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Placebo effect

Remembered Wellness - The Placebo Effect tested

Thursday, June 09, 2011 by: M.Thornley
Tags: placebo effect, wellness, health news

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(NewsTarget) As explained by Ronda Bresnick Hauss in a recent article in the Hill Rag, advanced technology such as PET scans and MRIs allow researchers to examine the brain. While using the mind to heal the body was often discredited or disregarded in the past, these new approaches indicate that the placebo effect does cause actual changes in brain chemistry which in turn leads to changes in the body.

Using a placebo means deliberately using a `medicine` that contains no active ingredients. A patient who manifests improvement after taking a placebo obviously becomes better through his or her faith or belief in the process rather than due to any benefit derived from the medicine.

Hauss explains how thoughts or beliefs influence the body. When someone is home alone at night and hears a noise, s/he may think someone is breaking in. Breathing speeds up and heart rate increases in response to this threat. Then, with the discovery that a spouse has come home, breathing and heart rate normalize.

Hauss reports on a recent clinical study conducted by Benson Friedman at the Mind/Body Medical Institute of the Harvard Medical School. In this study, 60 to 90 percent of diseases such as angina pectoris, bronchial asthma, herpes simplex and duodenal ulcer when treated with placebos showed beneficial results. Other conditions in which placebos have been effective are anxiety, stress, warts and ulcers. Placebos have been found to lower blood pressure and cholesterol and to improve reaction times, pulse rates and immune system activity.

In a study of depression, Thomas Walsh, a psychiatrist at Columbia University, found that 30 percent of patients taking placebos experienced improvement.

Trials with young people using placebos and the drug Zoloft show even greater results. While 69 percent improved with the drug, 59 percent improved with a placebo.

Friedman noted that, for the placebo effect, it was important to have positive beliefs and expectations on the part of both the patient and the health care professional, and a good relationship between both parties. Friedman urged that the term ``placebo effect`` should be dropped in favor of ``remembered wellness``.

Remembered wellness, also referred to as the relaxation response, as explained by Julie Milne, is the process of invoking good feelings, of feelings of well-being, to reduce stress, anxiety or pain.
Reasons offered for the success of placebos were that patients get more attention from alternative practitioners. Alternative practitioners are good listeners and build trust. One doctor noted that the extra attention and rapport resulted in biological improvement.

Currently, 50 percent of German doctors use placebos. One in five physicians and psychiatrists in Canada have used placebos.

According to Dr. Charles Raison, in a new approach to testing the efficacy of placebos at Harvard, patients with irritable bowel syndrome were openly informed that they were being given a `sugar pill.` Remarkably, Raison writes, the patients improved `significantly` over those who`d taken nothing.

A placebo, Raison notes, adapts itself to whatever condition a patient has. Given for depression, it causes brain changes. Given for backache, it can mimic the effects of opioid analgesics. In cases of Parkinson`s it induces the body to produce more dopamine.

Hauss, R. B. (2011). The placebo effect: The amazing power of the mind to heal the body. Hill Rag, June, 2011, pp. 102-103.

About the author

M. Thornley enjoys walking, writing and pursuing a raw vegan diet and lifestyle.

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