The Power of The Placebo Effect

wnedy alone, angela version

I have some dear ones, A and Z, and they have been talking about “the placebo effect” for some time now. I brushed it off, even sometimes feeling annoyed with their comments about it. After all, I have worked hard to choose a healthy lifestyle and make natural healing choices for the numerous autoimmune issues that they tell me I have. If my choices are simply a result of “the placebo effect”, then what is turning out to be my life’s work through Bulldozer Health Inc. could just be all in my head. These thoughts and upset, however, are just a result of an emotional response to their inquiries and comments. I needed a more intelligent and intellectual response. So I decided to research the topic. This way, I could understand better what they were talking about, and give an informed response. There is so much information on the topic, and it is actually quite interesting! I think the best article I read though, was about the work of Ted J. Kaptchuk. Here is an excerpt from his biography: “Ted J. Kaptchuk is a Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Director of the Harvard-wide Program in Placebo Studies and the Therapeutic Encounter (PiPS) at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts.” The article was in Harvard Magazine’s March-April edition, by Cara Feinberg. I find Professor Kaptchuk’s work to carry much weight as he has ample education and experience in many healing traditions and then turned to research on the placebo effect.

After pouring through the article and some of this work, I actually became fascinated with the topic. He wasn’t just doing pharmaceutical pill studies giving one patient the drug and one patient the placebo, he was looking at giving acupuncture with needles that didn’t enter the skin and pills with no medicine in them only, and comparing that! Many of the patients in that study reported back exactly the symptoms they were told they might experience. Further, those that fakely received acupuncture reported more relief than those that received fake pills. So something about the interaction of the acupuncture provider with the patient probably increased their thought that it was providing more relief than just being handed pills. This I found to be a really compelling idea.

I began to think about how this might apply in my health journey. After all, the attention to my health alone, the feeling of empowerment I began to experience when I took my health into my own hands, had improved my outlook and well being. I also realized that as I have gone through this journey, I receive more praise and attention for the choices I am making now. When I was doing mainstream medicine and pharmaceutical pills, people mostly felt sorry for me. I could feel it. So positive reinforcement and psychological effects of making a positive change cannot be discounted. So is the improved health I am experiencing simply the result of the placebo effect?

How exactly is the placebo effect defined? Here is one definition: “A beneficial effect, produced by a placebo drug or treatment, that cannot be attributed to the properties of the placebo itself, and must therefore be due to the patient’s belief in that treatment.”

Okay, well, it is true that I believe in the treatment I am using now for my health. But when the doctors told me I was going to die and I needed to take the medicine they were giving me (which they said might also kill me), I believed that too. I did everything they said because I wanted to live. And I lived. I survived really, more accurately. Two years later I was still surviving, my family torn apart and I was stilt unable to do many things. The belief in what they were giving me for treatment was strong enough to keep me on it for two years, but not strong enough to really improve my health. I had to change my mind and decide I could get healthier. Once I did that, lots of other options opened up for me.

I am going to say this. The psychological effects of believing in a health treatment are very powerful. They can be life affirming even. I cannot completely eliminate the placebo effect as a positive influence in my journey of health recovery. After all, even “fake” treatment can cause physiological effects. That said, for me the effects of the herbs, medicinal cannabis, exercise, nutrition, adequate rest, and reduced dependency on pharmaceutical drugs all work together with this placebo effect,to improve my health. I am okay with that. Our minds are extremely powerful, and we can use them to create a positive healthy outlook, or the opposite. As I always say, change your mind and you change your life.

Wendy Love Edge
Take back your health!

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