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Episode 23: Why Low Libido Is A Huge Red Flag

Episode 23: Why Low Libido Is A Huge Red Flag

A few weeks ago, Andrea talked to clinical nutritionist Josh Gitalis about the root causes of autoimmune disease, including leaky gut, genetics and an environmental trigger. On this episode, Andrea goes even deeper with Dr. Keesha Ewers, integrative medicine expert and certified trauma informed therapist, about a hidden root cause of autoimmune disease: trauma.   

Before you self select out of listening, know this: trauma doesn’t have to mean some huge cataclysmic tragedy like sexual assault or the death of a loved one. In fact, trauma can be something small that we’ve completely blocked out of our memory.   

Dr. Keesha explains her work conducting the HURT Study in 2013 (Healing Un-Resolved Trauma) and how she developed a model for understanding how past childhood trauma impacts adult health.   She also breaks down the difference between little “t” trauma and big “T” trauma and lays out a path toward healing from either one, plus gives Andrea insight into why low libido is a huge red flag for the patients she sees and covers the microbiome’s role in libido and desire.  

To learn more about Dr. Keesha, head to or follow her on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Join Dr. Keesha's next webinar on Nov. 13th on how to heal autoimmune disease from the inside out. Click here to register:  

On this show, you’ll learn: 

  • Dr Keesha’s background (1:54)
  • Where autoimmune disease comes from (6:28)
  • How we hold onto trauma and how it shows up (11:10)
  • Two types of low libido and their root causes (21:28)
  • How the microbiome plays a role in low libido (28:28)
  • Addressing the pieces in healing trauma (33:30) 

BIOHM gut quiz


Andrea Wien: Welcome to The Microbiome Report. I'm your host, Andrea Wien. This episode is powered by Dr. Microbiome, a website from Dr. Mahmoud Ghannoum, the researcher who named the microbiome for the fungal colonies in our guts. Check out for articles and resources to optimize your gut and your life.

Today, I'm so happy to have Dr. Keesha Ewers on the show to talk about a wide range of topics, including the missing piece of the puzzle when we're talking about healing from autoimmune disease. Dr. Keesha has been in the medical field for 30 years and has an impressive list of qualifications as an integrative medicine expert, doctor of sexology, family practice ARNP, certified trauma informed therapy, a certified death doula, and is board-certified in functional medicine and Ayurvedic medicine. She's also the founder and medical director of The Academy for Integrative Medicine Health Coach Certification Program.

On this episode, she explains why low libido is a huge red flag for her when women visit her practice and how we can go beyond the initial stages of healing to achieve greater wellness. This episode takes a high-level view of many different concepts that we haven't explored on the show yet, so I invite you to keep an open mind and keep an eye out for round two with Dr. Keesha in a few weeks, where we'll take a look at concepts like ancestral trauma and healing and how the issues of your family's past can have a direct impact on your health today. Also, stay tuned after the show for details on a special offer from Dr. Keesha exclusively for podcast listeners.

Dr. Keesha, thanks so much for coming on the show.

Dr. Keesha: My pleasure. I love talking about these subjects. I'm excited.

Andrea Wien: Let's start just to give our listeners a bit of background with your own story of autoimmune disease and how you worked to reverse it.

Dr. Keesha: Sure. You know, I always say that all of us wherever we are in this kind of world that we all have a story about how we got there, and I'm definitely no exception. I was a nurse when I was 19 years old and I worked in kind of a high-intensity environment in the Intensive Care Unit, and did that kind of medicine up until I was 30. So I raising four small children, I was running marathons, and working in this very high-intensity medical world, and then I got sick. Like my patients say when they come to see me, I'm going to put this in air quotes, “It felt like it was all of a sudden I was sick.” And of course, that's not accurate.

So one day, I'm doing all the things I said and then the next morning literally I woke up with 10 pounds of puffiness and extra weight all over my joints and just red and inflamed. It was like someone had taken the batteries out of the Energizer Bunny. I was just flattened. So went in and I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis by my doctor. When I was given two prescriptions, one for Methotrexate and one for a very strong nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug and told, “Take these and when you get worse, not if you get worse, come back and we'll up your medication, either the family of meds were giving you or the amount.” Then I said, “Is there anything else?” I'm really disciplined. I make my own food, I exercise. I'm happy to take on whatever lifestyle changes I need to take on. And in the course of the history taking, my doctor had found out that my grandfather had had rheumatoid arthritis and in fact was wheelchair-bound for many years and actually I just figured out on one of these interviews that he had died by the age I am now, at 54.

