Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Mind-Body Connection by Cathy Sherman: Parts 1 & 2

The Mind-Body Connection: Fear Manifests in Many Diseases (Part 1)

(NaturalNews) The wheelchair bound patient was sure she had Parkinson’s Disease, but by the end of one session, she was jogging down the hall. A man dies of cancer, yet the autopsy showed there were not enough cancerous spots in his body to have killed him. A priest administers the last rites to the wrong patient, and that patient dies unexpectedly.

These patients all had different diagnoses, yet they were all affected by the same cause. It has been proven that fear can cause disease, and even death. Though this idea is not new, our understanding of it is progressing because of new technologies that give us a window into the brain.

The underlying ancient concept, formalized decades ago by Dr. Robert K. Merton, can be found in Greek mythological stories and elsewhere. Merton further refined its definition and named it the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy. According to this construct, once a prophecy or fact is predicted, events are set in motion that work together to bring it to pass. These events can occur within a person’s psyche or develop as part of the situation from which the prophetic statement sprang.

The most recent refinement of this concept has been made by the alternative branch of medicine. Specifically, the practitioners and advocates of mind-body studies have conducted research which goes far beyond the placebo effect. It has been accepted by many that if a patient believes they are receiving medicine, its expected effects will actually take place in their bodies, even if their medicine is nothing more than sugar made to look like a pill.

The field of hypnosis is one area in which this power of suggestion is taken further. Brain scan technology has shown that the same area of the brain becomes activated during an actual experience and during an imagining of that experience. It can be documented that if a person is told under hypnosis that a red-hot iron is touching their skin, the person’s body somehow produces a blister on their skin, even if the iron was not hot at all.

Medical doctors will admit that a large percentage of illness is caused by stress. Stress derails the work of cytokines, the agents of the immune system that respond to a wound site. The derailment causes these cells to overreact and create an inflammatory response that is over the top, often creating a greater disorder than the original wound.

Since 1961, the term “nocebo phenomenon” has been identified. According to this reverse placebo effect, a patient will become sick or sicker after being told of negative side effects, or on being informed of specifics about an illness just diagnosed.

Research has demonstrated this effect. In one experiment, 66% of the volunteers complained of headaches after being told an electric current was applied to their heads. In actuality, no current was really applied. In another study, women holding the belief that they were prone to heart disease died at four times the rate of those who didn’t hold such a belief, even though they all started out with the same risk factors.

However, now we know that stress is not always involved in the development of a mind-body illness. In the Parkinson’s case previously mentioned, the patient was misdiagnosed with Parkinson’s after falling and developing an inability to walk, which wasn’t related to her injuries. After being convinced by another physician that the problem was in her head, not her legs, she was able to get out of the wheelchair and walk with help, then even jog with no other assistance than a handrail.

Many researchers have studied the fear of aging and documented that those who believe their memories will soon fail actually undergo memory problems sooner than others in similar condition, but minus the belief. In cultures which value the aged, mental ability does not deteriorate until much later, if at all, than in societies where people are defined as elderly at age 65. If people live in an environment which views aging as disease, such as that of an assisted living facility, they will age faster than those who live in a mixed-age community where they are not expected to act differently just because they are over 65.

The most exciting news about the mind-over-matter phenomenon comes from a cell biologist who has evidence documenting just what biochemical mechanisms facilitate it. Bruce H. Lipton, PhD, challenges the traditional cell theories which basically define cells as inflexible, created to do only one job or job type. Instead, he considers them as robotic, like computer chips in a computer, in that they can be reprogrammed to take on different jobs.

Cells are built to act on their own, and they can even live independently, in a laboratory environment. But in a community environment, once it becomes integrated, the cell’s individuality becomes subjugated. The community as a whole receives operating messages from the life force, not the individual cell.

The cell director, the power behind the reprogramming -- the life force -- is the person. It is the information-receiving process, as messages are sent to the cell for action, that determines the cell’s behavior, not some built-in, fixed programming. Simply stated, there is no cancer gene; illness is not inherited. Rather, cells become cancerous because they were told to do so. Fear is often the operative that drives such instruction.

For example, doctors today push all the new diagnostic toys they possess and encourage patients to have mammograms, colonoscopies, etc., with the explanation “we tell everyone of this age to get one, because such and such a percent of people this age will get” cancer, polyps etc. Combined with this are the incessant magazine and TV ads for pharmaceuticals purporting to treat the various maladies.

Such seeds sow fear in people’s minds, consciously or subconsciously. Where previously the person hadn’t even considered the possibility of colon cancer, now he or she starts worrying about it. Every little abdominal pain feeds the worry. Lipton says that the current high rates of colon and rectal cancers are linked with the amount of information in the media that there is a high rate of colon and rectal cancers.

