Dr. Amanda is a chiropractor who focuses on Neuro-Optimization. Her tools and strategies aim to help people regulate and optimize their nervous systems.
When people undergo pain and stressful events in their life, their nervous system can become dysregulated. This shifts their body from the parasympathetic to the sympathetic nervous system.
Over long periods of time, this could lead to various symptoms in one’s body.
In her chiropractic practice, Dr. Amanda uses revolutionary approaches that are gentle, light touch, and specific.
Her motto is: "The doctor determines the diagnosis, the patient decides the prognosis". Dr.Amanda believes that patients have more power and control over their healing than they think. They simply need the tools and strategies to support them on their healing journey.
In this episode, we discuss what neuro-optimization is and how we can use it to help heal our bodies from the inside out. You'll learn techniques you can do on your own in the comfort of your own home like breathwork and meditation.
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Welcome to the Sugar Solve podcast where we're demystifying health one gram of sugar at a time. From eliminating excess sugar to cutting back on carbs, diving into keto, or becoming a devout vegan, today's diet landscape can give you a sugar crash just thinking about it. Sugar Solve is here to demystify all the nutrition and health trends you're bombarded with on a daily basis, bringing you unbiased insight, research and real world experiences from experts in the field of medicine, nutrition, health and wellness. You'll gain knowledge and clarity around the biggest trends in health and nutrition and leave each week feeling empowered to make informed decisions in your own life to optimize your diet and personal wellness for longevity, long lasting energy immunity, improved focus and performance that will leave you feeling better day in and day out. The truth won't be sugar coated here. Welcome back to the Sugar Sol podcast. Today we'll be speaking with Dr. Amanda chan, who is a chiropractor who focuses on neuro optimization. Her tools and strategies aim to help people regulate and optimize their nervous system. You'll also have a treat of going through an actual breathing exercise that will be practicing together in the episode. Welcome to the Sugar Solve podcast. Dr. Amanda Chen, how are you?
I'm great. Thank you for asking. Thank you for having me.
Yeah, of course. Can you give us a little bit of background about yourself, what you do?
Yeah. So I'm what I call a traditional chiropractor. And what I focus on is somebody's nervous system. So the nerves and their body and how to heal them and also how to what we call optimize them.
Definitely. So what got you into this field and how did you even think about this as a career?
Well, I have always been in the health, wanted to be in the health field, but I didn't know where. And so as I grew up, I started noticing that personally when I was taking medication, I always had reactions to it. So I had to find a way that I could still get healthy, but not necessarily always take medication for it. And so this led me down other approaches and different natural approaches until I came across chiropractic.
Yeah. I feel like a lot of, like, conventional medicine. They're always like, here, just throw medications on top of it. But it's not healing that the root, like, cause it. It's kind of putting a Band-Aid over everything.
Yeah, absolutely. And I had I was very shy as a child. And so eventually, because I didn't use my voice, I ended up getting the universe sent me an autoimmune disease, which I started to lose parts of my voice. And so what I had to do was and they told me that I would have it forever and that I would take medication forever. But there was a part of me that said, What if there are other ways? I don't discount what they say, but what if there's something else? And so that led me down. Nutrition and how to eat in order for what my body requires and doing meditation and yoga and all the things in order to see if I could heal myself.
So now were you able to hear yourself? What did you do? What kind of changes did you make that kind of went against what they were saying?
Well, I knew a lot of it had to be diet related as I started to research some more. So I cut out the gluten, I cut out the sugar for a while, a couple of years, and then I started to track also like I had my blood monitored at the same time so I could check to see if I was progressing or if I was getting better or what was going on. So it was nice to be able to have both. And so I did dietary changes, supplements from the natural side, and then I knew that there also had to be an emotional aspect to it, right? You don't just lose your voice, your body just doesn't pick that area. And so I had to work on bringing giving my bringing my power back, getting my voice back and learning about the emotional causes that could have came about in my life in order to create this opportunity to change my health and the direction of my life.
