Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Human Body's Response to the Mind

Many languages contain phrases like 'mind over matter' or 'it is all in the mind', and these phases are centuries old. Yet while the public agree that mind is important in illness, the idea is somehow too common to be taken seriously : we meet it as cliche in magazine and movies, and we let it rest at that. Or if we try to think about mind in illness, the issues are so complex that we give up.

My argument is about temperament. Since mind is a part of temperament - the mental part of the word temperament - allow me to start by emphasising the force of 'mind over matter' in a very basic way :

It is well known that the suggestion especially by a doctor that a particular form of treatment is effective, can be very powerful. . . the power of the spoken word. . . especially where the supposed benefits are reinforced by a caring physician who has built up a strong personal relationship with the patient. This . . . response represents a true biological, where bio=life and logical=sense, phenomenon, possibly mediated through links between the central nervous and immunological systems.

The human body's response to the mind is a true biological phenomenon.

We move from psychological to biology. The move, if one wishes to phase it as a move, is 'possibly mediated through links between the central nervous and immunological systems.

It is a good deal more than a possibility according to the work of some scientists in a relatively new discipline called psychoneuroimmunology (read psycho-neuro-immunology).

Recent technological innovations have allowed us to examine the molecular basis of the emotions, and to begins to understand how the molecules of our human emotions share intimate connections with, and are indeed (read in-deed ,i.e. in-action) inseparable from, our physiology. (Professor Candace B.Pert of Georgetown University School of Medicine, Molecules of Emotions, p.18 )

' A growing number of scientists see this as a scientific revolution, a major paradigm shift with tremendous implications for how we deal with health and disease.' - Professor Candace B.Pert.

Dialogue between patient and doctor/consultant played a crucial role in therapy, and the whole pattern of illness changes for a while.

Thus ' mind over matter' is not an empty phrase. Folk wisdom is right to intuit the connection: your body respond to your mind. Think yourself to be sick, your body will grow sick; think yourself to health your body will grow healthy.


Why do patients hear so little about this area? Many doctors initially consider 'mind over matter' was in the area of 'the crazy' until they changed their approach. These doctors made progress only after talking to patients for several years and slowly gaining their confidence.

Here is a major problem. Doctors work under intense pressure. Where is the time?

'The frantic pace of life in a modern hospital and the diverse technical skills required of young doctors in research laboratory, hospital, and community allow little time for thought or sleep, let alone talking to patients and their families.'
(Sir David Weatherall's, Science and the Quiet Art, p.329)

Talking to patients may get squeezed out. If so, what place is left for comments like these from a blog on cancer?

Above everything else, treating patients with cancer involves an awareness of how patients think and feel. (Professor Robert Souhami and Dr Jeffrey Tobias, Cancer and Its Management, p.4)**

This is not psychoneuroimmunology, but it is a strong statement. Above everything else. Nor is it made by so-called 'alternative' doctors.
**Professor Souhami is Dean of the Faculty of Clinical Sciences and Professor of Medicine at the Royal Free and University College London Medical School.
**Dr Tobias is consultant in radiotherapy and Oncology, University College and Middlesex Hospitals.

For good measures, they have a combative section about what they consider to be 'cancer quackery'.
Their remarks point to the vital role of a patient's own thoughts and feelings, even in the context of the pressures of hospital life.


Mind over matter, like nutrition, is one of the oldest medicines in the world.

There are two classes of disease - bodily and mental. Each arises from the other, and neither can exist without the other. Thus mental disorders arise from physical ones, and likewise physical disorders arise from mental ones.

One area which the mind/brain which many patients had long neglected is correct amount of water drinking since childhood.

Faith in the gods or saints cures one,
faith in little pills another,
hypnotic suggestion a third,
faith in a plain, common doctor a fourth . . .
the faith with which we work has its limitations but such as we find it,
faith is the most precious commodity without which we should be very badly off.
- Dr William Osler.

Modern medicine with its stress on technology and allopathic drugs, largely forgot the power of mind over matter. Science, however, did not.

The contribution and connections between the mind, stress and cancer initiation and survival are now well validated. (Gordon J.S., Curtin S., Comprehensive Cancer Care, New York, 2000, pp 314)

In devising a treatment that would capitalise on this knowledge, the patient was able to draw on both ancient wisdom, in the meditations and breathing exercises of Chinese medicine, and the pioneering work of the Simontons. (Getting Well Again, Bantam Books,1994)

These practices, begun within two months of diagnosis, enabled the patient, Michael Gearin-Tosh, to survive the trauma and stress of diagnosis, and the stress of life and work in general. The patient has given an eloquent account of these practices and the mind-body connection in health and disease: his book Living Proof: a medical mutiny.
It is almost certain that, in terms of promoting a healing response, this was and is a critical aspect of Michael Gearin-Tosh's treatment.

The patient's blood chemistry and immunology results from diagnosis to the present show a picture of consistent and continuing stability of disease.

Case History Concluded

Some improvements from diagnosis since the start of treatment are noteworthy. . . .
In vitro very high doses of vitamin C have been demonstrated to have an apoptotic effect on cancer cells. A method has now been devised whereby this can be achieved in vivo.

The hope is that just one final cytotoxic push is needed and the Myeloma will disappear altogether.

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