Star InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar Inactive
 

shaping biology with beliefsIf you knew you could recover your health, stay healthy and combat disease simply by changing your beliefs, would you do it? Read on to learn more about how the power of your mind influences biology and changes outcomes of health and disease.

Research is shedding more light onto the ancient mind-body concept of Shen and its growing role in modern health and disease, serving notice for all to begin embracing the importance of positive mental attitude in maintaining good health.

shaping biology with beliefs

Ever worry to the point of feeling anxiety and losing an appetite? Or have you ever gotten so angry that you can feel your body's temperature rising and you get a headache?

In traditional acupuncture and East Asian medicine, these are all very real psychosomatic experiences that link the mind to the body. In this model of health, if emotions become burdensome and linger on for a long enough time, they can cause havoc on normal organ system function.

At the root of this principle is the concept of the mind-body phenomena known as the Shen. The Shen represents human consciousness that is completely inseparable from the body. By way of coordinating a balanced psycho-emotional life, the Shen drives the function of the various organ systems. It is in this way the Shen is equally implicated and often given more importance in cultivating wellness, preventing illness, and recovering health than anything else.

Recent research is now shedding more light onto the ancient mind-body concept of Shen and its growing role in modern health and disease, serving notice for all to begin embracing the importance of positive mental attitude in maintaining good health.

The Role of Epigenetics in Modern Healthcare

... epigenetics- the study about how various environmental and lifestyle factors such as pollution, toxic chemicals, diet, and chronic psychological and emotional stress influence genetic expression and cellular function.

Scientisits have recently discovered that, contrary to common prior beliefs, our genes do not precisely predict disease nor control the body’s biology. Instead there are many factors involved in how genes express themselves and how our cells function.

As it turns out, these factors can switch specific chemical signals on or off in your body, which in turn can and do control genetic expression and cellular activity.

These discoveries have led to a new area of scientific medical inquiry known as epigenetics- the study about how various environmental and lifestyle factors such as pollution, toxic chemicals, diet, and chronic psychological and emotional stress influence genetic expression and cellular function.

Psycho-emotional Health and Inflammation

By way of triggering the body’s inflammatory response, psychoemotional problems such as chronic stress, anxiety, and depression are now also believed to be major contributing factors in the onset of the early stages of a wide range of diseases.

Through epigenetics, scientists are now understanding that debilitating moods and negative emotional states specifically cause the cells in our bodies to switch from their normal functions to states of uncontrolled, abnormal cell growth and division, and lead to inflammation.

This is very important because scientists now believe the inflammatory response plays a far bigger role in the onset of disease than once believed. Forming the backbone of a unifying theory of disease, long-term inflammation has been directly linked in the onset of some fo the most deadliest diseases, including heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.

By way of triggering the body’s inflammatory response, psychoemotional problems such as chronic stress, anxiety, and depression are now also believed to be major contributing factors in the onset of the early stages of a wide range of diseases. This has opened up yet another exciting new field of research known psychoneuroimmunology— the study of psychological and emotional states through the examination of the simultaneous interactions that occur between psychological process, the nervous system, and the immune system.

Getting to Know Placebos and Nocebos

The placebo and nocebo effects clearly demonstrate the power of the mind in being able to change biology.

Even placebos are now being recognized as often working equally as well as, or sometimes better than, actual treatment with surgery or prescription medication.

Recall that a placebo is a harmless and fake medicine or procedure prescribed for the psychological benefit of the patient that is used as a means to prove the efficacy of treatment with an actual real medicine or procedure. To prove whether or not a drug or medical procedure works, patients are given placebos, such as in the form of a mere pill made of sugar, under the pretense that they are receiving actual treatment.

Surprisingly, recent research shows that surgery or prescription drugs often do not outperform placebos in the treatment of knee pain, back pain, and depression.

Contrastingly, studies have also shown that psychological or psychosomatic factors such as pessimistic hopeless thinking or negative expectations of treatment or prognosis can produce a detrimental effect on health. Known as the nocebo effect, research shows that people’s health often deteriorates after their condition of health is deemed incurable or unknown by a doctor.

