How Psychedelic Assisted Therapy Can Help Heal Your Auto Immune Disease

If you or a loved one has been at the mercy of an auto-immune disease, you may be surprised that psychedelic research over the past decade has shown effective as an anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive agent (drugs that prevent your immune system from attacking healthy cells and tissues) by polarizing adaptive immunity toward antibody production. (2). Let’s rewind for a moment. If you’re new to autoimmune diseases, auto immune diseases include Hashimotos, Arthritis, IBS, Chron’s Disease, Psoriasis, Celiac Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Lupus and many more. There are three factors at play in the development of autoimmune diseases: genes, immune system, and the environment (6).

Epigenetic research (the study of changes in organisms caused by modification of gene expression rather than alteration of the genetic code itself) shows environment and behavior play a significant modulatory effect on immune responses by altering signaling pathways involved in inflammation, cellular proliferation and cell survival via activating NF-κB and MAPKs [4]. Adverse childhood experiences, or childhood maltreatment, is a significant environmental stressor that has been linked with inflammation [5]. Childhood maltreatment is characterized by physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse (psychological abuse) and neglect and is expressed in adulthood through low self-worth, high internalized shame, and impaired capacity to recognize and interpret others’ emotions, leading to pervasive difficulties in social interactions, unstable relationships and onset or worsening of posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSD), including complex PTSD (c-PTSD – prolonged trauma) [9]. Doctors and psychologists alike know that risk factors for PTSD or c-PTSD inflammation include lifetime trauma, biological sex, genetics, gut microbiota and metabolic conditions [5].

How PTSD affects the immune system

People with PTSD and c-PTSD remain in a perpetual state of hyperarousal and fear [1]. Hyperarousal and subsequent increased hormonal activity in the central nervous system from a prolonged state of trauma can trigger the release of excess levels of stress hormones that further contribute to chronic immune dysregulation and may lead to impairment of the immune system and subsequent autoimmune disease [1]. This trauma exposure and prolonged stress may result in glucocorticoid receptor resistance (GCR) [2] which makes immune cells less sensitive to glucocorticoid hormones, a hormone that helps stop an inflammatory response [8]. Hence, this trauma-resulting resistance may result in inflammation ([8].

Psychedelics’ psychoactive substances often alter cognition and perception by triggering neurotransmitter receptors, such as serotonin and sigma-1, which have shown to play crucial roles in many immunological processes and offers promising treatment for autoimmune and chronic inflammatory conditions and infections [2]. Acute neurological activity of psychedelics suggest that they decrease within-network connectivity and increase between-network connectivity, thereby disrupting previous neural patterns of cognition and behavior and facilitating new learning [3]. The capacity of psychedelic drugs to acutely disintegrate and post-acutely reshape maladaptive schemata of self and other formed in reaction to developmental (maltreatment) trauma shows as a promising intervention for those suffering from c-PTSD and childhood maltreatment [3].

The future of psychedelics and auto immune disease

While the impact of psychedelics to help heal c-PTSD and PTSD is very compelling, more research is necessary to make a clear connection for its full impact to autoimmune disorders and epigenetic expression of maladaptive genetic coding. However, the evidence is clear, however, that individuals suffering from c-PTSD and PTSD are more susceptible to developing some variant of auto-immune disease. This proves the importance of addressing c-PTSD, PTSD and auto-immune diseases holistically. Treatment providers need a more integrated approach, inviting conversations about the impact of prolonged mental health stress to the development of auto-immune disease. Clients need to understand the ability to reverse the maladaptive sequencing caused by environmental and behavior factors. More holistic education is needed, with clients understanding the full implications of passing on susceptibility of auto-immune diseases onto their off-spring; and that some of the epigenetic factors of environment and behavior can be healed by addressing internalized shame and reframing self-concept and social cognition from underlying causes of c-PTSD or PTSD. Leaning into psychedelic assisted therapy to potentially “fast-track” this healing might contribute to the prevention of further suffering and the passing-on of psychological and emotional trauma to future generations.

Curious if psychedelic assisted therapy might help you? Contact Dr. Jen for more information.

Bibliography

1. Bookwalter DB, Roenfeldt KA, LeardMann CA, Kong SY, Riddle MS, Rull RP. Posttraumatic stress disorder and risk of selected autoimmune diseases among US military personnel. BMC Psychiatry. 2020 Jan 15;20(1):23. doi: 10.1186/s12888-020-2432-9. PMID: 31941473; PMCID: PMC6964079.
2. Front. Immunol., 13 July 2015 Sec. Multiple Sclerosis and Neuroimmunology
Volume 6 – 2015 | https://doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2015.00358 Attila Szabo
3. Healy CJ, Lee KA, D’Andrea W. Using Psychedelics With Therapeutic Intent Is Associated With Lower Shame and Complex Trauma Symptoms in Adults With Histories of Child Maltreatment. Chronic Stress (Thousand Oaks). 2021 Jul 11;5:24705470211029881. doi: 10.1177/24705470211029881. PMID: 34291179; PMCID: PMC8278461.
4. Mazzone, R., Zwergel, C., Artico, M. et al. The emerging role of epigenetics in human
autoimmune disorders. Clin Epigenet 11, 34 (2019).
https://doi.org/10.1186/s13148-019-0632-2
5. Miller AH and Binder EB: Guilt by Association: Inflammation and Shared Genetic Risk Between Stress-Related and Immune Disorders
Published Online:1 Apr 2023 https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.ajp.20230078
6. https://www.cdc.gov/genomics/disease/epigenetics.htm
7. https://www.hopkinscim.org/breakthrough/winter-2023/transforming-treatment-for-autoimmune-diseases/
8. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/ptsd-and-autoimmune-diseases
9. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/child-maltreatment#:~:text=It%20includes%20all%20types%20of,of%20responsibility%2C%20trust%20or%20power.

Search

Recent Posts

Are You Headed for a Divorce? 6 Tell-Tale Signs You Are

In my clinical experience, here are 6 tell-tale signs you might be headed for a divorce. It’s not uncommon to wonder if you weren’t in a committed relationship, what life might be like. Even the healthiest of relationships have momentary wanderlust of single life. But if you think like that more frequently than not, you or your partner might be heading toward divorce.

Emotional Contagion: What Is the ‘Spillover Effect’? (Part 1)

Spillover (noun) 1.) The act or an instance of spilling over; 2.) A quantity that spills over; 3.) An extension of something, especially when an excess exists.—Merriam-Webster Dictionary As humans, we do our best to bifurcate our lives—meaning, one section or quadrant...

Should I Live to Work or Work to Live? How to Decide

If you're grappling with which is a better life perspective—to live to work or work to live—I'm guessing there's some facet of your current work life that's impacting your greater personal satisfaction. Trust me, it happens to all of us! Whether you're frustrated with...

Do I Need Therapy or an Executive Coach?

You're at a crossroads: Life is happening in full force; your career/business trajectory may be riding high but your marriage is suffering. Everything is on the line; and now your relationship problems are so bad that it's making it hard to focus on your work. You're...

Categories