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Mind-body medicine

The Mind-Body Connection Part IV: Grandmother was Right; Happiness Aids Digestion

Friday, October 16, 2009 by: Alexander R. Lees
Tags: mind-body medicine, health news, Natural News

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(NewsTarget) There's one more piece to add to our healing journey, but before we do that lets briefly summarize the Mind-Body Connection Parts I, II & III. We learned that our thoughts can affect our health; what a neuropeptide is and how it affects our genes; and that our beliefs can affect the foods we eat. We now know that we can play a part in our own healing by tuning into our thoughts and adjusting them (if need be) so that they are more useful and beneficial to our well being. Doing so can affect the building blocks in our body (our DNA) which forms a model or a map (inside our head) of how the world is. Our model is based upon our perceptual filters and beliefs, and affects everything we do, including what we eat.

Granted, what we eat is important, but equally important is our emotional state while eating. Optimizing our emotional state (while eating) may help correct any physical ailments we are experiencing and also help prevent them from occurring.

As an example, let`s take the study (referred to in Mind-Body Connection Part III of this series). The study reported on how the body`s response to cholesterol was affected by attitude, and the different states of mind of the participants (in this case anger vs. pleasant conversation) while they were having a meal. In this particular study, the food chosen for the testing was pizza. Like and similar studies have since been replicated over and over again, with different foodstuffs. The effects of emotional states were expanded to include the effects on saliva, hydrochloric acid formation, on the heart, on blood pressure, and so on. When these studies were first released, the feedback from readers was sorted into categories, and evaluated.

From these responses, we learn, the vast majority stated their interpretation of the reports was that anger, bickering, and unpleasant conversations had a negative impact on the body, especially when consuming a meal. A small minority felt the article was trying to say one could eat something like wood chips, and still be healthy if they had the right attitude about it. One or two actually felt the essence of the articles really focused on the power available by being trained in method acting! Again, these studies validated grandmothers were right, that is be thankful for the food in front of you, and maintain a pleasant atmosphere during the meal. Just as important (at least for our purposes) was the feedback on these studies; they serve to validate the fact that any subject, discussion, study, situation, or circumstance will not be interpreted exactly the same way by everyone. This is just another example of how our model of the world, our perceptual filters and beliefs affect our interpretation of events.

Emotional states and food intake studies have been repeated with different foods at different universities and research institutes around the world. The common theme was simply reinforced: Eating healthy foods is where we should start. This is like taking out an insurance policy to maximize the odds in our favor if living a long life in good health is our preference. Now, we are simply adding a rider to that policy, by making sure we understand the value of being in a pleasant state of mind whilst ingesting quality food.

The mind, even though an abstract by definition, responds to at least one law governing the physical body itself: Use it, or lose it.

Study after study reveals interesting facts about food. Some see it as fuel and their body as a precious, sophisticated machine. This type of person tends to read the labeled ingredients on the foodstuffs available at their local grocery store, and seems to share a generalized rule: If you can`t pronounce what`s included in the contents, don`t eat it. Not surprisingly, many suppliers are starting to take notice, and we are beginning to see this attitudinal change in some of the items offered on the shelves in grocery stores.

Still others, either because of the environment in which they were raised, or because of peer pressure encountered along the way, or for a host of other reasons, continue to abuse the body through their eating habits, without regard for the long term damage such an attitude inevitably leads to. But even in these cases, change in the emotional mind-set goes a long way in allowing a change in eating habits to occur.

In the Mind-Body Connection Part I of this series, it was mentioned that some of the research regarding the immune system reveals that the emotional state of an individual has been shown to affect the immune system`s functionality. Since this system is our first line of defense against disease and poor health, it makes even more sense to ensure mealtimes are a pleasant experience rather than a time to discuss problems.

Again, this assumes the food is properly prepared, and selected from quality ingredients. After all, even the best mental attitude and consuming wood chips for a meal would probably give a person a few extra minutes longer than someone else before an ambulance was necessary to cart off the person to have his/her stomach pumped.

The effect of emotional attitude on digestion is not confined to the digestive process itself, however.

