STORIES

The Neuroscientist Healing People with Nutrition and Frog Venom

By Suzannah Weiss on May 16, 2019

When you’re suffering from a chronic health problem, whether physical or mental, the most common solution in our culture is to go to a doctor and get a prescription. But when Caitlin Thompson began experiencing issues like bladder pain, depression, joint pain and chronic fatigue, she sensed deeper healing was available to her. Resisting pressure from her family to take antidepressants, she started on a path of spiritual, emotional and physical healing through psychedelics, nutrition and indigenous plant medicine.

Along this journey, Thompson learned that her mental health problems had physical roots, including chronic Lyme disease and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. Yet below the physical and mental was one of spiritual trauma and disease.

As a neurobiology researcher, Thompson learned how different nutrients and substances affect the brain and used this knowledge to start her supplement company, Entheozen. She not only creates supplements but also consults with clients on their nutrition, supplementation and nervous system retraining.

Thompson is also a certified practitioner of kambo, a traditional Amazonian medicine made from the phyllomedusa bicolor frog’s venom. Practitioners burn holes into people’s skin to place the kambo, which usually causes vomiting and/or diarrhea. Kambo is said to stimulate your immune system and causes you to purge out bacteria, heavy metals and other compounds that don’t belong in your body.

PRØHBTD talked to Thompson about what her personal health journey and career as a researcher, supplement creator and kambo practitioner have taught her about healing the mind-body connection and the shortcomings of Western medicine.

Could you tell me about your health journey and how it led you to psychedelics and plant medicine?

I found them before I was on a health journey. I was exploring them in college. It created a contrast, and I started to identify how unhealthy I was. I discovered they were making me feel better and life could be improved. I felt a deep sense of peace and well-being when I took LSD. For several weeks afterward, I felt happier and more emotionally resilient, and the amount of pain I was in was substantially reduced. I had less joint pain, less muscular pain, less emotional pain and less fatigue.

I started to see a pattern of feeling better after taking psychedelics, and I felt shitty when I didn’t. It inspired me to look deeper at the root cause, and I wanted to find interventions that weren’t as dramatic as taking psychedelics. So, it prompted me to become obsessed with the neuroscience and scientific literature on autoimmune conditions, chronic illnesses and depression.  

I started experimenting with herbs and nutrients, and that’s what led to the creation of my entire business. Discovering nutrition was a pretty fundamental part of healing from depression, anxiety, autoimmune illness and chronic fatigue.

Originally, I thought this was helping me not be depressed, but then I realized there was a lot of other shit going on in my body. It led me to explore dietary changes, herbs and nutrients, mindfulness practices, kambo, trauma and somatic work, and neuro feedback mechanisms. The psychedelics opened the door to all the other healing modalities for me.

Did you ever try conventional Western medicine? If so, how did that compare to the solutions that ended up working?

There have been times when, out of curiosity, I've gone to conventional doctors. It’s usually for my own amusement, and they’re generally completely fucking useless. I'm glad I don’t listen to them.

What kinds of things have they said that make you glad you don’t take their advice?

I had interstitial cystitis pain, and they tried to prescribe me an antidepressant. They’re messing with my entire brain chemistry because of my inflamed bladder that’s caused by something [gut dysbiosis] they don’t care about. [Problems with conventional medicine include] drug prescriptions without any evaluation of whether that's a good idea or flat-out lying about the capabilities of diagnostic testing. I’ve had doctors tell me certain tests don’t exist and then I go to Bastyr University and get the test. Their diagnostic testing is not really equipped for critical thinking, and they're not about patient empowerment in general. My opinions aren't acknowledged by conventional medicine even though I have a science background.

It’s interesting that, even with your scientific background, you’re challenging the medical establishment. It seems like there’s more acceptance of these new healing modalities and theories in academia than in medicine. Why do you think there’s this gap?

I’m not anti-science—I’m anti-dogma. Generally, there’s a 17-year delay from the time something’s established in academia to the time it’s implemented in medical practice. There's an incredible amount of scientific literature talking about things like the microbiome and the effect of childhood trauma on the immune system. There’s a lot of literature on nutrition and 5,000 papers on turmeric benefits.

The conventional medical schools and organizations are not up to date on the current scientific literature. To me, that’s the real issue: They are behind the times, and what they learned in medical school is outdated by the time they’re practicing. By the time [the latest science] gets implemented in an entirely new curriculum, it’s already outdated.

Doctors are unable to or not sufficiently motivated to follow up on current scientific literature and changes within the technology of medical treatments, and so they’re ill equipped to treat their patients based on the most current information. A lot of doctors want to do well by people, but they don’t have the tools or information to help properly.

I think another obstacle is that doctors can only be so invested in each of their patients because they have to see a lot of them, and if doctors are telling their patients to change their diet or exercise, more patients don’t comply. They want someone else to do the work for them. They want to be given a pill. They don’t want to be accountable for the long-term effort it takes to heal from disease. So, I think that’s another way doctors see it as easier. It’s easier to prescribe a pill for high blood pressure than to get your patient to exercise.

What can someone do if they want to improve their health when doctors aren’t helping?

You don’t want people to just Google stuff and diagnose themselves. At the same time, that’s unfortunately what a lot of people have had to do. They’ve had to take their health into their own hands, become scientifically literate, educate themselves on all this information and be responsible for making all their own decisions about their health.