Evidence for the above process goes back to studies done in the 1920’s. Dr. Walter Cannon, a Harvard University professor, coined the term "homeostasis" to describe the organism’s need for mental and physical balance throughout the organism. His research resulted in the acceptance of the “fight or flight response.”

Hans Selye added to Cannon’s discoveries by studying animals, finding that under different mental and physical stresses, their bodies adapted and returned to a situation of healing and recovery. During the adaptation process, Selye discovered that the thymus and other major organs of the immune system actually shrank. If the environmental stresses continued, the immune system did not recover and the animal became overwhelmed and died.

More recent research by Candice Pert, a neuropharmacologist, explained the workings of neuropeptides, the chemical messengers that are essential to the mind-body relationship. She found them on both the brain’s cell walls and on those of the immune system. Their presence in both demonstrates their close relationship, which means the brain and emotions are closely related to the immune system as messages are transmitted back and forth.

Pert also showed how the endocrine system with its hormones plays a part. Simply put, as long as it is all balanced, health is maintained. But, as Cannon showed, once a stressor causes an emotional imbalance, the immune system suffers and disease can overcome it.

According to Matthew J. Loop, DC, an advocate for the Law of Attraction, there is another explanation. The negative side of the usually positive Law of Attraction is explained by the concept of acidity/alkalinity. An alkaline condition in the body is considered more healthful. Negative thoughts and stressfulness cause the balance to tip to acidity. Therefore, illness often happens.

Remember the lady in the wheelchair? She demonstrates that there is good news: the mind-body relationship can also work in a positive direction. A future article will discuss such ways brain chemistry can be changed to bring healing in body and mind.


Desonta Holder, “Does the Fear of Dying Become a Self-fulfilling Prophecy for People?”; Oakland Tribune, Nov 12, 2007

University of Rochester Medical Center (2005, October 10). “I Think, Therefore I Fall”. ScienceDaily, ((

Jere Daniel, “Learning to Love Growing Old - Fear of aging speeds the very decline we dread most”. Psychology Today, Sep/Oct 94.

“Cell Consciousness – Proves Mind Over Matter”, ((
Jay Quinlan, ((

Matthew J. Loop, DC, “The Secret Law of Attraction Makes you Healthy and Rich”. Posted on March 7, 2008 on (

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The Mind-Body Connection: Our Thoughts Can Heal Us (PT 2)

(NaturalNews) The "new biology" is challenging many long-held beliefs that affect us in the areas of psychology, physiology, and spirituality. As the quote below indicates, mind-over-matter was an idea advocated by Kabbalists of the 18th century, but it came to be regarded as a fantasy, a theory that received very negative reviews in "modern" times. Once DNA was discovered, genetic paradigms gained influence over every phase of our lives. When a large number of illnesses and disorders were blamed on genes inherited from parents, it provided an excuse for our distress.

"The basic cause of illness is unhappiness; therefore the great healer is joy."(Rabbi Nachman, late 18th century)

There was a time recently when many doctors would imply to their patients that their illness was all in their heads. Patients did not like this, as it put the responsibility for maintaining health on the person's own shoulders. Many thought their doctor said this only because he or she could not figure out the source of symptoms. Now, however, science is making strides in brain studies which are providing proof that our thoughts can indeed affect our brain chemistry and thus our physical and mental health.

We have learned that negative emotions such as fear and stress not only make our bodies more susceptible to disease, but can actually cause the disease. Conversely, the same biochemical mechanisms that work against us may also be utilized to work for us.

The placebo effect has been shown to heal a fair percentage of patients whose belief in the cure was enough to actually rid their bodies of disease. This effect works by the power of suggestion; patients have believed they had surgeries for cancer when they have not had any and the cancer cleared up, or they have been given sugar pills that cured them.

The new biology takes this further. It is not just the power of suggestion, but the actual thoughts and words chosen by the person which changes brain chemistry. We have 50 trillion cells in our body which communicate through neurochemical and vibration signals. Bruce H. Lipton, PhD, has done a large amount of work in this field, which is called epigenetics.

The word epigenetics literally means "above the genes", i.e., the mind controls the genes. Dr. Lipton says our minds can re-write our genes. He compares the cell to a computer chip, as each is a bit of information. Both can receive information through different routes and cause a reaction.

Epigenetics changes our paradigm of control. The old physics believed the universe is based on matter. The new biology is based on the idea that the universe is governed by energy.

Even though the programming of the cells begins in infancy or before birth, they can be reprogrammed to act differently. The process which the information goes through to affect the cell determines the programming of the cell. Cells become cancerous because they are instructed in some way to do so. If we realize this and change our beliefs, thus changing our messages to our cells, Lipton says we can heal ourselves.

With genes off the hook as the cause of cancer, for example, people won't have the negative worries and thoughts about cancer that plague them just because their mom, dad or other relative had it. This in itself should eliminate a large number of incidences of cancer.

