Three years ago, I developed Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. It started with extreme fatigue, but within a year, I had a long list of strange symptoms. I suffered from stomach pain, food sensitivities, sore throat, swollen glands, burning ears, dizziness, brain fog, and more.
My doctors were completely stumped, and I was desperate for relief.
During this time, I read a blog post about the Dynamic Neural Retraining System or DNRS. The writer had suffered from debilitating fatigue, digestive issues, chronic inflammation, and multiple chemical sensitivities for 11 years. But using the DNRS program, she made a complete recovery.
At the time, it sounded too good to be true. How could one program cure all of those chronic issues?
But eventually I decided to try it, and I’m so glad that I did.
DNRS has drastically improved my health. My brain fog is completely gone, and my energy levels have increased exponentially. I still have occasional flair-ups of inflammation and pain, but they are much shorter and less frequent than they used to be. After years of being mostly bed-ridden, I’m now able to play with my son, cook meals, go shopping, and so much more. As I continue to do DNRS, I anticipate having even more healing victories.
What is DNRS?
The Dynamic Neural Retraining System is a neuroscience-based program that uses a variety of techniques to rewire the brain.
The program is based on the theory that several chronic illnesses (including CFS, MCS, POTS, CIRS fibromyalgia, chronic lyme disease, and chronic pain) are rooted in a maladapted stress response system. Essentially, the brain becomes stuck in fight-or-flight mode, which makes it perceive innocuous things (like food, activity, or certain smells) as major threats. This is why people with chronic illness often experience flare-ups doing things that seem normal or easy to a healthy person.
DNRS acts like physical therapy for the brain, gradually shifting it away from the maladaptive patterns and into a healthy and functional state. The program uses a unique combination of meditation, mindfulness, and brain exercises. These must be practiced for one hour every day for at least six months.
The Science Behind DNRS
Although it may seem a little hippie dippy to treat your very serious illness with just your thoughts, DNRS actually has a lot of science behind it. So much, in fact, that whole books have been written to explain it. But I’ll give a quick overview here.
The Mind-Body Connection
In the last thirty years, scientists have published several landmark studies about the mind-body connection. They discovered that trauma and chronic stress can cause measurable changes to the brain. The hippocampus and prefrontal cortex can shrink, while the amygdala can become enlarged. This causes a decrease in memory and learning skills (hello brain fog!), and an increase in sensitivity to potential threats. In this chronic state of fight-or-flight, the brain tells the body to slow digestion, increase blood sugar and heart rate, and stay alert with a cocktail of cortisol and adrenaline. In short-term danger, this response can be helpful. But when the body remains in this state, it places an enormous amount of stress on the digestive, adrenal, cardiovascular, and limbic systems. This can lead to a number of chronic diseases.
It’s important to note here that trauma and stress don’t have to be emotional in nature. Many chronically-ill people can trace their sickness back to an initial virus, infection, or exposure to chemicals or mold. DNRS actually focuses more on these environmental traumas.
The DNRS program centers around neuroplasticity, which is the ability of the brain to change. Children exhibit the greatest levels of plasticity, which is why they can easily learn things like new languages. But science has recently proven that adult brains can also be rewired. If one part of the brain is constantly stimulated, it develops stronger connections. Likewise, parts that are unused gradually deteriorate. DNRS harnesses this natural process. The program has you meditate on healthy connections while mindfully avoiding the diseased ones. It also includes exercises to increase your brain’s natural plasticity and speed up the healing process.
My Experience with DNRS
The DNRS program offers 5-day interactive seminars or an instructional DVD series for those who want or need to do the program at home. I chose to do the DVDs because they were less expensive and more accessible for me in my bed-bound state.
The First Week
The DVD series asks you to set aside three days for an at-home bootcamp. During this time, you watch the videos and begin to do some of the exercises. The videos are a mix of teachings about the brain, testimonials of people who’ve healed, and instructions on how to do the program. I found it pretty easy to complete the initial bootcamp, even with my significant brain fog.
Things started to get more difficult for me during the first week of regular DNRS practice. Every time I tried to practice, I would get really anxious. It felt like my brain was actively resisting the changes DNRS was trying to make. I knew this was a sign of progress, but it was extremely overwhelming.
When I wasn’t actively practicing, I did feel better. I had a little more energy, less brain fog, and just felt more positive overall. Unfortunately, a medication change threw all of this out the window. I experienced major withdrawal, which made me even sicker than usual. This made the practice-induced anxiety completely unbearable, and I decided to take a break from DNRS.
Overcoming Barriers to Healing
This break ended up lasting six months. The positive effects of DNRS remained after I stopped the program, but I was still incredibly anxious about retrying it. It took me months to realize why: I have a history of spiritual abuse, and DNRS reminded me of brainwashing. In some ways, DNRS is brainwashing. It literally sets out to change your brain and your perception of what is safe. But I couldn’t separate the program’s healing use of these techniques from the emotionally-damaging ones I’d experienced in my past.
So I decided to go to therapy. I found a therapist who specializes in EMDR, which I have found to be a great companion to DNRS. I actually wrote a whole other blog post about how EMDR therapy helped reduce my Chronic Fatigue symptoms. Like DNRS, it addresses the effects of trauma on the brain. I have found EMDR most helpful for the emotional factors of my illness, while DNRS effectively addresses the environmental traumas. Together, they’ve been a winning combination for me.
After a few months of therapy, I was ready to retry DNRS. I took it slowly at first, practicing just 15 minutes a day. Gradually, I built up to the recommended one hour. I found it most helpful to break this into two sessions: 45 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes before bed.
Once I got my routine down, I started seeing exponential results. My energy went way up, and my brain fog disappeared completely. I noticed that I had a much higher tolerance for light, sound, and other sensory stimuli. If something did trigger a flare-up, it was less intense and shorter. Before DNRS, eating the wrong food or overexerting myself could leave me bed-bound for a week. Now, I might need to rest for half a day.
After three months of serious practice, I would say I’m 50-60% better than I was before. I expect that number will climb as I finish out the program. My goal is to be healed enough to be able to either work or parent full-time. I don’t know if I’ll get there in three months, but I plan to continue DNRS for as long as it’s helping me progress.
If You’re Considering DNRS
I would highly recommend the DNRS program to anyone struggling with chronic illness. It has been both the most surprising and the most effective treatment I’ve come across for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. And although I can’t personally attest to its ability to treat Chronic Lyme, Fibromyalgia, CIRS, POTS, and MCS, there are lots of blogs and instagram accounts that do.
If you’re considering doing DNRS, you should know that it is a big commitment. It takes a lot of time and mental energy to do the program, and you’ll be really sick of it some days. But the commitment really pays off.
Also, I’m going to veer away from the “official” program recommendations and tell you that I don’t always hit one hour every day. I always do something, because consistency really is important. But I aim for quality over quantity. I stop when trying to reach that one hour makes me more anxious and exhausted than I was before I started.
For me, the most important brain change has been the decision to be gentler with myself. Before I got sick, I was always pushing through and ignoring my body’s protests. Now, a big part of my DNRS practice is listening to the parts of myself that were silenced for so long. The more I do that, the less they have to shout.
If you have questions about the DNRS program, please comment below or contact me by email, Facebook, or Instagram. I’m very happy to help! I will also be posting an update when I hit the six-month mark.
Medical disclaimer: I am not a doctor or a scientist. Although I do my best to present factual and evidence-based information, it’s possible I’ve gotten some things wrong. Please talk to a trusted medical professional before making any changes to your health care.
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Photo: © Elizabeth Steere