EPISODE #03 – ADDRESSING GENERATIONAL TRAUMA w/ DR. ZELINA – and why healing is more than physical
- Published on: 20 January, 2020
- Last update: 04 May, 2021
What role does spiritual wellness play in the healing of the physical? This is a question I’ve asked myself over and over throughout my life. While I’ve made major strides by dialing in my nutrition and learning the art of herbalism, whenever I hit a wall it seems to have more to do with the things I can’t necessarily see, eat, or buy.
For me, things like; processing trauma, managing stress, rewiring the negative belief systems that have been ingrained since childhood, going to therapy, and connecting with COMMUNITY have been more powerful than any nutrition change I’ve made in attempts to feel my best.
When I originally set out to record the What’s the Juice podcast, I planned to touch on this topic with every guest at some point. How have these spiritual/emotional aspects played a role in your own healing? I didn’t expect that each conversation would ultimately lead back to this not just as a factor, but the base. The non-negotiable. The foundational of healing.
Your relationship with yourself is crucial for your overall wellbeing.
When you’re truly ready to do the work… this is the nitty gritty you have to face. When you’re ready to treat yourself like you love yourself, you have to first understand why you didn’t for so many years. It’s not just about changing our habits, but rather the beliefs that are driving them. THAT’S the hardest part to tackle, because so often these beliefs are not even our own.
In this week’s episode I sit down with Dr. Zelina Medina, Doctor of Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine, who was led to her career after being diagnosed with lupus, an autoimmune disease. We explore the steps she took to heal through the lens of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
While changing her diet made a huge difference, she credits her progress even more so to shamanic medicine ceremonies.
Dr. Z explains that a part of the soul gets lost, or detached from the self, when we experience childhood trauma — this affects us physically, and even gets passed on generationally.
This philosophy circles back to Chinese Medicine by sharing the concept of the “Shen,” which is the spirit, consciousness, and our connection to earth & each other. The same way there are herbs to address the physical, there are also herbs that calm and anchor the shen or spirit, and we cover all of our favorites (hello, Holy Basil) near the end of the episode.
When Dr. Z was diagnosed with lupus, she not only went through depression, but addiction as well, and felt like she didn’t know who to trust. (My teacher Richard says this is actually very common in autoimmune disease, as the boundary between “the self” and “other” becomes ‘leaky’ and distorted. Sometimes we let too MUCH in, while other times we shut down after seeing ourselves as too separate from the collective. Neither of these are healthy, because at the end of the day no human is an island and we need each other.
When her kidneys were failing, she couldn’t urinate (contributing to the edema of lupus), her skin was covered in the classic “butterfly rash”, and her mouth was full of ulcers doctors kept telling her they didn’t have answers.
Dr. Z said that during this time in her life she could be vulnerable with anyone in her life. The pressure came crashing down on her shoulders, and the turning point came when she was admitted into a psychiatric ward. That week, she says that she started seeing reality for the first time in a while. Her whole family showed up for her and it moved her deeply. In her words, she was surrounded by the love she was avoiding, convinced that no one loved her and she wasn’t worthy.
Starting with nutrition, yoga, and hiking, she started to make small changes and noticed incremental improvements. One day she picked up a book titled ‘Lupus: Alternative Therapies That Work’ – the only one on the topic she could find at the time – and started eating a diet of brown rice and vegetables rather than the fast food she was used to. Her mother suggested she try acupuncture, and that’s when she found Michael Fox. After her very first treatment, she felt hopeful for the first time in years.
So, What’s the Juice?
• In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), our SHEN is our spirit. It’s what connects us to each other, inspires us, and allows us to dream a better vision for the future.“Shen” is like the heart and mind all in one… The best way to nourish your shen is to get back to nature and unplug from technology (and the opinions/energy of others) – plug back into the earth and yourself.
• TCM principle states that “yin deficiency” (think dry skin, perpetual chapped lips, heat in the soles of your feet at night when you stay up too late and burn the candle at both ends) is common in women because every month we lose fluids via menstruation. Think of yin as our juiciness, yang as our fire. We need to spend more time in parasympathetic (rest and digest) mode in order to nourish our “yin” / feminine energy.
• In Chinese Medicine, the Wei Qi (or Protective Qi) is our immune system. It is our energetic boundary that protects us not only from pathogens, but from taking on others’ energy and emotions too deeply as well (empaths – read up on Wei Qi)!
• In acupuncture, the Lung-9 point is known as “Tai Yuan” or the “Great Abyss,” and it’s one of Dr. Zelina’s favorite points for autoimmunity as it nourishes the protective energy of the Lung. She also likes Lung-7 and Stomach-36 (since the Spleen/Stomach Qi also supports the Wei Qi).
Herbs that Nourish the Shen (and often the kidney/spleen Qi):
Holy Basil – considered a sacred plant in India. As an adaptogen, Holy Basil works to restore balance to the physical by modulating blood sugar and reducing stress hormones like cortisol. As a shen tonic, it works to restore balance to the emotional body and ground the spirit. Great as a tea or tincture!
Mimosa (aka Albizia) – another shen tonic that is especially wonderful for grief. Its flowers and bark are used in Chinese medicine to relieve anxiety and depression. Pairs well with rose and is wonderful in tincture form.
Hawthorn Berry – strengthens the cardiovascular system and helps with “food stagnation” / indigestion in the gut according to TCM. It is a powerful shen tonic that encourages joy and openness. Delicious as a tea with some honey.
Rose – Rose carries the medicine of both softness and strength with its petals and thorns. It reminds us that softness must exist in order to have strength. As a shen tonic, it connects us to the heart. It also protects our boundaries and nurtures the feminine.