“It’s supposed to be a professional secret, but I’ll tell you anyway. We doctors do nothing. We only help and encourage the doctor within.” Albert Schweitzer
At the party of “anything is possible,” there’s always the one cranky uncle who sits over in the corner. More times than not, the belief that stubbornly refuses to budge is the body as in “My mind has no control over my health, disease, aging, weight and any other fool thing my body decides to do.”
So today, I’ve got a packet of Reese’s Pieces and, like Elliott who was able to lure E.T. out of hiding, I’m hoping to lure out that curmudgeonly uncle to at least take a spin on the dance floor.
Reese Piece No. 1: Dr. Lissa Rankin’s new book, Mind Over Medicine. After years of being a physician, Dr. Rankin finally got fed up with the seven minutes she was allowed to see patients and the refusal by her colleagues to acknowledge the most powerful component of a person’s health: their beliefs and their thoughts. Initially, she was as hard-nosed and closed-minded as any doctor, but after investigating 50 years of peer-reviewed medical literature (New England Journal of Medicine and Journal of the American Medical Association, to name a few), she found ample evidence proving that beliefs play a powerful role in a person’s biochemistry and to ignore those findings was irresponsible, a betrayal of the Hippocratic Oath.
Reese’s Piece No. 2: The body is wired to heal itself. Our bodies are self-regulating, healing organisms, constantly striving for homeostasis. But instead of teaching our children this all-important fact, we teach them they need someone or something outside themselves to heal. The minute they get a fever or an ear ache, we rush them to that all-knowing doctor. This, at a very early age, cements in the fallacy that our bodies can’t heal themselves. Most of the thoughts in our default setting are planted before age 5.
Reese’s Piece No. 3: Placebos are often as effective as drugs. Patients have been able to grow hair, drop blood pressure, lower cholesterol, watch ulcers disappear and cure about every other symptom after being treated with nothing but sugar pills. It was their belief they were getting “medicine” that cured them, not the medicine itself.
Dr. Bruce Mosely, a surgeon and team physician for the Houston Rockets, performed arthroscopic knee surgery on two of ten middle-aged, former military guys. Three of the 10 had their knees rinsed (without the scraping) and the other five had no surgical procedure at all. It was an exercise in just pretend. After two years, all ten believed their surgery was a success. What Mosely discovered is that the bigger and more dramatic the patient perceives the intervention to be, the bigger the placebo effect.
Reese’s Piece No. 4: Our beliefs are the hinge on which our bodies function. Rankin tells the story of a guy with tumors the size of oranges. After begging his doctor to try an experimental new drug he’d read about, he was treated with the drug and his tumors disappeared. Several weeks later, reports hit the airwaves that this new drug was not as powerful as originally thought. The tumors returned. His doctor, by now savvy, gave his patient a placebo, telling him it was a stronger form of the drug and that the ineffective trials had been using too little of this powerful drug. Once again, the tumors from his stage 4 lymphoma began to disappear. Finally, the FDA pronounced the drug ineffective and pulled it off the market. The patient, who had been rapidly recovering, died within a week.
Okay, enough candy. I could go on and on about how 79 percent of medical students develop the symptoms they’re studying. Or about the woman with a split personality who has diabetes in one of her personalities and normal sugar levels in the other.
But I’m not a doctor and would never dream of prescribing anything.
But I do know this:
We should teach our children that their bodies have self-healing superpowers.
And we should quit hexing ourselves by looking for disease.
And we should remember that if chimpanzees can lower their blood pressure at will, something Harvard doc, Herbert Benson, discovered in his research, there’s probably not much we CAN’T do to heal ourselves.
Uncle, are you ready for that dance?
Pam Grout is the author of E-Squared: 9 Do-it-Yourself Energy Experiments that Prove Your Thoughts Create Your Reality.