There always seems to be a time of year when people get sick. You arrive at the doctor’s office with a perceived sickness, and your doctor informs you, “It’s all in your head.” A few days later, you get sick, return to the doctor, and finally get the medicine that will make everything all better.
What if I told you that your medicine, even the natural remedies, may not be as important as you think? Could there be something more powerful than your go-to painkillers, or even your “it tastes awful, but it works” medicines?
I’ll let you in on a little secret: your mind and what you believe highly influences the healing process and the outcome of your health.
At a traditional Western medical school, the prime focus is on drugs and surgery. Natural health practitioners promote the effectiveness of natural remedies and supplementation. Although these can help, the strongest prescription may actually be all in your head.
It’s true. There are even several studies that support this. Your mind can play a significant part in your health.
Placebos are considered harmless water pills that are used merely to record the efficacy of drugs or alternative forms of medicine being tested; however, in some cases the placebo effect is known to be just as effective—or possibly have a greater effect than the real medicine.
I recall a study published in 2002 in the American Journal of Psychiatry. The research from the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute suggested the placebo treatment had a greater effect than antidepressant medications in people with major depression. There were 51 major depression patients enrolled in the nine-week, double-blind, placebo-controlled study.
The study examined the brain function of the patients after a treatment of a placebo or an antidepressant medication. In this case, they were given venlafaxine or fluoxetine. The researchers used quantitative electroencephalography (QEEG) to examine the difference between the effects of a placebo and the antidepressants. The placebo groups showed an increase in the prefrontal cordance early in the treatment. The medication groups would show a decrease in prefrontal cordance.
I also found a meta-analysis published in the peer-reviewed journal PLoS Medicine in 2008. The results suggest that new-generation antidepressants aren’t significantly better than placebos in moderate or very severe depression patients. The meta-analysis examined the clinical trial data of anti-depressants, nefazodone, paroxetine, venlafaxine, and fluxetine, which were submitted to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for licensing. The researchers confirmed that the antidepressants did not meet the recommended criteria. There was also no difference between the placebo group and antidepressant after the Hamilton Rating Scale of Depression (HRSD) questionnaire, which indicates the severity of depression.
The studies suggest that the placebo effect is perhaps more powerful than your antidepressant prescriptions.
And when it comes to a placebo treatment for surgery, a controlled trial from the Baylor School of Medicine suggested this may be a possible replacement for surgery. The study found that “fake” surgery was no better than actual surgery. How can surgery be faked? Dr. Bruce Moseley wanted to figure out what part of the surgery contributed to the relief in osteoarthritis patients receiving knee surgery. There were 180 patients with knee osteoarthritis divided among three groups. In one group, Dr. Moseley performed arthroscopic lavage, and flushed out the knee joint to remove the inflammation. In another group, he would shave the damaged knee cartilage during surgery. The third group received placebo surgery. Dr. Moseley made the standard incisions, simulated the operation, then sewed up the patients after 40 minutes. The placebo group showed similar results as the other two groups.
Could your perception have a significant effect on your cure? Does your mind offer a more effective cure? Well, it’s something to think about, but you also need to consider that in many cases, natural treatments, prescriptions, or surgery may be the safest option, so be sure to consider your doctor’s recommendations.
Sources for Today’s Article:
Kirsch, I., et al., “Initial Severity and Antidepressant Benefits: A Meta-Analysis of Data Submitted to the Food and Drug Administration,” PLoS Medicine February 26, 2008; 5(2): e45, doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.0050045.
Leuchter, A.F., et al., “Changes in brain function of depressed subjects during treatment with placebo,” American Journal of Psychiatry January 2002; 159(1): 122–129.
Moseley, J.B., et al., “A controlled trial of arthroscopic surgery for osteoarthritis of the knee,” New England Journal of Medicine July 11, 2002; 347(2): 81–88.
Lipton, B.H., The Biology of Belief: Unleashing the Power of Consciousness, Matter & Miracles (United Kingdom: Hay House, Inc., 2008), 108–109.