“The moment you change your perception is the moment you rewrite the chemistry of your body… If the brain expects that a treatment will work, it sends healing chemicals into the bloodstream, which facilitates that. And the opposite is equally true and equally powerful: When the brain expects that a therapy will not work, it doesn’t. It’s called the ‘nocebo’ effect.” – Dr. Bruce Lipton
The Nocebo Effect
The nocebo effect is the opposite of the placebo effect. It describes how negative thinking affects your health.
Most people have heard of the placebo effect. This term, derived from Latin for “I will please”, refers to an improvement in symptoms experienced with treatments independent from an active ingredient’s action. The placebo effect is typically associated with treatments without active ingredients (e.g., sugar pills). But some of the benefit people gain from standard medicines, like analgesics and antidepressants, may come in part from this response to placebo-like treatments. Due to an expectation that treatment will alleviate symptoms, many are hopeful for positive change following treatment. At one point in a study involving patients given potency opioids followed by painful stimuli, positive treatment expectancy – such as being told the opioid would significantly decrease pain – doubled its analgesic effect compared to when no expectations about how the opioid would perform were given.
The nocebo effect, on the other hand, is less well known; its name derives from Latin for “I will harm.” This phenomenon refers to any decrease in treatment efficacy, worsening of symptoms or new adverse effects experienced independent from an active component’s actions due to expectation or perception that said active component will cause harm – for instance when patients were told an opioid would make them more sensitive to pain after its initial effect wore off; its analgesic effect completely vanished.
Stress Can Destroy Your Immune System
Chronic stress, as unveiled through pioneering research by psychologist Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, PhD, and immunologist Ronald Glaser, PhD, can significantly compromise the immune system. Their decade-long study, which used medical students as subjects, found a consistent decline in immunity during the stress-laden three-day exam periods. Notably, natural killer cells, crucial for combating tumors and viral infections, decreased, and gamma interferon production dwindled. Subsequent studies, inducing stress for mere minutes, revealed a complex immune response, marked by initial heightened activity followed by signs of depletion. Long-term stress, spanning from days to months or years, demonstrated a comprehensive decline in all aspects of immunity, emphasizing the detrimental impact of chronic stress on immune resilience. Further investigations linked age and mild depression to increased vulnerability to stress-induced immune changes, highlighting the lasting effects of stress on immunity, even in cases of subtle depression among older individuals. In essence, the duration of stress, rather than its severity, emerged as a key factor in immune compromise, especially impactful for older caregivers facing both depression and age-related challenges.
No Stranger to Fear
I’m no stranger to fear, as I wrote about in my book, I Used to Have Cancer. In fact, I allowed stress to control my life to a large degree, after I heard those terrible words, “you have cancer.” As I wrote in Chapter 3 “Three Knocks at My Door,” it took me almost a year of horrific losses – loss of my health, my family, my peace of mind — to make the conscious decision that there NO WAY I going back to the year of fear I had just experienced. And that, my friend, was my turning point — a conscious decision.
My new journey led me to the Kushi Institute, I had the pleasure of meeting many positive-minded individuals, including Dr. Patch Adams. His prescription for his patients was laughter. That may sound trite, but when you take a longer look and consider that laughter not only releases endorphins and other natural mood-elevating chemicals, but also improves the transfer of nutrients and oxygen to internal organs, it’s no wonder that there’s something to that old saying, “laughter is the best medicine.”
Another technique I frequently used to put myself in a healing state of mind was visualization. Many athletes practice this to improve their performance. Visualization is simply a mental exercise in focusing your thoughts. You create images in your mind of having or doing whatever it is that you want in as much detail as possible. You then repeat these images over and over again, daily. It’s a way to use your imagination to see yourself being successful in whatever goal you may have – including defeating cancer.
Whenever I had some time to myself, I would practice visualizing a healthy body. When I would go for walks, I would do my deep breathing, holding the oxygen in my lungs as long as I could, then release. I would picture the oxygen entering my body and destroying the cancer cells.
The Bottom Line
As has been proven in many studies, including this one published in Frontiers of Oncology, stress management is absolutely essential for cancer patients. According to researchers involved in that study, “chronic stress activates the classic neuroendocrine system [the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis] and the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and leads to a decline and dysfunction of the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus under stress.”
Your cells, your blood chemistry will respond to your thoughts. It’s the picture you create in your mind that determines which chemicals are cascaded throughout your body. If you don’t like what you’re living right now, change your picture! See what happens….
The Nocebo Effect. Bpacnz. https://bpac.org.nz/2019/nocebo.aspx
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