Andrea Wien: Wow.

Dr. Keesha: Yeah. So she said, “I'm sorry my dear, you've basically drawn the short end of the genetic lotto.” And that's it, it's genetic. Nothing else to do. Close the book, put it on the shelf. And I remember driving home thinking, “There has to be a different way.” And when I tell people this, you know, that's fairly standard conversation now, but I'm 54 and this was when I was 30, and there was not a yoga studio on every corner and we didn't have internet the way we have it today. So we are still doing dial-up modems. It was kind of new. And so it was very difficult to think in those terms. I always say I would never have even known an herb if it had bitten me in the bottom because I was so far out from that world, the world I'm in today. And was completely you know, thoracic ICU, neuro ICU, that's what I did. So this was something that was a huge, I don't want to say paradigm shift, I want to say a paradigm explosion. I just really had to think in a whole different way.

I went to PubMed where we keep all of our literature in medicine where we're looking for new insight and went online. I found some articles that pointed to yoga being very good for people with autoimmune disease, so I went to my first yoga class the next day. And from there, this yoga teacher in that very first class said the word Ayurveda, which is the sister science of yoga. You could say the medical arm of it. It's like a 10,000 year-old framework of medicine that Chinese medicine came from. What I learned when I went home and look that up was really revolutionary for me.

One of the things they said was that we're not all the same, that gut health that we're going to be talking about today is where all health begins and all disease begins. And that it's really important. Not only that, but autoimmune disease was undigested anger. So that's going to launch us in to our conversation because those three things were game-changing for me, and I was able to reverse my RA within six months.

Andrea Wien: Recently, we had functional nutritionist Josh Gitalis on the show and we really dug in to the root causes of so many autoimmune diseases. But let's talk briefly about them right now, just in case people maybe haven't heard that episode or aren't familiar hearing this information for the first time. You kind of briefly touched on them just now when you were talking about your own experience. But when we look at from a clinical perspective what autoimmune disease comes from, what are we seeing?

Dr. Keesha: The way that I conceptualize it now is what I call the freedom framework. I always say, we're all individual puzzles. No one's alike. The FBI knows this. They can track us with our unique fingerprint. I don't even know why medicine hasn't caught up to that. One day I thought about that and thought, “Oh, yeah.” So think about like this, if we're all unique puzzles then we want to solve the puzzle if we have autoimmunity or any other chronic issue. I always think about it then as the four corner pieces of a puzzle are the first ones you look for when you dump all the pieces out. And the four corner pieces of every chronic illness puzzle will be the same.

One is your digestive health. It's one of the things I said like your microbiome, whether or not you have good gut lining integrity. So, how is your digestive system? The second one is your exposure to toxins and also how well your body can get rid of those toxins. I don't think about toxins as just the things in your environment, but also what's in your mind. So, do you have toxic belief systems? What's happening with your relationship with your body emotionally and mentally? The third one is genetic. We each have our own unique genetic makeup and we also know that those genetics can manifest themselves depending on what are the things we're thinking, what are we eating, those lifestyle choices that we call epigenetics. Now, I have the genetics for RA. My grandfather had it. I know I could get RA back within six months again if I went back to the way that I dealt with my stress and went back to the way I used to eat and drove myself. I'm such a perfectionist back in those days. So genetics are a big one.

And then the fourth corner piece of the puzzle is trauma, and I call this the missing piece of the puzzle. It also upregulates your genetics depending on how well you're managing that trauma and the stress that you are enduring I guess or experiencing in your current moment. Now, how you manage that stress actually comes from belief systems you created in childhood as a result of trauma, and everybody has trauma. So I always like to lay the groundwork on that one because if you think about trauma in terms of let's say capital T trauma versus lowercase t trauma, capital T trauma is going to be the trauma that people will deselect from. “Oh well, I wasn't sexually abused or I wasn't beaten when I was a child. You know, I had really great loving parents.” And so then they'll say they haven't had trauma, but in reality the way that we are biologically wired is if we're rejected from the tribe then we know if we're put on the outside of the fire like circle, the saber-tooth tiger can eat us.