However, this is still not all of the power of the new biology. The main chemicals which play a role in our brain chemistry are Dopamine, Serotonin, Norepinephrine and Endorphins. Each of these affects a different area. Most recreational runners know the endorphin effect, or runner's high. Messages sent to the brain tell it to produce more or less of a certain chemical, depending on what the body needs at the time.

These messages can be stimulated by bodily processes which tell our mind what we need, or mental processes by which our thoughts originate the signaling message.

It is the thought-as-originator concept which is harder for people to understand. Consider these examples:

* We know how easily our emotions, and resulting chemical changes, can be manipulated by visuals from TV or movies;

* Even reading a suspenseful novel will elicit changes in our brain chemistry;

* Consider how a coach gets adrenalin pumping in his football players before taking the field.

If we subject ourselves to a heavy menu of negative stimuli, we will probably suffer from stress-induced illness. When the mind is stressed, the level of immune protective cells goes down. The opposite is also true: when the emotional state is relaxed, the number of protective cells goes up. So if a person practices meditation, positive thinking and other methods to create a relaxed mood, immunity against disease improves.

Tipping the scales toward peaceful relaxed moods should keep the chemistry in balance and ensure a more healthful physical environment for cells.

These positive mental practices help to change confidence levels -- by first changing chemical levels.
Repeating the same words over and over can create new paths between chemicals. Once the new paths are
created, new thought patterns become habitual. For example, to provide more will power, a person can change "I will never lose this weight." to "I can lose weight."

Since the 1960's, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), a form of psychotherapy, has developed based on the premise that thoughts can change behavior and overwrite the cell's memory. Learning new rational, self-counseling skills are the focus of the client, under the teaching of the therapist. This type of counseling can achieve results quite quickly, but it is necessary that the client be able to articulate his thoughts and feelings and be willing to change them.

Comparisons have been studied by mapping brain activity in patients taking antidepressants and in patients undergoing the CBT. With CBT, brain changes occurred in later-evolving regions of the brain, those that deal with cognition, memory, and planning, such as the hippocampus and frontal cortices.

The pharmacological treatment appeared to alter the brain regions associated with the basic functions of breathing and gross motor control, such as the brainstem and cerebellum. So it appears that similarly felt changes in behavior and mood are caused by the different mechanisms of drugs and therapy without drugs.

It is a great advance that we now have this information, which was not known by science in the 18th century. Yet the techniques of meditation and visualization to improve healing were being taught. Meditation, the conscious control and direction of one's thoughts, has been shown to be effective in many diseases. Avraham Greenbaum states in his book, The Wings of the Sun:

"A number of studies have indicated that regular meditation can reduce hypertension (high blood pressure), which is implicated in the vast majority of heart attacks and strokes, and that it can also lower abnormally high levels of cholesterol in the blood...

"Other studies indicate that regular meditation may substantially increase blood levels of certain important immune-system hormones, while reducing levels of the stress hormones that have been linked to many diseases. In addition, meditation is said to be of benefit for migraine, various kinds of back pain, digestive disorders, arthritis, diabetes and thyroid problems."

In visualization, the patient vividly imagines the outcome he or she wishes to achieve, such as the white blood cells swallowing up the attacking bacteria or virus cells. It is believed that the imagination actually influences the physiological processes, some of which include salivation, muscle tension, respiration, heart rate, blood pressure, gastrointestinal activity, blood glucose levels and blister formation.

Rabbi Nachman emphasized "Thought can bring about many things... When thought is intensely concentrated it can exert great influence. Every faculty of the mind, both conscious and unconscious, down to the innermost point, must be focused without distraction. To accomplish this, the concentrated thought must spell out every step of the desired result in detail."

He even described how a patient could speak to his body parts to affect change. According to Greenbaum, "There is indeed evidence that for certain types of physical conditions, sounds or vibrations of various kinds can be used to promote healing. Sounds, chants, prayers and music play a role in many healing traditions. Sound waves may well have a direct effect on certain aspects of bodily functioning."

The human body is a wonderful thing, and now we know that the mind is even more incredible! What mystics knew two hundred years ago, we now know evidentially: the mind has the power to bring mental, emotional and physical healing. Changing thought patterns is not always easy –- in fact, it can be excruciatingly hard. But if one is able and determined to improve his or her health, methods are now close at hand that are free without nasty side effects. Upgrade thought –- upgrade health!


( Wings of the Sun , online version







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carol stanley said...

I truly believe that fear is our worst enemy. It can creep up so silently we hardly know it is there. So positive affirmations, deep breathing, having faith are all good things..carol stanley Author of For Kids 59.99 and Over

Syam said...

I'm a Reiki practitioner and I find your blog very informative. Thanks for the info you shared.

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