Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Are You Good to Your Heart?

While I was at the Institute for Functional Medicine Convention a couple of weeks ago, I got to listen to Dr. Mimi Guarneri, a cardiologist from Southern California and the winner of the Linus Pauling award this year for her outstanding work.  I just finished reading her book, The Heart Speaks, in which she talks about her journey from being a type A, by-the-book cardiologist to someone who has grown to appreciate and respect the power and influence that thoughts, feelings, emotions, and a sense of belonging have on heart health.   Because of this, she began support groups for her heart patients that included yoga and meditation, and she was initially laughed at by her peers.  Today, her classes are full and her programs are a success.  In fact, in her book, she quotes Larry Dossey who said:

“Scientists working in the new field of psychoneuroimmunology have demonstrated the existence of infinite links between parts of the brain concerned with thought and emotion and the neurological and immune systems.  Based on these discoveries, we know beyond doubt that thought can become biology.”

I’m always talking about the importance of a healthy diet, but if you’ve ever been to one of my talks, then you’ve heard me speak about ‘primary food’, which is everything in our life except food (which is considered secondary food).  This may include career, relationships, your spiritual practice, etc.  Whatever balance may look like for you in these areas, that is to say, whatever combination of factors in your area of primary food make you happy or feel a sense of well-being, if they’re not being fulfilled, then the negative impact they have on you emotionally in some ways can be just as bad as eating fast food everyday for lunch.  

Eating all the kale and quinoa in the world will not prevent an unhealthy balance of hormones that can arise from constant anger, frustration, or despair.   And of course, living under a cloud of constant negative emotions will eventually influence the steps we take–or don’t take–to maintain our health.

Dr. Guarneri tells remarkable stories about some of her patients and how it wasn’t until they overcame emotional issues, opened the lines of communication with their spouses, or found a reason to live (one elderly woman got herself a small dog and it changed her world) that they were able to get on the road to recovery. She also described a high-powered, female executive patient who had no signs of heart disease or risk factors yet who had suffered a heart attack that was brought on by intense anger and an emotional outburst.   

And, she tells some fascinating stories about the power of prayer and how one of her patients was transformed by a healer.   Not something that you would hear most doctors talk about or even believe in.   She certainly didn’t until she saw a miraculous recovery.  She even uses the power of healing touch herself on her patients that helped spare one from surgery.

Overall, this book has me taking a look at my life, my relationships, and anywhere I may be harboring negativity or other low energy emotions that could be harming me physically.  It has reminded me of the importance of primary food in my life, in addition to diet and exercise.

One night at the conference, I met Dr. Guarneri.  A small group of women were talking, and she mentioned to us half jokingly that she would like to give up her practice and start farming.   I told her if she wanted some tips on how to get started to go visit my daughter in Northern California.  She smiled… 

Think about all the ways you may be hurting your heart and the impact it is having on your life or of those around you.  Then, commit to turning those actions around to something positive.  You may be surprised how far-reaching your actions go.


  1. Excellent post! Primary Food - what a way to phrase it. I might have to borrow that notion and term.
    My mother died of heart disease at the young age of 31. My sister passed away from it a few short years after at the ripe ole age of 21. In my mother's case, she didn't harbor ill emotions, she just didn't have the knowledge of healthy dieting and combat her genetic disposition to the disease but in my sister's case, though she was diagnosed with the illness, she had a unhealthy marriage and I think this is what triggered it so early for her.
    I wish my loved ones had this knowledge when they were alive...maybe they would still be here today with me. This is really important information that you are sharing. Thank you.

  2. Wow, I love your definition of primary food. I've never heard that before. What a great experience for you. Thank you for sharing it.

  3. Lana, so sorry to hear about your mom and your sister at such young ages! It's amazing and scary what our negative emotions can do to us physically and in your mom's case, if she had only known about healthy eating.

    Thank you and Nancy for the comment on primary food, but I can't take the credit for that. Joshua Rosenthal, the founder of my coaching school (IIN) is responsible for that term. It's so true, though, whatever name we give to it. How we live outside of eating has an enormous impact on our overall health.

  4. Linda! Great post backed up by medical evidence. I just LOVE it when medical evidence supports what we already know about our bodies energy works. It's like the metaphysics of medicine. The thing is when we're angry and vibrating at a lower frequency, it makes sense that the energy has to go some where. I think some of the best energy work we can do is heart chakra work...it seems to open up all other channels.

  5. Linda: love love love this post, especially the concept of "primary food" and the line:
    Eating all the kale and quinoa in the world will not prevent an unhealthy balance of hormones that can arise from constant anger, frustration, or despair.
    So very true. Unless we integrate mind, body and spirit, healing does not go deeply enough...thanks for the reminder and this great post!

  6. Love the post, Linda. Great advice about emotional states and how they play into wellness. Working with a shamanic mentor has done wonders for me!

  7. ooooh, I LOVE this article! I wonder if there is a correlation for women between heart disease and asking for what they want - answering the call of their hearts? What a great article!!! I have personally witnessed some miraculous healings with prayer - and intention. I think emotional healing is a cure that needs to have plenty of attention showered on it. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Linda, I appreciate this story and your advice on making healthy changes.

    I imagine that a change in brain power from these choices is part of the package.

  9. Thanks so much for your comments everyone! Lena, it is nice to see the medical community backing this up with their own findings. Everything we do and 'are' contributes to or depletes our level of health and happiness (even asking for what we want Annette : )

  10. Wow, what an excellent article! I love how inward and outward blends together. We're miraculously created and everything we do, don't do or are effects our well-being and relationships. I wish more people could read this post and realize what truly matters. I'm sharing it right away...

  11. Linda, I never thought of "my life" as the primary food. Thanks for offering a different way to observe and experience everyday life! You have given me fuel to help with my own mission!!!! THANKS!