And so any experience of rejection or betrayal is actually experienced by the mind and the body as trauma. And so we know now from science, there was a research group led by [inaudible] who looked at fMRI scans of brains. What they saw was the same exact brain damage or changes in the adult part of the brain, the prefrontal cortex that controls what we eat, our impulse control; controls how we spend our money, who we hang out with, all of those adult decisions executive function. That actually showed shrinkage, just like someone that had experience post-traumatic stress disorder from capital T trauma in people that were reporting themselves as chronically overwhelmed.

And I don't know about you, but I do not have one patient that finds me that does not use those words, “I'm so overwhelmed.” I hear that so much right now in our society. And so I just want people to understand that this fourth piece of the puzzle, the corner piece, this trauma piece, please don't self-select out of it. Because we live in a culture that actually keeps us chronically overwhelmed and stressed.

Andrea Wien: Yeah. And I think so many times I've heard clients come to me and exactly what you're saying, saying, “I'm overwhelmed.” And then we try to get into this trauma piece and again, the same thing that you're saying, they're saying, “Well, I never had any trauma.” And we explain little T, big T trauma and still ... So many of these things perhaps are things that we can't remember or people had a great childhood they feel, and so couldn't possibly be something you know that they experienced when they were younger. But often times, we don't remember these things but our body does. Can you talk a little bit about how we hold on to this in different places and how it manifests into disease?

Dr. Keesha: Oh my gosh, it's such a great question and it's where a lot of science has gone. When I was trying to figure this out, because I did experience sexual abuse when I was 10 from the vice principal of my elementary school. And so I'm going to use myself as an example because it's a pretty clear-cut path about how I wound up with RA at the age of 30 after having that experience at the age of 10. When I was learning all of this, big wake-up call, I have to figure this out, I went back to school and I got a PhD in sexology. And the reason I did that, people say, “I didn't even know that was a thing.” When I'm speaking from stages, I always say, “Best PhD ever.” But I'm saying it just to be funny, but really what I was answering were all these people that were coming into my practice asking for bioidentical hormone replacement. And as I would start asking questions like, “Why do you think you need hormones? So your libido is low, when's the last time you had a libido level that you were satisfied with? Do you like your partner that you're engaging with sexually?” I would get so many tears and answers to these very simple questions.

And I started seeing that there was a lot of hurt. A lot of unresolved stuff that was being triggered by current-day partnerships, whether it was boss, kid, parent, or sexual partner. I thought, “Gosh, you know what? There has to be something to this.” And so when I went back to PubMed and I looked in the medical literature, I found the ACEs study, which is the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study, which we can talk about it later. But it didn't say why the findings were what they were, which is the answer to the question you just asked me. Why is it that when we experience trauma, decades later, we wind up with some kind of diagnosis like cancer or autoimmune disease where we're attacking ourselves? So I conducted a small pilot study of 100 women, and I was looking for, I called it the HURT study, the Healing Un-Resolved Trauma study. I was looking for the why in this.

What I discovered the HURT model that emerged from that was that when you're young…I looked at thousands of PET scans, fMRI scans of brains, and I saw that the very same parts of the brain that are needed for a woman to have sexual desire are the same ones that are hijacked by remembering trauma. Now, that's a first aha. Like, “Oh my gosh.” So then, that took me deeper into my inquiry and I started looking at, “Oh yeah, that prefrontal cortex is not fully developed until we're actually 26 years old.” So when we are going through our life experiences before the age of 26, we're going to stay in childhood, then we actually don't have that part of our brain online yet. It's not fully developed. So when you first go through any experience of rejection, betrayal, feeling like you're out of the club in anyway, any kind of tribe. And this-

Andrea Wien: So high school basically could be a…

Dr. Keesha: Elementary school, for heaven's sake.

Andrea Wien: Of course.

Dr. Keesha: Not getting picked for the ball team or the dodgeball, or having…I always say like you know, I don't know if you ever experienced this, but girls can be mean and having three friends one day on the playground and the next day they've all turned against you and you don't know why. All of these things are actually traumatic. Not being able to sit at the table that you thought you could sit at in the cafeteria. It's just so interesting.

