Your mind packs powerful medicine — it can ease pain, promote immune strength and speed healing. Tuning into your body, dispelling stress and channeling positive thoughts toward ailing body parts can have a major positive effect.
Taking a sugar pill and believing that it’s medicine can ease symptom, or your perception of symptoms, especially for pain, insomnia, depression, anxiety, functional bowel disorders and functional urinary disorders. That’s what’s called the placebo effect, and we have documented proof that it works.
The Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center/Harvard Medical School runs a research center called Program in Placebo Studies & Therapeutic Encounter (PiPS) that looks into the biology of placebo and its clinical effects. One study of folks with irritable bowel syndrome found that 44 percent of those treated with a placebo (sham acupuncture) said they got relief from their IBS problems. And when the sham acupuncture was combined with increased care and kindness from the acupuncturist, the placebo effect kicked in for 62 percent of participants.
So, what’s going on in the brain?
The PiPs researchers say that there are quantifiable changes in brain chemistry when a placebo works. For example, when you give a sham pain reliever to some folks, their brain releases natural pain-relieving substances called endorphins. Placebos
also are sometimes effective in treating depression and Parkinson’s disease, both of which are illnesses that are characterized by deficiencies in brain neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine.
In short, you have the ability to modulate pain and ease symptoms for many disorders and conditions just by stimulating your body to produce symptom-easing chemicals. But the mind is also a powerful force that can aggravate what’s medically
wrong. This is the “Nocebo Effect”: If you expect to feel worse or have pain, then you increase the likelihood you will experience it, even if there is no objective reason for it.
For example, in one study, 50 folks with low-back pain were given a flexibility test. Half were told that the test might cause some pain. Half were not told anything. Afterward, the first group reported a significantly higher amount of pain. The researchers concluded anticipation and expectation of pain triggers increased pain. In another study, men with benign prostatic hyperplasia were given the drug finasteride. Half were told that it caused erectile dysfunction and half were not given that information.
Forty-four percent of the first group reported that they’d experienced ED, compared with just 15 percent of the uninformed group.
Clearly, you want to harness the power of your mind for your benefit, not your detriment.
But how? Here, in just 15 minutes a day, are simple ways to harness the mind-body connection and positively influence some of your body’s physical responses.
Guided Imagery: According to the Cleveland Clinic: “Clinical studies show that anxiety can affect pain, prolong recovery time and lower the immune system. Guided imagery can bring about the state of mind and body most conducive to healing — deep relaxation and positive focus.” There are guided imagery videos at www.Doctoroz.com.
Relaxation Breathing Practice: Focus on your breath while you place one hand on your chest, the other over your belly button. As you take a slow, deep breath, focus on inflating your abdomen and having your belly button move out. As you exhale, imagine your pain or other symptoms floating off in your breath, and your belly button moving toward your spine. Aim for taking six breaths a minute: Spend about three or four seconds inhaling, and six or seven seconds exhaling.
Mind/Body Modification Routine: Think about what is going on around you. Then switch your thoughts to yourself and your breathing. Take a few deep breaths, exhaling slowly. Notice where in your body you feel pain, tension or cramping. Breathe into and out of those areas, loosening them up. Let go of as much tension as you can. Then, recall and focus on a pleasant memory. Take another deep breath and exhale slowly.
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Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into “The Dr. Oz Show” or visit www.sharecare.com. © 2017 Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D. Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc
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