NICABM Mind Body Medicine Series
Mind/Body Medicine and the Future of Healing
Mind/Body Medicine, sometimes also referred to as holistic healing or holistic medicine, has been at the root of philosophical, medical, and therapeutic discussions for ages. Mind/Body Medicine refers to the interaction between the mind, body, and spirit, specifically the ways in which emotional, mental, social and spiritual factors together can directly affect health. With the advent of modern medicine and pharmacology, mind-body medicine had been downplayed in the Western world until recently, when researchers and practitioners started to see the benefits of combining approaches.
For practitioners this means looking beneath the surface of symptoms and finding the more fundamental causes for the conditions we treat. By leaving behind the old Western school of thought that illness happens either in the mind or the body, practitioners can achieve a more complex and complete understanding of health and illness.
The resulting marriage of modern medical technology and traditional medicine has created new areas of study, such as functional medicine and complementary medicine. Scientific research in the areas of Psychoneuroimmunology and Psychoneuroendocrinology are providing findings that compliment the anecdotal mind-body medicine evidence that have been noted throughout history.
There are many areas where research has found Mind/Body Medicine to be potentially helpful, including:
High blood pressure
Coronary heart disease
Stomach and intestinal problems
Techniques used in Mind/Body Medicine differ widely, but can involve diet, exercise, yoga, meditation, qigong, biofeedback, or hypnosis. These techniques can be used separately or in conjunction with pharmacological or other modern medical treatments depending on the particular health issue.
Here are some interesting facts and findings that involve Mind/Body Medicine:
According the World Health Organization (WHO), if the major risk factors for chronic disease like poor diet, inactivity and tobacco use could be eliminated, at least 80% of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 Diabetes would be prevented as well.
Women who participated in a mind/body program for stress reduction while undergoing IVF treatment have a significantly higher pregnancy rate than those who do not (52% versus 20%) (A. Domar et al., Fertility and Sterility, 2011).
More than a third of Americans use some form of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). Of this figure, 1 in 30 are referred by a medical service provider (A. Nerurkar et al., Archives of Internal Medicine, 2011).
Bacteria residing in the gut influences brain chemistry and behavior. These findings are important because several common types of gastrointestinal disease, including irritable bowel syndrome, are frequently associated with anxiety or depression (P. Bercik et al., Gastroenterology, 2011).
A 2011 study linked Metabolic Syndrome to memory loss in older people. Metabolic syndrome can include factors like high blood pressure, excess belly fat, higher than normal triglycerides, high blood sugar and low high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (known as "good" cholesterol) (C. Raffaitin et al., Neurology, 2011).
By treating an individual as a whole and taking into consideration the "big picture" perspective of care in terms of causes, management, and treatment, Mind/Body Medicine can help repair the damage that can riddle our bodies.