homepage blog, I discussed the parental factors that can set one up for
anxiety. This makes it important for these susceptible individuals to really
take control of their health by practicing regular stress-reducing techniques.
factor in regard to how stress impacts one’s health relates not just to the
stress itself, but to a person’s belief in its effect on overall wellness. This
impact of perception isn’t just a “fluffy calming effect,” but influences real
disease outcomes. A 2012 article reports:
High amounts of stress and the
perception that stress impacts health are each associated with poor health and
mental health. Individuals who perceived that stress affects their health and reported a large amount of stress
had an increased risk of premature death.
are familiar with the placebo effect. In fact, studies actually have to control
for this effect of belief, which is so powerful that researchers must include a
“placebo pill” in order to see if the drug or intervention was more powerful
then the effects of the placebo. Recently, one trial reported that the placebo
effect was responsible of half of a migraine’s drug’s efficacy.
This power of
belief seems to have very real neurological pathways. Various studies are
demonstrating the power of persuasion and expectation on the brain:
In fact, data show that certain CNS
circuits, known to be involved in the perception and integration of the pain
experience, are susceptible to various manipulations. The perception of pain
can be either diminished or enhanced, depending on the additional presence of
cognitive distractors, or the suggestion of pain enhancement or reduction (Petrovic
and Ingvar, 2002). Theories regarding the placebo analgesic effect uniformly
acknowledge the interplay between environmental information and their
perception and integration by the individual’s organism to induce a positive
(placebo) or negative (nocebo) response. The presence of these interactions
implies the involvement of higher order, CNS associative processes in the
production of analgesic placebo effects. This assertion has been elegantly
demonstrated by work in which analgesic agents were administered covertly
(subjects were not aware of the actual timing of the administration).
Substantially lower and even insignificant effects were obtained from even
well-recognized analgesic treatments when the context of drug administration
was removed from the treatment (Amanzio et al., 2001; Benedetti et al., 2003; Levine
et al., 1981). These findings call for the elucidation of mechanisms underlying
is a medical doctor who left conventional practice in order to study and spread
the message of the power of belief in healing. This goes way beyond using
mind-body techniques to mitigate stress effects. Rather, she provides scientific
documentation and evidence that “uncurable” diseases may just be a matter of
We may have a predisposition to certain susceptibilities to diseases or risk
factors. However, knowledge of this fact and taking lifestyle measures as well
as changing our perception can have powerful impacts that can trump our genes.
It’s no longer about “genetic destiny.” It’s all about “epigenetic destiny.”
This is one
of the reasons I’m so passionate about BreakFree
Medicine. Everyone should be empowered to make changes
and live the life they desire.
Litzelman K, Wisk LE, et al. Does the Perception that Stress Affects Health
Matter? The Association with Health and Mortality. Health psychology : official journal of the Division of
Health Psychology, American Psychological Association. 2012;31(5):677-684.
Gholipour B. Placebo
Effect May Account for Half of Drug’s Efficacy. Live Science. January 08, 2014.
Minami T, Tierney SC, Baskin TW, Bhati KS. The placebo is powerful: estimating placebo effects in
medicine and psychotherapy from randomized clinical trials. J Clin Psychol. 2005 Jul;61(7):835-54.
Colloca L, Kaptchuk TJ. The placebo effect: illness and interpersonal healing. Perspectives
in biology and medicine. 2009;52(4):518. doi:10.1353/pbm.0.0115.
Stohler CS. Neurobiological Mechanisms of Placebo Responses. Annals of the
New York Academy of Sciences. 2009;1156:198-210.
Physiology and Neurobiology of
Stress and Adaptation: Central Role of the Brain. Physiological Reviews. 1 July 2007; 87(3):873-904 DOI:
Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof
That You Can Heal Yourself. HayHouse. 2013.