So would you say that like growing up and stuff, were you kind of following that conventional diet? Like the sad diet, I say, and eating tons of sugar and processed foods and just kind of living that less than active lifestyle that many people in America are living.
Well, that's actually interesting because I'm Canadian for a while, but my mom is not from here. Obviously, you can say from an Asian background. So I didn't necessarily eat the same foods as everybody else. However, I didn't ever feel like I fit in, so I wanted to be like everybody else, right? So if somebody did get pizza for lunch, I wanted pizza for lunch. So I think I also had a rule based on how I wanted to be like everybody else and not be the one that stands out or has the smelly food at school. I changed my diet to one of the American diet because everybody else had that.
Again, that's going to come back to like the emotional and thought processes. Right, because that's all in your head.
Wow. Exactly. Yeah. Well, all when you're going into school and you know, you don't fit in, all you want to do is fit in. Later, as I discovered, I want to stand out your gift, your uniqueness, as in standing out. So I've really come a full 180 degrees on that stance.
So now tell us about some of the patients that you see. What are people coming to you with? What are the problems that they're seeking to fix?
Yeah. So a lot of people come in for the regular pains, like low back pain, neck pain. But we don't look at it at that that approach. Like I look at a person from the physical, emotional and mental aspect of them. So I'll give you an example. Let's say you were shoveling snow because we have a lot of it here. And that's a common reason for why people come in to see me. They're shoveling snow and they throw up their back. We definitely want to look at how much your carry how much snow you're carrying. How long have you been doing it for? What was your posture? What was your stance? We also want to take a look at what were you thinking when you were shoveling? Were you saying, okay, how come I'm the only one out here shoveling snow? How come nobody is here to help me? Because that adds the emotional mental component. Right? Or what if you're going, I hate my job. I hate my job. I hate my job with every single shovel and then your back goes out that we want to know, is there other factors that are involved in just this one incident that's causing you the pain?
So what are the type of remedies or steps that you walk a patient through to kind of fix that and discover those thoughts?
Yeah. So we do ask what else is going on? Like, what else were you thinking at that time? What else was on your mind? What else were you doing? How were you feeling? Which a lot of people don't think about when they're just talking about their back pain or their neck pain. And so we start opening the door that maybe there's something else going on here and that your pain is just a signal that your body wants to tell you more information and doesn't always have to be bad.
So tell us more about the nervous system here. And I know that there's different types of exercises that people can do, like nervous system regulation optimization. Walk us through some of these practices.
Sure. So at the beginning, when we look at nervous system regulation, we want to look at when did your nervous system start to get the wrong messages? By wrong messages, it means how you're reacting to the world and how you respond to your environment. And a lot of it always starts with trauma and it doesn't have to be a big trauma. It could be. So trauma is something like a sudden emotional impact, which. Yes, big trauma or little things over time. Right. And so repeated over and over. And so if you had a traumatic experience when you were younger, then that's the first time your nervous system started to put you on alert. Right. And then anything that looks like, smells like could possibly set that off. Your body would react even before it happened again to you.
So there sounds like there's a lot of like the psychological stuff like post traumatic stress disorder, different like abuses that people have been through. It seems like that comes into play with a lot of these later on, these health concerns. It may stem back to these past traumas.
Absolutely. What we're finding also in, let's say, something like weight loss, it's not what you're eating, it's what's eating you. Right. It is the stuff that you're holding on to. Yes. There are physical components of what you're actually putting into your mouth and the exercise components and your adrenals and like hormones, all of that. But it really is for, let's say, for weight loss, not feeling safe in the world, not feeling safe with who you are. And safety is first brought on when you're born. Right, you have to feel safe from your parents and your caregivers. And if you didn't feel that way, then you spend a lot of your nervous system gets calibrated to not feeling safe.
So what are some of the initial steps that someone can take or the tools they can use to start to kind of heal those parts of their past and then build up their resilience going forward?