I think there’s a way to be imbalanced, where you don’t take into account doctors’ suggestions or other practitioners like naturopaths, herbalists, chiropractors and therapists, but you can ultimately take back your own power. People have been giving away their power to doctors, and I think the doctors aren’t doing a good job of empowering their patients. So, it’s the patient’s responsibility to be educated about their medications, the side effects, what symptoms they’re experiencing. Patient empowerment is the most crucial in my opinion.

Tell me about how you started working with kambo.

I got introduced to it through the ayahuasca community, and I did it with no expectations. I had a profound experience in my first session—deep healing, deep revelations, deep relief—and it was the beginning of my exponential healing process. I think it blasted out organisms that I didn’t know were crowding my body: Lyme disease, viruses, Candida.

It also had a psycho-spiritual effect where I could really feel that this autoimmunity and this self-reactivity and my immune system were harboring an ancestral trauma⎯kind of a spiritual infection that was propagated down my mother’s lineage through interactions and epigenetics. There was a spiritual infection in my body that didn't belong to me, and my body was actually trying to locate it and attack it, but it was metaphysical… it didn't exist in the material. It was attacking its own tissue as a result. That was what I experienced during the ceremony.

I told the energy of the infection, “You can’t be here. You don’t belong to me, and I’m releasing you. I’m telling you to go.” And I hugged my body and said, “I’ve asked it to leave. You’re safe now. You don’t need to attack yourself, and everything's good.” Obviously, I wasn’t cured overnight, but I was leaps and bounds better than before.

That’s amazing. What’s the science behind how kambo can do that?

A lot of the peptides are antimicrobial, so they have the potential to destroy microorganisms on contact by disrupting the cell membrane⎯the bio-layer of these organisms. So far, a lot of the peptides have shown this incredible destroying power against things like E. coli, different resistant strains of staph, even the HIV virus, herpes viruses, the whole family protozoa, malaria, salmonella, yeast and candida as well.

This is just in Petri dishes, so who knows if that’s how things are going in the body, but there’s pretty strong evidence that these peptides could be the future of antibiotic creation, and they don’t allow the opportunity for resistance to develop. Even if bacteria were able to survive coming in contact with one, it screws up their entire endoplasmic reticulum and RNA production and metabolism, so they don’t have a chance of developing resistance.

Also, some of the peptides are opioid-binding and are very, very potent pain blockers, but they don’t seem to produce the withdrawal and dependency effects that conventional opioids do. There are also anti-cancerous properties to these peptides, so perhaps cancer medications will be developed soon, and there’s all sorts of immune-modulating properties.

We haven’t even scratched the surface of it yet. There’s so much more we can discover about what happens when you absorb the peptide through the skin, because we’re not just getting injected with one dose of peptides. We need to start getting some scientific data on the overall kambo process.

What have you learned about health and healing through your experience with kambo?

One of the biggest things that’s overlooked is the role of psycho-spiritual health in physical health. There’s incredible scientific evidence and esoteric knowledge in many traditions that if the spirit and mind are unwell, the body will manifest illness. People get really fixated on blaming their health problems on an organism like Lyme or Bartonella or a toxin or a food. Ultimately, I think you have to really look at why the person was compromised in the first place, and it’s usually because of chronic stress, chronic trauma or a significant trauma or a lack of harmony.

Maybe their sense of purpose feels like it’s not being played out, or maybe their work-life balance is not making them happy. Maybe they’re in an unhappy relationship. Maybe they grew up without a father and have an unhealthy relationship with men because of that. There are deeper patterns based on spirituality and psychology that are also expressing through our physical bodies. It’s not as woo-woo as it sounds, and if people can come to terms with the reality of that, they will be much better equipped to actually recover and get healthier.

I think the other important aspect is that you have to want to be healthy. I see many people that are very committed to staying sick, and their spoken desires to get better don't match their actions. I see how they sabotage themselves and make excuses for why they can’t do this or that, and they block themselves from moving forward and getting unstuck in ways that will help them unwind deeper issues.

Many people identify with their illness. It’s their label. It’s who they are. It’s their excuse for why they can’t show up in the world or why they need special attention. It can just be a cop-out for some people to hide behind, where there’s again an emotional trauma that they were masking, consciously or unconsciously, with their identity as a victim.

Also, what I've learned is that healthy boundaries are incredibly important. I’ve seen people who don’t have healthy boundaries in their relationships or in their physical bodies. They don’t have a healthy gut barrier. They don’t have a healthy blood-brain barrier. They don’t have a healthy boundary about how far bacteria can overpopulate.

I really see this microcosm reflected when people start changing their boundaries of how they behave in the world. Their physical boundaries reflect that their gut stops being leaky. Their blood-brain barrier stops being leaky. Their immune system does a better job of saying, “Hey, you can’t just grow everywhere and make us sick.” I’ve really witnessed the strength of the mind–body–spirit connection and how they’re all just reflections of the same reality.

One more thing I will say is, I think it’s important not to put too much faith in one modality or one treatment. I don’t think there's such a thing as a silver bullet. I believe that healing really comes in a lot of really tiny steps, and it has to be more like a lifestyle than an event. Healing is really about making a lot of good decisions over a long period of time versus taking a drug, taking kambo or sitting in an ayahuasca ceremony.

It’s a long marathon, and being healthy really has to be a daily choice. It’s not something to achieve and then be like, “I'll just eat pizza and party all the time.” You have to make the choice to be healthy every day, and that’s the key in this “want it now” American culture.

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