In conversation with… Sure Retera

Suze Retera talks about the complexity of Autoimmune Disease and the multi-disciplinary approach required.

Suze Retera is an experienced psychologist, orthomolecular advisor and yoga facilitator, specialising in auto-immune issues, trauma and hormonal health. Suze is also a member of the teaching faculty at The Yoga Therapy Institute. In the Yoga Therapy for Endocrine & Immune System Disorders Module, Suze guides students through the complexities of these diseases, advocating a multidimensional approach in order, not only, to understand the intricate interaction of elements underlying these diseases and how to manage their impact on mental and physical health but to provide practical information on how to work with these diseases or how and when to seek help and support.  

A woman with long hair laying in the grass.

What makes autoimmune disease such a complex issue to understand and manage? 

Suze Retera: Autoimmune issues are closely intertwined with other body systems, including the HPA-axis and the stress response, the digestive system, the endocrine system and the nervous system. In working with autoimmune diseases, we need to look at the whole person, including the psychological factors that impact the functioning of our body. To make it even more complex, autoimmune issues often present themselves through a variety of symptoms that are difficult to interpret or clearly connect to one specific condition. Fatigue, digestive issues, mood swings, chronic inflammation and hair loss are a few common symptoms that can have many causes, aside from autoimmunity. This means that autoimmune issues can often be overlooked, misdiagnosed or dismissed. 

Why is it so important to recognise the symptoms early on? 

Suze Retera: The initial stages of autoimmune disease can often be very subtle and ‘silent’, escalating over time to moments of active autoimmune flare-ups and eventually resulting in permanent tissue damage and reduced organ function. Learning to recognise the symptoms early on can halt the progression of the disease and enable people to make changes to their diet, lifestyle, supplements and possibly medication, to avoid full blown autoimmunity and tissue damage. 

As a Yoga Therapist, it is also very relevant to have a deeper understanding of autoimmunity, as autoimmune issues and other chronic illnesses are becoming more and more prevalent. As a Yoga Therapist, you will play an important role in early detection, prevention of misdiagnosis and supporting your clients on their journey toward their version of optimal health. 

How can people suffering from autoimmune disease make more informed choices and take control of their disease? 

Suze Retera: There is a lot that people can do for themselves. With the right knowledge, they can make the system work for them. In the training, I teach participants what questions to ask medical professionals, what blood work to ask for and which approaches, outside of regular healthcare, are particularly effective for autoimmune prevention and management. Having the knowledge to ask the right questions and the confidence to make informed decisions, prevents people from being passive patients and enables them to advocate for themselves. Parallel to this, it is important to explore the psychological components of autoimmunity.  The long-term payoff for acknowledging the way past experiences have impacted the functioning of the body can be significant. Including embodied (trauma) therapy as part of the treatment, along with lifestyle and nutrition, offers more profound healing and empowerment than a pharmaceutically led solution, which is focused only on treating the symptoms.  

Don’t ever allow your concerns to be dismissed with “It’s just your hormones…….”.

What are the main aspects relating to autoimmune disease that you explore with students? 

  • How different autoimmune diseases manifest in the body and how to recognise the diverse symptoms.
    • The relationship between the immune system, nervous system, digestion, and hormonal system and the role chronic stress plays in their functioning. 
  • The impact of (childhood) trauma and other psychological factors on the body and on the development of autoimmune disease.  
  • The relationship between the gut and autoimmune disease. 
  • The impact of environmental factors on autoimmunity: exposure to chemicals, mould, pesticides, foreign substances and endocrine-disrupting plastic. 
  • How orthomolecular therapy can help to prevent and treat autoimmune disease by providing the body with optimal amounts of substances and supplements, which are natural to the body. To avoid those foods that are known to trigger autoimmune activity and/or are very taxing for the body. 
  • What pro-active steps can be taken to facilitate resilience and work towards ‘optimal’ health that supports balance across all the body systems – these include appropriate exercise routines, nutrition, stress regulation, modulating environmental influences, supplements, emotional and mental support and making different lifestyle choices to support bio-transformational pathways. 

What do you think is the most important and valuable takeaway for students from this training?

Suze Retera: I would like people to leave with a deeper understanding of autoimmune issues and the different physical and psychological mechanisms that come into play. Understanding how these different mechanisms work together, will make it easier to recognise symptoms and understand that it is more than ‘just your hormones’ or a ‘psychosomatic’ issue. I also hope this will offer the empowerment needed to ask for relevant tests when you, or your client, are not getting the necessary response or understanding from a practitioner. Furthermore, the information shared in this training will allow you to prevent the development of autoimmunity or recognise early signs. 

Health will always be an individual responsibility but the current societal norms for our lifestyles and diet, don’t always make it easy. This training is aimed at giving you the tools to make beneficial choices, based on an understanding of your body, so you can maintain or regain your own health, but also so you can support your clients on this journey. 

“With the right knowledge and by taking responsibility for your own body, you can make the system work for you

Suze Retera: The module is designed to provide an empowering approach towards the improvement of autoimmune disease. The practical recommendations, accessible and multifaceted approach will give you an invaluable foundation for working with autoimmune disease, either for your own benefit or, as a Yoga Therapist, for the benefit of your clients.


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