Yeah. So one of the most important things, the first thing is always awareness. In order to change something, you have to be aware of what needs to be changed because you don't know what you don't know. So I always tell people, start with, imagine yourself as a child during these experiences that happen to you, what do you think you might have thought? Okay, so for example, let's say your parents had to work a lot. Of course, they had to bring home money and give you the means to do the things that you want to do. But your interpretation as a five year old might not be, Oh, my mom needs to go to work to make money. It could have been. I felt abandoned. They're never around to play with me, you know. So it's your interpretation of what happened. So I put yourself in a child's shoes and then think about what was going around your life in that time when your parents getting along, where they working too much, like what was the environment and try and figure out what you might have thought. Then once you have an awareness of what's going on, then we start looking at some breathing exercises. Deep breathing is always a great one to calm your nervous system down meditation practices, yoga, anything like even cold. People like to do a lot of cold therapy. Right now it's taking cold showers or even ice bath sponges to reset and calm down the nervous system.
So there's also probably a big community aspect about this and definitely like your environment. So if you're, let's say someone still there living around people who may be exacerbating some of those past traumas, too, and that's something they can't really maybe escape at the moment. But how are some ways that people can build up that support network that they need? Like, is it only you or should they be seeing a psychologist too? Should they be seeing other types of doctors along with you?
Absolutely. So the community is such a big role in human like in all of humanity, right. Having a supportive group of individuals. So you either have to create it yourself by seeking actively seeking out people like a psychologist or seeing maybe a naturopath or somebody a nutritionist for your diet. You have yourself a team of people that you work with nowadays with technology, you can do it online or in person too. And. And also find people, groups that people have gone through, what you have gone through as well so that they understand because the healing journey can be quite lonely because as you said, you sometimes you have to give up your sugar, give up gluten, wheat, dairy, whatever that you have to give up. And other people around you, your loved ones may not understand that at Christmas you can't have X, Y and Z anymore. Right? And you can feel lonely. So you have to know people that are going through the same thing and maybe even a little further ahead on the journey so that you can see what's possible for you as well.
Now, I know a lot of people are probably going to have pushback saying, oh, it's not my thoughts. Like how they're going to say, oh, it's definitely nutrition is I need to work out, I need to take these medications. It's not all in my head like people think that. How does the nervous system actually get disregulated? Like from just experiencing something? How does that actually affect the entire from your brain all the way down to the tingling in your fingers? Like, how does that work?
Yeah. So your nervous system is the autonomic nervous system is controlled by the parasympathetic, which is the rest and digest system and then the sympathetic which most people hear of fight or flight. Right? So it's how you get out of danger. But there's also the freeze response and a very new one called the fan response. So the fight, flight freeze and fun, it's like a tongue twister. That is when your body feels stressed. So any time you feel stressed, that system kicks in. It's meant to be for a short period of time, like being chased by a lion or having an immediate danger and needing to leave. But it's not meant for long periods of time. The challenge now is people's computers are causing them stress people. The traffic is causing them stress. So the last few years with the pandemic has been causing them stress. So this system that's meant for short term is now being used for long periods of time. Now, if you look at what it takes to, let's say, run away from a bear, what do you think happens to your body? So your heart rate will probably increase, right? So that more blood goes to your muscles so you can get out of there, right? Your muscles tighten because you're trying. You might fight this bear. Obviously, I'm not very good at fighting bears, but heart rate, blood pressure hormones that are released. Right. So stress hormones include cortisol, adrenaline that coursing through your entire body. Right. And so that's how the nervous system is affected on every different level. And if you look at some of the digestion get shut down as well because it is not needed to run away from something and a lot of blood is required for the digestive system. So the body and its intelligence shuts it off, uses the blood to go to your legs so that you can run away from the bear. Right. And so if you're using that system for a long time, the sympathetic, you start seeing people who have heart trouble, blood pressure issues, digestive issues, right. Muscle tension, all these things are coming up pretty much in almost everybody nowadays.