So if we take my 10-year-old self who…My family was in the Navy and so I moved 21 times by the time I was 14. And this particular school that we moved into, it was in Florida and the corner of the classroom, the intercom would crackle to life for communication from the office to the classroom. In the Navy, I don't know if this is how it is everywhere, but we would stand up and say the Pledge of Allegiance every morning and that thing would crackle to life. I would go into fight or flight the second that thing crackled because that's also how I got called to the principal's office. And I was being told by the vice principal that this was my fault, what I was experiencing. That I was a bad kid. In fact, it was very racially motivated. I was one of two white kids in the school and I was a white trash bad kid. So not part of the tribe, right? And the people in authority couldn't be trusted is what I decided from that.

So first you have an experience, you'll have your emotion associated with the experience. So the intercom with crackle to life, I would feel abject terror and I would immediately go into fight or fight. So you have the experience, you have your emotion, and then your nervous system responds. Now, you will contain that memory, you'll retain what that feels like at some origin point in your body. For me, it was my gut. And it would just tighten. And then I would get clammy, cold hands. And then from there, you'll create a meaning to match. Now, remember that were self-centered little beasts, we're that old because we're trying to figure out how to be little humans in a world dominated by big humans, and so we're supposed to be self centric. That's why when kids have parents that get divorced, they make it about themselves. Because we're trying to figure out how we fit into the fabric of life. So the meaning I made up is that the adults that were in authority couldn't be trusted, which actually was accurate for that little kid but it's not accurate across the board. And I'm going to explain that here in a second.

From that meaning, you'll actually then manufacture a belief system that will match it. So I believed, since I was being told this was because I was bad that I needed to be perfect to even survive. So then the behavior that you adopt for that belief system, it's called your adaptive memory, will actually be some kind of behavior that goes with that believe. So I became a perfectionist. Now, if you think about that, if you take perfectionism and you try to live from that platform for the rest of your life, you are bound to burn out and you're going to have trouble because it's an impossible, untenable way of living your life.

I actually took that into my adult space and boy, was I ever…For a decade of adulthood, you know, marathon running and just running in general, I was competing constantly with my own personal record. I would drove myself incessantly and unrelentingly until I got sick. And so at that time, I had to figure out a different way of being in this world. But what I want to show people is that everyone with autoimmune disease actually has some untenable belief system that they put in place that came from childhood. It doesn't need to be from sexual abuse. It's going to be something that will be your meaning, your belief, your behavior. And that lives in the body. And that's going to be that place where whenever you get the feeling…Once again, so if I feel unsafe…You should have seen me in my early days with TSA or getting pulled over by a cop or anyone with a uniform that was in authority, I would straight into fight or flight. I don't think being pulled over, anyone doesn't go into fight or flight. But it was like-

Andrea Wien: Just special person who doesn't.

Dr. Keesha: I know. But it was really, I would instantly start crying and I would have friends that would say, “How do you do that?” That's such a great way of getting out of ticket. And I'm like completely incapacitated in my ability to actually manage myself if I'm in trouble. Nowadays, I'm not like that, but this is before I was able to heal this.

And so this is why our body takes it on is because we actually have this connection from the nervous system of moving into that fight or flight from the very beginning, from the very beginning of whatever belief structure you have. And we'll have a bunch of them, you don't just have one. I always say people with autoimmune disease have three-piece; perfectionism, whether they're willing to admit it or not, people pleasing, and the poison of past hurt. And so those three things are in place and they have to be healed. It can't just be about the biochemistry because they interact with one another so closely. We're not separate compartments, this mind and this body, they behave together because the nervous system connects the whole thing.

Andrea Wien: Absolutely, and I think we are starting to see so much more of this come out in the mind-gut connection, the brain-gut connection.

Dr. Keesha: Yes.

Andrea Wien: We've done some episodes on that. There's a great author, Gabor Maté. He wrote a book, When the Body Says No. So much of it is about, specifically women who have given everything, like you're saying, to their family, they have this perfectionism. They're often the “best patients” because they're the kindest and the most giving. And that actually they're swallowing so much anger and so much of their emotion to project onto the world that everything is great and everything is perfect, and then you can't run away from it, it's going to pop up somewhere. In your case, rheumatoid arthritis or another autoimmune disease.

There's so many directions I want to go, but I want to come back quickly to the libido. Because I think you're saying low libido is really such a signal for you. And I think culturally, we don't talk about this enough. We think culturally that female sexual desire and libido wanes as we get older, but it's really not the case. That shouldn't be the case in a healthy woman. And I know that you talked about two different kinds of low libido. Can you get into what those two are and the root causes of each of those?

