That is the bottom line for our IHE—keeping us alive. We may lose a number of battles, have all kinds of problems, but eventually we can win the war. When we win the war, the IHE will have strategized, reorganized, and morphed countless times, all in an attempt to keep us alive and to make us more whole. So, even after an extended battle, we can come out “better than we've ever felt before.” People on extended healing journeys know what I am talking about. Many come out stronger, wiser, and more whole after a long struggle. We “re-take many hills we had previously lost in the overall battle.”

It is important to point out that the Battle Metaphor is just that. It is one metaphor. It is easy to understand and has a lot of utility. There are other metaphors that explain how our Internal Healing Environment deals with Primary Causes. Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda keep “balance” in mind at all times. Various things push us out of balance. The job of healing is about coming back into balance and not about fighting a war. The end result is no different than the Battle Metaphor, but keep in mind that every healer and healthcare provider has some kind of Healing Metaphor in his or her mind, a belief system that guides their work. Likewise, virtually everyone has a conscious or unconscious belief about health and illness. That belief may be serving you well or it may not.

Next month, we'll look at the third and final cascade of events in chronic illness, namely “Metabolic Chaos.” For now, you now have the first two pieces in this three-piece puzzle called the “Health Map.” If you let the concepts of these steps become part of your thinking, you will be empowered on the lifetime journey we are all on, will be aided in understanding, coping and healing health challenges. This in-depth understanding will empower you so that you never need to feel hopeless in understanding a complex health challenge.

David Gersten, M.D. practices nutritional medicine and integrative psychiatry out of his Encinitas office and can be reached at 760-633-3063. Please feel free to access 1,000 on-lines pages about amino acid therapy at, and information on Earthing at


Dear Louise

Dear Louise,

As I've been going through a bad period, I've decided to make changes in my life, but after so many years reading your books, I know that when we introduce changes in our lives, other issues arise, and I think that's what has happened to me. Recently I started to have tachycardia (a rapid heartbeat), which usually occurs when I'm surrounded by a lot of people in places without fresh air. I also think I'm having panic attacks, so it scares me a lot, and when I start to feel nervous it becomes worse.

What should I do? I would really appreciate your help.

G.V. ,Virgin Islands

Dear G.V.,

Tachycardia is a part of what happens when a person is having a panic attack. Being nervous and scared doesn't help the condition, but makes it worse. What is it you're truly afraid of? Look within and see if there's a belief that you're not deserving of your own good. So often we subconsciously sabotage the manifestation of what we desire as a means to protect ourselves. As odd as it seems, it is most often our success that frightens us rather than our failure. Subconsciously you may be thinking that upon fulfilling a goal you may discover that either it doesn't make you happy or it could be taken away from you. It's imperative to constantly remind yourself that this is the moment in which you're either enjoying or not enjoying your life. What you're feeling now is creating your tomorrows.

Listening to CDs with stress-free affirmations and working with a therapist are wonderful ways to be supported on this healing journey. You do not need to do it all alone.



Dear Louise,

I'm a 47-year-old female on a spiritual mission. Lately I've been feeling frustrated by friends and relatives who are negative, dull, whining, or unappreciative. I try to counsel those people but feel that my words and suggestions fall on deaf ears, and it's getting exhausting! How do I know whether to “mend” or “end” a relationship?

Also, recently I ran into three people I haven't see in many years: the mother of old friends I'm not speaking to, a guy I had a fling with years ago, and an old woman whose 17-year-old granddaughter just passed away. Is there any meaning behind those meetings?

K.C., Lansdale, Pennsylvania

Dear K.C.,

People who are negative, dull, whining, or unappreciative could never understand what you're talking about, so don't even try. When I find myself in a similar situation, I'll give out one sentence only. If the other person picks up on it and wants to know more, fine. If not, I leave them alone. Never waste your time or energy on people who aren't interested. Just be true to yourself and your beliefs. Those who aren't meant to be in your life anymore will just fall away.

The three people you talk about are showing you that the Universe is giving you some opportunities to practice forgiveness and love. I would pay attention and at least forgive in your own heart.



Dear Louise,

I'm from Argentina but have been living in Florida for about ten years. Nine years ago I began suffering from right-knee pain. To date, I've had four surgeries—the last was a tendon transplant. I've been a vegetarian for more than 20 years but am not sure I've been eating a proper diet. What did you do to rid yourself of cancer? Maybe I should try it. Almost everything I eat seems to upset my stomach, so now I'm eating potatoes, carrots, and a banana for breakfast. I'm almost 48 and want to get rid of my depression and pain. Thank you so much for your help.

G.D., Miami, Florida

Dear G.D.,

People often ask me what I did to rid myself of cancer. What I want you to know is that I did what worked for me (meditation, eating right, affirmations); however, it might not work for you. Everyone's body is different. Nutrition is a huge part of any type of healing regimen. I highly recommend that you find a nutritionist immediately and get a thorough checkup. Stomach condition can emotionally mean prolonged uncertainty about how things are going to come out, along with an inability to say no to demands due to a fear of rejection and abandonment. It sounds like this may be what is going on with you. I also highly recommend a wonderful book called Healthy Healing—An Alternative Healing Reference, by Linda G. Rector Page, N.D., Ph.D. It is a great source for alternative healing techniques. You can probably find it in your local health-food store. In the book on page 310, Dr. Page recommends an alkaline diet for gastritis that includes plenty of soluble-fiber foods, whole grains, brown rice, fresh fruits, and vegetables among other alternatives.


Louise L. Hay is a metaphysical teacher and the bestselling author of numerous books, including You Can Heal Your Life , Empowering Women, and I Can Do It! . Subscribe to the Louise Hay Newsletter! Call for a Free Issue: (800) 654-5126. Questions for Louise? Write to: Dear Louise Column, c/o Hay House, Inc., P.O. Box 5100, Carlsbad, CA 92018-5100 (letters may be edited for length and clarity). Visit Louise and Hay House at: or