The Mind-Body Connection
Naturopathic medicine has six guiding principles. They are all important, however I am going to elaborate upon one specifically; treat the whole person.
As a human, you are an intelligent, living breathing being that is much more than a simple machine that can be broken down into the sum of its parts. Often times in the world of medicine, we have specialties that focus on just the single parts. It is extremely valuable to have experts within different areas of medicine, but it is also just as vital to take a step back to get a glimpse of the bigger picture. As Naturopathic Doctors this is what we do. We take a big step back to see the ways in which the body and its systems are functioning together or in many cases not functioning appropriately- leading to body wide symptoms.
Okay, so we take a step back to see the big picture. But what comprises the whole person?
The whole person does not just mean the entirety of the physical body, but also includes the mental, emotional and even spiritual realms.
I want to dig deeper into the immaterial parts of who you are, outside the physical body. These are the thoughts and internal self-talk constantly swimming in our heads. These are subconscious patterns and beliefs we hold from childhood. These are the moods and emotions we go through in any given moment. This is the very core of what animates the human body, the non-physical part of you, your very essence.
How do these unseen parts of you affect your health?
You may have heard of the mind-body connection. This is the understanding that the mental habits, thoughts, beliefs, attitudes and emotions you hold can influence your physical health.
You can probably remember a time you were extremely nervous or anticipating an event. Did you have the sensation of a knot in your stomach? Or possibly your heart was pounding and sweat was beading up on your forehead? This is the mind body connection. Your body symptoms are the physical expression of the mental state of anxiety.
Your changing mental and emotional states, both positive and negative, impact the biochemical function within the body. The field of Psycho-Neuro-Endocrine-Immunology (P.N.E.I.) is a scientific field of study that investigates the link between communications among the nervous system, the endocrine system, and the immune system and the correlations of this cross-talk with physical health.
In essence the central nervous system, including the brain (where mental habits and emotions become physical messengers-neurotransmitters, hormones, immune proteins) is connected via nerves to the rest of your organs and tissues constantly impacting their functioning.
Emotions & Beliefs
Positive emotions have been shown to reduce inflammatory markers (IL-6) in the body – nearly every single chronic illness is driven by the underlying cause of inflammation! This means positive emotions decrease the risk across the board for chronic illness.
Negative emotions on the other hand, are shown to stimulate the production of proinflammatory markers contributing to prolonged infections and delayed wound healing. Ultimately prolonged immune dysregulation from negative emotions will increase the risk of chronic illness.
You can also think about another positive application of the mind-body connection when you consider the placebo effect. This is seen in clinical trials where patients receive a placebo or inert substance rather than the actual drug being studied. Patients in the placebo group believe they may be receiving the drug that will relieve their suffering and often times their health gets better. In many cases the illness improves just as much as those taking the actual drug.
The simple belief that the placebo is a medicine for a given illness leads to improved physical health! This is remarkable and shows us just how powerful our thoughts, beliefs and emotions can be.
How do we promote better mental and emotional health?
- Mantras & Affirmations
- Deep breathing
- Tapping (EFT)
- Biofeedback, & Neurofeedback
- Energy healing
- Hypnosis Qi Gong & Tai chi
What you think, you become. – Buddha
About the Author:
Dr. Taylor Pagano is a Naturopathic Doctor at Richmond Natural Medicine where she enjoys helping people in the areas of general wellness, gastrointestinal concerns, neurology, dermatology, Thyroid imbalances and women’s medicine including fertility. She received her naturopathic medical degree at the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe, Arizona. To book a Naturopathic appointment with Dr. Taylor Pagano, contact our office at (804) 476-2113.