Dr. Keesha: A fantastic question, and I'm so happy to talk about this. First of all, I just want to kind of lay the platform, the foundation for how I think about libido. Again, referring back to Ayurvedic medicine, which I discovered when I was trying to figure out root causes for myself. One of the things that they talk about is this term called “Ojas” in Sanskrit, O-J-A-S. And it's really life force vitality. And there's not an accurate translation or descriptive in the English language or in our medical model to match Ojas. They think about it like a drop of golden honey and you're born with this amount of Ojas, everyone's different. And when it goes away, you die. And there are all kinds of things that we do in our lives, particularly over scheduling and over driving ourselves that burns our Ojas quickly. And you can replace it, but it's very slow and it's just in tiny amounts that you could do it. So it's really better to protect it.

So I started thinking about this and I thought, what is a correlative in the way that we think about health? And I landed on the word libido. For me, it was, “Oh, libido comes from a Latin word for desire, which actually translates not to how much sex I want to have but it translates to this Latin word that means from the stars.” And I started looking at our very puritanical society, and women in particular that have a task list that is so long and it acts like a bully and they beat themselves with it. You know, “If I don't get this, this, this, this done, I'm a failure. And I'm also out of energy, and I really don't want to engage with my partner at the end of the day because I've given everything to my task list and everyone else in my life that this is just one more I have to give and I'm basically out of gas.”

So I was listening to these stories and I started realizing that libido could be thought of like an indicator light on the dashboard of your car. We know as we drive our cars that if our needle starts pointing to E that we have to quickly find a gas station to go fill up. Or if we push our gas pedal down hard and try to go faster and further on that amount, we're going to run out and breakdown on the side of the road. We just know this, but we don't know it about ourselves for some odd reason. And so I started thinking about it that way like it's another vital sign, your libido level. Again, not necessarily sexual, more about the passion you feel for living your life, the purpose. Do you feel like you are in the flow of your life where you can live what you believe your mission to be? Are you able to engage in the things that have brought you joy in the past still? What's going on with your ability to be intimate with yourself vulnerable and with others? Can you do that? Do you have the energy for it? So I kind of think about libido level in that way.

As I started going into the research and doing my own research on this, I discovered there are two kinds of low libido. One is innate, which means you've never had it. So as you went through puberty, you didn't have this hormone influx that said, “Who are these strange creatures? What is this feeling that I have that I want to actually kiss them.” That just never happened. And then you have acquired low libido, where you were sexually active, you're intimate in your relationships and you maybe have a partner that you've been through ups and downs with but you're still in love with each other and you still want to engage sexually but “all of a sudden”, I'm going to put that in air quotes again, and now feels like you have cut glass in your vagina when you try to have intercourse because you're so dry. And that's what usually people will apply to low libido is the aging process and a decrease in hormones and vaginal lubrication. But actually there's so much more to it, it's so much more complex than that.

When I started asking questions and looking at the literature, it is about 50/50, which was shocking to me. 50% of reported low libido is innate. Meaning, people started off without it. And 50% is acquired. I thought that was rather alarming because innate low libido usually comes from trauma, it comes from a mood disorder of some kind; anxiety, depression, OCD. It comes from some place that has nothing to do with your vaginal lubrication.

Andrea Wien: Are we talking specifically about women in this study then? So men are not included in this conversation about the low libido?

Dr. Keesha: Well, obviously, when I talk about vaginal lubrication, I am just referencing women, yeah. But I am talking about men too. 30% of men in research studies report low libido even at the ages younger than 55, 18 to 55, 30%. And I always highlight that on my slides with a big yellow highlight because I always say, this is underreported because men normally do not come in and say, “I don't have libido.” That's just not usually a thing for them. They usually talk about something different and don't really report that. It's very underreported for women too. So I think that, again, just like some of the other things that we know when we look at science, a lot of times we'll say, “You know, this is only what's reported.”

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When we talked about the microbiome and how that plays a role in all of this, I mean obviously, gut health is so integral to the health of the body and the development of an autoimmune disease. But when talk specifically about this desire, this low libido, how is the microbiome playing a role? How are those microbial communities driving or influencing desire?