Yeah, that makes a lot of sense because you're just being in that tense mode all the time and that obviously that's going to lead to, like, aches and pains and just yeah. Like you're, you're not digesting your food properly and everything. Wow. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.
Right? And you just think about it as obviously there's scientific words for everything, but you just what is my body going to do when it's resting versus trying to run away? And you can feel like if you're going to run away from a bear, how stressed your body is going to be versus you're like, okay, I'm on a beach, you know, soaking up the sun. Even in the thinking of that, all these things are changed.
So once your patients become aware of these problems and they can identify some moments in their life where they really experience something that changed how they thought about things or changed how they started acting, how long will it take to heal that? What can they expect? Like, will they be? All right, I'm going to change my mindset tomorrow and I'm going to feel fantastic the next day. It's obviously going to be a long process because to be able to change those thoughts, there's going to have to be a lot of intentional work.
Yes, absolutely. So it doesn't have to be a long process, but it is up to the patient or the client or whoever that's coming to see you. So there's different types of people that I can tell how quickly they will recover. So if somebody is what we call an as long as person, as long as it doesn't take time, as long as it doesn't require too much money, as long as I don't have to give up sugar, as long as I don't have to stop smoking, as long as all these, as long as excuses, it will take a lot longer than whatever it takes person. If you're a whatever it takes person and your goal is to heal or recover or whatever it is, and that is your priority, those people will always recover fast.
Yeah, that makes sense. And I love what you always say. The doctor determines the diagnosis and you decide your prognosis. I think that's definitely very powerful and it's very powerful to even tell the patient, like, this is like this may be what I'm telling you or this may be the condition that you have, whatever. But what you do from this point forward is definitely a play, a very, very large role.
Absolutely. And that's what one of the main points I always want to tell people is just because you have a diagnosis, it doesn't mean that, you know, people start going on Google and start researching, right. And they're like, I'm going to die. I was like, okay, well, there's a lot of factors between here and there, right? And, you know, you may see 30 people with chronic low back pain is what they have. But the prognosis is completely different. And yes, there are variables, obviously, outside of your control. You might not control your genes. You might not control certain aspects of your environment, like whether it rains or, you know. But there are so many factors that are within your control, right? You control what you put in your mouth, the food that you put in. Right. The water you drink, the quality, the supplements that you take, and also the quality of your thoughts and emotions. It's so those are all within your control. And that's a lot that your sleep, how well you sleep. And so if you took all those aspects like you're eating well, you're sleeping better than you ever have before, you're exercising more just in the end, you're feeling better just in that self. If that is, that person's going to heal better than somebody else. Whose body or who cells are made up of McDonald's French fries. Right. Yeah.
So then when you kind of come to this conclusion with your patient, what kind of protocol do they do you give them do you give them a certain way to eat, a specific way that's healthy or a workout plan along with, you know, good sleep and good, you know, meditation techniques and the breathwork and stuff. Are there other things that you obviously look into? Because obviously the food that you're putting into your body is going to matter? So are some what are some of the other things that you tell your patients?
Yeah, well, I also in my physical location, I am a chiropractor, so I do do light touch and gentle adjustments to help their nervous system regulate better. But in terms of things that you can do at home for awareness, I get them to do journaling, right? We do talk a lot about their nutrition for sure. Now I don't, do we? I also work with naturopaths, so I do refer them out if they need specific testing for anything that they might have sensitivities to in terms of diet. But we do have a conversation about the things that you're putting in your mouth is literally making up your cells. So are your cells currently made of potato chips or are they made of solid because basic like down to that level of it, that's going to change the way you heal 100%.
And now I know that you have an online community. Correct. And you have a course. I would love to learn more about that.