In the American Journal of Cardiology (Vol. 76, no. 14, Nov. 1995) a study was reported on regarding the effects of emotional states on the heart. Anger and appreciative states were compared, and the results of the studies made the difference obvious. There was less hypertension, etc., in those participants that experienced appreciation versus those that experienced anger. Therefore the difference in life expectancy alone should motivate anyone to decide to change his/her mind for the better, and keep the change from that point forward.

All of the articles in this series so far are but a thumbnail sketch of the role played by both positive and negative emotional states, and the resulting effects on metabolism, digestion, the heart`s functionality, and the immune system, to name a few. Hopefully, the information has provided us with some level of incentive to decide to make some changes. We have learned that much of our stress is caused by the way we interpret any event, circumstance or situation, and that our interpretation is due mainly to the kind of perceptive filters we utilize to do so. We have also learned that our very thought/emotive process is transduced into chemistry (neuropeptides), and these information substances reach every cell in the body, and will, given enough repetition and time, begin to influence gene expression itself.

As the body is an equal opportunity employer, it will process, and therefore be affected by, positive thoughts and emotions (good for the body) just as readily and easily as negative ones (bad for the body).

The choice is ours. We, as individuals, decide which messages our body gets. In the next article in the series, we will begin to explore some techniques designed to make change easier. We`ll start with the main reason people pick the food choices they do. This little secret is referred to as the driver, because once it fires, the resulting behaviour (reach for another donut, more ice cream or cake) is immediate. Once that happens, then changing the behaviour becomes much more difficult. The driver, and what to do about it, will be covered in the Mind-Body Connection Part V: Teaching your brain how to support healthy food choices.


Science Daily (Mar. 5, 2009) - University of Kansas research finds human emotions hold sway over physical health worldwide. "We`ve known for a while now that emotions play a critical role in physical health," said Sarah Pressman, assistant professor of psychology at KU and a Gallup senior research associate. Adapted from materials provided by University of Kansas. J Immunol. 1985 Aug;135(2 Suppl):820s-826s.

Pert CB, Ruff MR, Weber RJ, Herkenham M.
Neuropeptides and their receptors: a psychosomatic network. Journal of Immunol. 1985 Aug;135(2 Suppl):820s-826s. A major conceptual shift in neuroscience has been wrought by the realization that brain function is modulated by numerous chemicals in addition to classical neurotransmitters. Many of these informational substances are neuropeptides. Neuropeptides and their receptors join the brain, glands, and immune system in a network of communication between brain and body, probably representing the biochemical substrate of emotion.

Labott SM, Ahleman S, Wolever ME, Martin RB., The physiological and psychological effects of the expression and inhibition of emotion. University of Toledo, Ohio. Psychosomatic Medicine, Vol 56, Issue 6 499-511, Copyright 1994 by American Psychosomatic Society

AD Futterman, ME Kemeny, D Shapiro and JL Fahey
Immunological and physiological changes associated with induced positive and negative mood. Department of Psychology, UCLA. Psychosomatic Medicine, Vol 56, Issue 6 499-511, Copyright 1994 by American Psychosomatic Society

Sloan RP, Shapiro PA, Bagiella E, Boni SM, Paik M, Bigger JT Jr, Steinman RC, Gorman JM. Effect of mental stress throughout the day on cardiac autonomic control. Behavioral Medicine Program, Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, New York, NY 10032.

About the author

Alexander R. Lees, DCH, RCC has been in private practice for 22 years, as a counsellor and therapist. He is a Registered Clinical Counsellor, with a Doctorate in Clinical Hypnotherapy. As well, Dr. Lees is a Certified International Trainer of NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) and an expert in meridian tapping techniques (including EFT). Dr. Lees presents international seminars and workshops on a variety of topics related to the mind/body connection, EFT and NLP. Also, he is the author of Pathways Through Your Mindfield, EFT - What is it and how does it work? and co-author of Freedom At Your Fingertips. Please visit http://www.DrAlexLees.com where you will find information about NLP, EFT, the mind/body connection, as well as MP3s (including a free download) and lots of other good stuff. To read his personal story, which also lead him to becoming a psychotherapist, please have a look at http://www.dralexlees.com/about01.html Dr. Lees lives in beautiful White Rock, BC, Canada, with his wife Berit and their dog Ty.

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