Dr. Keesha: Well, as everybody that listens to your podcast already knows, we call the gut the second brain for a reason. And so I won't have to delve into that too much. But when we talk about female sexual desire and male, dopamine is the big neurotransmitter. And so if you think about the biochemistry of the brain and how it works with libido, serotonin is released after orgasm, and that's why everybody wants to go to sleep afterwards. Dopamine is the one that is required to get everything going. So if your little microbial community is not healthy, then your neurotransmitters are not being synapse properly. And we know that at least 60% of our neurotransmitters are synapse with the gut. Now, there are studies that vary from 60% to 98%, so we know that it's very important.

We also know that when we get dysbiosis or imbalance in the little critters that live in our gut, and it's over 100 trillion of these little guys, then we know that they have to have a place to live and hang out. Now, if you have had trauma that's being, I always say you create buttons on the outside of your body when you have create those meetings and those beliefs in childhood that adults later come along in your adulthood and push. Like you have these buttons that they just could come along and go, “Let's see what happens when I push this one.” And so that's where trauma healing becomes really important. But when those buttons are pushed, then that activates whatever that initial emotion and feeling was which creates your fight, flight, or freeze. And then that alerts the adrenal glands from your endocrine system, those are your little fight or flight mechanisms to release cortisol so that you can either fight with whatever opponent you're perceiving, or you can freeze and protect yourself, or you can faint.

And so when that happens, that's to get you, like if you're a zebra thinking that you're about to get eaten by the lion on your tail, then that allows the zebra to have a blood pressure surge, a heart rate surge so that you can get away. Muscles can be fed the oxygen and blood to get away from your perceived aggressor. Now, everything that has to do with reproduction goes offline because that zebra knows it is not safe, it can barely stay alive right now, it's not going to let you reproduce and create something else that has to be kept alive. So everything that has to do with sexual desire goes offline because you are perceiving yourself as in danger. Now, so does digestion. Digestion also goes offline.

What we know is that cortisol when it's chronically released, it just keeps on being released because you keep perceiving yourself. And I keep using the word perception because it's important. There's very few of us to have Lions actually on our tail. We usually are safe. There will be some percentage of people listening to me that are perhaps in abusive relationships or toxic relationships, then their perceptions of not being safe could be accurate. But a lot of us are getting those feelings over things that are not lion like. And so we're actually creating that cortisol release. That breaks down the gut wall, the beautiful, little one cell layer thick lining along our digestive tract. And when that happens, then that creates what I call apartment complexes for pathogenic organisms to come and hang out in, and it creates communities of those. So this is obviously why we want to keep our microbiome nice and healthy and our perceptual field needs to be changed if we're constantly feeling ourselves as zebras being chased by lions.

Andrea Wien: So it sounds like you know, I guess I'll bring it to me and use myself as an example in this. So I have celiac disease. I was diagnosed over 20 years ago and was gluten-free for my whole life, but didn't really understand until I started doing much of this work the impact of microbiome, of stress, of eating a diet that wasn't 20 something's diet and really taking care of my health. And so I've had many of these symptoms and the root causes of what you're saying obviously have manifested in my own life. And so I think I've healed so much of my body and my mind through meditation, through yoga, through diets that are microbial friendly, and yet some of these issues still are around. Issues of low libido, things like that. So when you're working with someone who “has done everything” or comes to you and says you know, “I'm doing everything right.” How do you start to address some of these pieces of healing trauma that may or they not be something that they are even aware of?

Dr. Keesha: I love that you asked that question. I very gently say, “You're actually at your next layer of healing.” When you're doing so-called everything right, when I hear those words, then I know that I have somebody that hasn't really gotten past their perfectionism. Because when you have that perfectionism, like I'm doing everything right then I have an expectation of what that's going to bring me. So there's this very linear A plus B will equals C. And if I'm not getting the C, then I'm going to get really angry.

The people that find me are usually the ones that are to that point. They've spent sometimes thousands of dollars on supplements and protocols and lab testing with functional medicine providers and they're still not “better”. And they've done a lot of therapy too. And that's what they'll say, “I've worked on this already.” And so what I say is…The thing that my therapist said to me years ago when I was like, “Really? We have to come back to this again? I keep coming back to this again.” And she looked at me with the same compassion and I say this to the people that I talked to and she just shifted something for me in such a profound way, she said, “You know, Keesha, When we're young, we actually dig the shafts, the mine that we will then go back down into over and over again in adulthood and bring up gold nuggets and gems and rubies and emeralds called wisdom.”

