CAMP Health: Body - Mind - Spirit Healing
|by James Keehner, Ph.D.|
BodyMindSpirit healing is a fashionable concept today, one sees it on spa signs, it is a topic on Oprah, and is written about in many magazines. But what does it really mean, and does it have any basis in science? The answer is yes, it is based in part in behavioral science, and specifically, the science of psychoneuroimmunology (PNI), which is a multidisciplinary field involving psychologists, immunologists, and neuroscientists. PNI is the study of the interaction between the nervous and immune systems, or one could say it is the study of the impact of our thoughts and feelings on health. For example it is through PNI research that it is known that emotional distress can suppress the immune system in persons with HIV.
David Felton, M.D. and his colleagues at the Indiana School of Medicine made a major discovery that lead to the development of the field of PNI, when they found a network of nerve cells leading to blood vessels in the walls of the cells of the immune system. This implies that the body and mind are one, and not separate entities as medicine and the Church had taught since the 17th century.
The significance and magnitude of this link is further demonstrated by the work of Candace Pert Ph.D., a neuroscientist who was involved in the discovery of the opiate receptor in the brain, and the molecules of emotion or neuropeptides. Neuropeptides are strings of amino acids and are referred to as ligands, which means things that bind, and what they bind to are receptors on the walls of the cells in the body. Hundreds of these receptors sit on the membrane or outer lining of the cell and regulate everything that the cell does, from dividing to nourishment. One can think of the receptor as a little keyhole and the ligand is the informational substance that that turns the key. These informational substances are our hormones, neurotransmitters or drugs we ingest, and are responsible for the communication between the brain and the rest of the body.
The molecules of emotion are found in every system of the body: the immune, endocrine, nervous, gastrointestinal, circulatory, respiratory and reproductive systems. For example, insulin, which is a peptide of two hundred amino acids, has receptors in the limbic system or emotional part of the brain, and the pancreas, the traditional site of insulin, has the endorphins which help us feel good. Not to mention that the immune cells contain endorphins and have Valium and marijuana receptors! Dr. Pert says that there is no state of mind that is not mirrored by the immune system, or one could say that the immune system is mirrored by our state of mind.
The body is a dynamic information communication network, with the ligands sending information and the receptors receiving it. Our thoughts or the neural connections made in the brain, are not only kept there, but are sent throughout the body via the ligands. If we think fearful thoughts, the brain sends the molecules of emotion to the adrenal glands and we experience panic. And what is experienced at the cellular level, sensation, pleasure or pain is sent to the brain. The receptor is where biochemistry meets behavior, and these carriers of information are the link between the body and the mind.
There is no disease that does not have a psychological component because these emotional molecules are running every system in the body. And the good news with this fact is that by addressing our thoughts and feelings we can have a positive effect on our health.
David Speigel, M.D. demonstrated the psychological effect on disease. In a ten year controlled random study, he showed that women who had breast cancer, that met in group therapy once a week where imagery and support were provided, lived twice as long as women who were in the study, but who did not attend group. Therefore, we are not talking about something that only makes one feel good, but about longevity.
Perhaps the most comprehensive work that shows the body-mind-spirit connection is that of Dean Ornish, M.D., and his method of treating patients with cardiovascular disease. He has demonstrated that by changing lifestyle, such as eating a low fat diet, practicing exercise, yoga, and meditation can reverse coronary artery blockages without surgery. His patients do as well or better than those that have bypass surgery, and those that have surgery but do not change their lifestyle and attitudes, and deal with their feelings, usually need more surgery and drugs.
What can we conclude from these studies and the science of PNI? We have to take responsibility for our thoughts! Our thoughts create reality, and as we change them, we change reality. Negative thoughts like fear create negative emotional states and disease. Effective ways to create positive thinking and emotion are meditation, visualization, and affirmation. These three practices not only change thought patterns, but bring us to a deeper understanding of who we areSpiritconnected to the Divine Energy. Spirit is perfect, and through prayer and meditation we raise our consciousness to connect to the Divine Energy for healing.
BodyMindSpirit is a powerful model for healing. Using traditional medicine to treat the body, taking responsibility for changing errors in thinking, and being AWARE of the DIVINE ENERGY within us, we can heal.
James Keehner, Ph.D. is listed in the National Register of Health Service Providers. Dr. Keehner may be contacted at 302-644-1670.
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 10, No. 5, May 19, 2000.