Heal Yourself By Harnessing Your Mind

Posted: May 23, 2014 at 10:46 pm

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We tend to think of medicine as being all about pills and potions recommended to us by another persona doctor. But science is starting to reveal that for many conditions another ingredient could be critical to the success of these drugs, or perhaps even replace them. That ingredient is nothing more than your own mind.

Here are six ways to raid your built-in medicine cabinet.

I talk to my pills, says Dan Moerman, an anthropologist at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. I say, Hey guys, I know youre going to do a terrific job.

That might sound eccentric, but based on what weve learned about the placebo effect, there is good reason to think that talking to your pills really can make them do a terrific job. The way we think and feel about medical treatments can dramatically influence how our bodies respond.

Simply believing that a treatment will work may trigger the desired effect even if the treatment is inerta sugar pill, say, or a saline injection. For a wide range of conditions, from depression to Parkinsons, osteoarthritis and multiple sclerosis, it is clear that the placebo response is far from imaginary. Trials have shown measurable changes such as the release of natural painkillers, altered neuronal firing patterns, lowered blood pressure or heart rate and boosted immune response, all depending on the beliefs of the patient.

It has always been assumed that the placebo effect only works if people are conned into believing that they are getting an actual active drug. But now it seems this may not be true. Belief in the placebo effect itselfrather than a particular drugmight be enough to encourage our bodies to heal.

In a recent study, Ted Kaptchuk of Harvard Medical School in Boston and his colleagues gave people with irritable bowel syndrome an inert pill. They told them that the pills were made of an inert substance, like sugar pills, that have been shown in clinical studies to produce significant improvement in IBS symptoms through mind-body self-healing processes, which is perfectly true. Despite knowing the pills were inert, on average the volunteers rated their symptoms as moderately improved after taking them, whereas those given no pills said there was only a slight change.

Everybody thought it wouldnt happen, says the studys co-author Irving Kirsch, a psychologist at the University of Hull. He thinks that the key was giving patients something to believe in. We didnt just say heres a sugar pill. We explained to the patients why it should work, in a way that was convincing to them.

As well as having implications for the medical profession, the study raises the possibility that we could all use the placebo effect to convince ourselves that sucking on a sweet or downing a glass of water, for example, will banish a headache, clear up a skin condition or boost the effectiveness of any drugs that we take. Our study suggests that might indeed help, says Kirsch. While Moerman talks to his pills, Kirsch recommends visualizing the desired improvement and telling yourself that something is going to get better.

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Heal Yourself By Harnessing Your Mind

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Written by grays |

May 23rd, 2014 at 10:46 pm