The placebo and nocebo effects clearly demonstrate the power of the mind in being able to change biology. But how is this possible?

Shen, Consciousness and Biology

... every cell in the body is filled with consciousness that is constantly moving between the densest and most rarified manifestations of our internal environment as a means to transfer and communicate information.

Most people have experienced the "placebo/nocebo" phenomena in one form or another. You may know of someone that has worried to the point of feeling anxiety and losing an appetite, or angering to the point of flushing with heat and getting a severe headache. Or you may have heard or read a story of the person who willed themselves to health, or of the person who sadly died of a "broken heart".

In acupuncture and traditional East Asian medicine, these and many other examples are all very real psychosomatic events that can and do affect internal organ function. These events are coordinated through the workings of the Shen, which is the seat of intellectual, emotional, and spiritual intelligence that drives the total human experience.

Shen is the most rarified, immaterial aspect of human existence that resides within the human body. It is responsible for processing and transporting information from the internal world into the external, and vice versa. Think of it as another term for "consciousness".

When we break the body down to the tiniest possible pieces all we have left is energy surrounded by large amounts of space. At this miniscule view of the body, all energy is merely just information that cannot be created nor destroyed. But it is also information that is changeable and even adaptable.

In essence, this energy displays an intelligence, which itself is a characteristic of consciousness (Shen). In this light, every cell in the body is filled with consciousness that is constantly moving between the densest and most rarified manifestations of our internal environment as a means to transfer and communicate information.

... when the HPA axis mechanism is continually activated by stressors in our environment, overtime it weakens function in the body and makes us more susceptible to infections and illnesses.

When people try to live a life maintaining a high level of consciousness, their body’s cells tend to rejuvenate accordingly and protect the organism from pathogenesis. However if people dwell in emotional fear and its various tentacles such as anger, jealousy, sadness, worry, and so on, the healthy growth of cells can become abnormal or shut down completely.

Dwelling in fear-based thinking also may send signals to the cells to switch into a high alert mode, and they begin attacking healthy tissue or becoming self-destructive as a means to protect the organism.

By in large the mechanism of this cellular response appears to occur by way of an area in the brain known as the Hypothalamus Pituitary Adrenal axis (HPA axis). The various stressors we encounter everyday in our environment activate the secretion of specific hormones from the hypothalamus and pituitary glands, which then activate the secretion of hormones from the adrenal gland, triggering the “flight or fight” response by our autonomic nervous system.

The “flight or fight” response is a physiological reaction that occurs in response to a perceived attack or harmful event, or a threat to survival. Once this response is triggered, the cells of the body record and memorize what to do in case we are faced with a similar situation in the future.

This is one of the defining aspects of human physiological function and has been a key to the survival of our species. However, when the HPA axis mechanism is continually activated by stressors in our environment, overtime it weakens function in the body and makes us more susceptible to infections and illnesses.

Change Your Beliefs, Change Your Health

... focus on raising and cultivating your own level of consciousness... In this way any programmed beliefs or fears that may be interfering with attaining optimum health can be identified and nulled, and you can begin to reshape your emotional and physical responses to your environment to one that is better suited for living a long, happy, and healthy life.

One of the most fundamental things we can do to counteract this biological response is simply change our belief system and the way we perceive the world around us.

To do this effectively, we must focus on raising and cultivating our own level of consciousness. Doing so allows us to effectively communicate with our bodies the necessary information that encourages optimum cellular activity and function.

In this way any programmed beliefs or fears that may be interfering with attaining optimum health can be identified and nulled, and you can begin to reshape your emotional and physical responses to your environment to one that is better suited for living a long, happy, and healthy life.


About the Author

authorRene M. Rodriguez is a Doctor of Oriental Medicine and board licensed acupuncturist in private practice in Los Angeles, CA. He speciliazes in natural prevention and wellness, holistic health, mind-body disorders, and stress management. For more information, please click here.