And I really started to shift the way that I thought about this that I didn't have an endgame. There was no done. There wasn't a place where I could say, “Okay, I'm done.” Because I think, and this is not true, it's only the way I think, okay? So I just believe at this point in my life that this life here on planet Earth is like a giant schoolhouse, and that we are meant to be learning while we're here. And then all of these earlier events that created meanings, beliefs, and behaviors, those times that set us up to really gain wisdom and for our souls to evolve. And so I think about disease, illness as Joseph Campbell's hero's journey and you'll have the space where something will occur, it's a call to action. And if you choose to take your upset, whatever it is, and create it as a call to action then that means you don't have the skill in place right now to deal with that particular challenge, and it's up to you to go find a mentor who does have that information and then you learn that information in order to actually master a new skill. And this is where people in our culture get very impatient.

Any time you're…Actually when I say the word “mastery”, it takes a lot of practice. So you learn a new skill, then you have to go practice it, and life has this beautiful way of handing you all kinds of opportunities to practice. And once you really have mastered it, then whatever has just triggered you this time around won't trigger you anymore. Now, you've got mastery and you'll come back, the way Campbell talks about it, resurrected, and you have this new found wisdom. You have your new gold nugget out of your mind shaft. And so now you're an oracle to that level of understanding and you will be able to teach others and help them.

Now, what really pisses people off, and this is what I've noticed. I have a TED Talk about this, where then it will happen again. You know, I have patients that will come in and say, “But I already kicked this.” And I'll say, “I know, I know. Now, you're to your next level, right? And now, there's a new skill that you need to implement and master and take some time with and then you'll going to go into your next level of adult development.”

There are actually 10 levels of adult development that are not widely taught, and that's a whole nother podcast we can do later. But it's fascinating because it takes us from very black and white thinking, which is how we come out of adolescent, there's a right way and there's a wrong way and we rigidly hold when we're in that stage of development to a diet or to a protocol and we have very, very firmly held expectations about what's going to happen at the end of that. And if they don't, we get upset.

When you move through each of the stages of development, you eventually reach what's called unitive consciousness. Less than 1% of humans are in that level and yet, when they're pulled, they believe they're in that level. And that's the level where you understand that your disease or whatever your challenge is, is actually not being done to you, it's actually being done for you, and that you're a co-creator in all of this, and that it's something that's there to help you with your own soul's evolution. And that your soul, your body, your mind, your heart, they're all co-creating this for your own advancement.

I know that was a very long-winded answer, but that's where I go with people is, okay, the way that I think about this now is…This may get a little off into another level here, but that your body and your brain are actually what contain your ego. That's the level of egoist mind. And spirit is in heart, that's where you connect to the divine, to whatever your language is for that. And so your soul actually, if this is your belief system, is always desiring evolution and at a pretty rapid speed. And so to the degree that you will allow for that evolution and embrace challenges that happened, then you're not going to get held up in your body. But when your ego wants to put on the break, then you're actually going to experience your body stopping that desire for evolution. You're going to get sick and there's going to be a breakdown. And this just actually is something I've been playing with from a vision quest I was on in June. It's fairly new so I haven't really written about it and conceptualized it very clearly yet. But I really got this like, “Oh, actually this is why our microbial community will get into imbalance also, is also like what's going on with our willingness to listen to the call that our body or our soul is actually putting forth as a request for evolution.”

Andrea Wien: This is so interesting, and I know we could talk about this for so much longer because I know you have a whole theory on society being one large autoimmune disease and we could into that. And I think you're touching briefly on why that is just based on our culture and the way that many people are not living out their soul's purpose, and that's creating a whole nother set of issues. So we will definitely have to have you back. I know we're up on time today. I'm so excited though, there's so many things we didn't touch on. I know we wanted to speak about ancestral healing. And so I think another show in the near future is definitely warranted and needed. We're just starting to scratch the tip of the surface here.

Dr. Keesha: I would love that. Thank you so much for having me on.

Andrea Wien: Thank you so much. We'll talk soon. Thanks so much for listening to The Microbiome Report. To sign up for a free webinar on how to solve the autoimmune puzzle, head to our show notes page at and click on Dr. Keesha's episode. Again BIOHM is spelled B-I-O-H-M. Until next time, I'm Andrea Wien.


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