If you’ve been hanging around me-dot-com for a while then you’re well aware that I’m fascinated with the mind and its incredible potential. Despite being a (supposed) body expert, I’m far more interested in psychology than I am physiology. Keeping in mind that, in many ways, our physiology is influenced and affected by our psychology (thinking, choices, behaviours, habits, beliefs, self-esteem, anxiety… and so on).
For years on this site we’ve explored the relationship between what’s happening in our head (our internal reality) and the kind of results we’re producing in our physical world (our external reality). And while I’m always banging on about things like the correlation that exists between our thinking and our relationships, career, finances, eating behaviours, exercise habits, productivity and results (in general), what interests me the most is the incredible influence that our mind can have on our physical health.
One way or the other.
At the moment I’m reading an awesome book (and I don’t use that word often) by Dr. Lissa Rankin called ‘Mind Over Medicine’. OMG, it’s so freakin’ good. Most of you know that I never push products and rarely make shopping suggestions but today I am. If you’re interested in understanding more about the relationship between your psychology and your physiology (trust me, you will want to know), go and get this book and digest it. You’ll thank me.
Here’s a few morsels from the book.
1. A well-known hair re-growth product was tested in a double-blind placebo trial. The people who took the placebo experienced identical results to the people who used the actual drug. That is, people who were taking nothing (in effect) discovered that (1) their hair stopped receding and (2) new hair began to grow. This should not happen. And what caused these physiological changes? They did. Their belief somehow changed what was happening biochemically which, in turn, produced real-world observable, measurable change. Imagine thinking your way out of baldness. Love it.
2. An article published in the New England Journal of Medicine (I’ve read the actual article, it’s fascinating) explored and discussed the outcome of a controlled study looking at the results of a trial comparing a very successful knee operation for osteoarthritis performed by Dr. Bruce Moseley (a well-respected surgeon) to a placebo operation where patients thought they were getting the actual operation but weren’t. The placebo group were prepared for surgery, sedated (but still awake), wheeled into the operating theatre, had three small incisions made in their knee and then watched the ‘operation’ take place on a video. What they really watched was someone else’s operation while the medical team spent an hour (or so) simulating the appropriate sounds and actions somewhere in the vicinity of their knee. You know what I’m gonna tell you right?
Yep, the recovery numbers were the same for both groups. Which means that those in the placebo group (who had no surgery) recovered just as though they had undergone the actual operation. And yes, this is all documented in the N.E.J.M. Their pain went away, they regained strength and power and their overall level of function improved. And it stayed that way! Researchers spoke with placebo patients five years later and the results were maintained from a procedure they didn’t have.
3. Forty percent of infertility patients get pregnant while taking placebo ‘fertility drugs’. That’s gonna save some money!
4. Seventy-one percent of patients who had a fake operation for angina got better but of those who had the real surgery, only sixty-seven percent improved. As a result of this study, that particular operation (the real one) is no longer performed.
5. Forty percent of people suffering from headache experience relief when they take a sugar pill while believing it’s a pain-killer.
6. Ipecac is a substance used to induce vomiting. A woman who was suffering from two straight days of nausea and vomiting was given Ipecac syrup and told it was a new drug that stopped vomiting. In twenty minutes the vomiting had stopped completely.
Now, we know there’s a very real relationship between belief (psychology) and outcome (physiology) but (1) how does it work and (2) how can we learn to heal ourselves or at the very least, improve our health?
I’ll tell you next time.
Love to hear your thoughts on this and I’d especially love to hear from you if you have your own placebo (type) story.