All right. Yeah, I'm starting the next part of the course, actually, on this coming Monday, July the 18th. But what I do is I created a community where we've immersed them in different tools and strategies for healing. So every single morning I film a 15 to 30 minute segment of, okay, these are some exercises we're doing today. These are some breathwork exercises, and they get emailed to the person every single morning. There's also a Facebook group community that all the registrants are. Participants are a part of where they can connect and ask questions and also know that they're the only ones on this journey. And so the reason it's really intensive, we do it Monday to Thursday is because imagine you're trying to learn a language. You can learn Mandarin if you like. If you do it once a week for an hour, you're not immersed in the language. Right? But if I drop you off in the country and you did not know how to speak it and they came back for you in three months, you'd make a lot of progress because you would have to write. And so I find often if let's say someone's working with a nutritionist and they only see them once every few months if they haven't started taking action, they've lost three months where they could have made a difference or a change in their health. So a few times a year I do these intensive programs for three months and we just pick a goal and just go for it.
I would love if you could walk us through a breathing exercise before we sign off. If there's one, an easy one that we can have the listeners do while they're listening.
Yeah, perfect. So one of the ones that I like to use for when you notice that your nervous system is starting to react. So when you feel like stress in your shoulders, it's called growing breathes. So we'll just close our eyes. I'm going to take deep breaths in through the nose. Out to the. And I'll explain the breathing pattern because it's important. And through the nose and out through the mouth is a calming breath for the nervous system. There are other breaths that say you want to run a race, you want to do a marathon, you're not going to be breathing in through the nose and the mouth all the time. You want to build up your energy, so you might do a nose, nose, breathing or mouth nose breathing. But because the goal is to calm the nervous system, it's through the nose and mouth. So as you're breathing, you're just going to imagine that underneath your feet there are routes. Coming out of your feet like you're a tree. So imagine your tree. The roots are going down and down through the ground, through the earth. As you keep breathing into the nose, out through the mouth, and you're going to send your roots all the way down as far down as you can. And coming back up from your feet through those roots are going to it's going to be the energy of the earth, the grounding, the calming energy, the energy that the plants use to grow, that the trees use to grow. Nature's energy is going to be coming back up. Through the roots and into your body. And then as you breathe it in through the nose, to the mouth, send your roots even further down into the earth and then coming back up. Good. Go get the energy of the earth. And so that simple exercise, you can even do it with your eyes open. But imagine you notice. Okay, I'm starting to get an argument with somebody or my nervous system is starting to get stressed. Just send your roots down into the earth and you will start to calm down.
Yeah, definitely. I always feel like breathing exercises are easier when you have someone kind of directing you to it because you're forced to kind of really take notice of it. Like, I know I get frustrated with those things because whenever I'm trying them myself know my mind wanders. So I think it obviously is going to take practice, but also having someone kind of walk you through it, especially the first time, that's always so much more.
Helpful for sure. And that's also part of the community and the group. The program that I created is we do a lot of meditations because guided meditations allow you to focus better. I don't have to think to worry about what's coming next because I just have to listen and allow my body to experience what's going on.
Yeah, 100%. So if there's one major take home point that you want our listeners to walk away with something they can try today for themselves, what would that be?
I would say the breathing exercise is a good start to calm your nervous system, but also just take note of your body, feel where is there tension? Where am I holding it? Where is there pain? And those areas are the ones that need the most work right now.
Now, let our listeners know where they can find you all about your course. We'll put all that in the show notes. But anything you want to shout out right now, let them know.
The best place to find me is on my website. Optimize my healing dot com or you can follow me at NPR. Dr. Dot Amanda Chan on Instagram.
Awesome. Thank you so much for coming on, Dr. Amanda.
You are welcome. It was a pleasure.
Thank you for tuning in to another episode of the Sugar Solved podcast. As always, if you like what you hear. Share it with a friend. Leave a rating and review on your favorite podcast player and tune in next week for another episode of the Sugar Solved podcast, where we demystify health and nutrition. One gram of sugar at a time.