By Christina Lavers
People are more interested in nutrition than ever before. According to Euromonitor, the health and wellness industry is projected to be a trillion dollar industry by 2017. Aware that the quality of the food we put into our systems will have an important impact on our state of health, consumers who have embarked on a wellness journey are increasingly seeking out high quality alimentary products. It seems fairly obvious that if our diet is comprised of crappy processed, chemically-laden food our health will ultimately suffer. While if we consume fresh, high quality wholefoods our state of health surely must improve.
But what about those people who counter all intuitive logic and seem to thrive on a diet that should be a recipe for disease and early death? We’ve probably all heard of those centenarians who when asked their secret to longevity reply that they smoked their whole life and ate whatever they felt like. I personally know a man who seems to exist on copious amounts of artificially sweetened instant coffee, ice cream, coca cola, red meat and cigarettes. He’s in his late seventies and is one of the most robust people I know.
Is there any way to explain this bizarre phenomenon? Genes undoubtedly play an important role in this equation, but studies with identical twins who share the same gene sequences show that genes do not provide the complete answer.
An important missing piece of the puzzle may be lumped in with what science labels ‘the placebo effect’ — the power of the mind.
Ever since I was a child I was intrigued by the esoteric, unexplained aspects of life. Whenever I would mention something to my family that was not explainable by science but seemed to have an effect on people, my father would sing out … “placeeeebo …”, as if that meant the topic was unimportant and did not warrant serious discussion. However, to me that attitude seemed oddly limited. If the mind had the power to affect the body so significantly that many carefully manufactured drugs performed only marginally better, wasn’t this something of extraordinary potential value that merited further exploration? I wondered what would happen if instead of dismissing this intriguing phenomenon, we were taught from childhood how to nurture and develop it.
Later, when I came to understand that our current social system is dictated by opportunities for financial gain, it made sense why we were not exploring this avenue, and instead pouring our resources into drugs that create an ongoing cash flow for the super-rich. However, as we are currently transitioning out of this old fear-based paradigm, to a new love-based one, more empowering information is rapidly emerging into popular awareness.
We are now starting to understand a lot more about the hormones and natural chemicals that are produced by the body. We know that chemicals like cortisol, which are released into our systems when we feel stressed, are damaging to our physical body, and can lead to the development and exacerbation of disease. We also now understand the ways happy chemicals like oxytocin, dopamine, endorphins and serotonin assist the body to heal and remain healthy.
Lissa Rankin MD is a medical doctor who was not afraid to question her training and explore beyond the confines of the accepted medical arena. In “Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof You Can Heal Yourself” Lissa explains how her willingness to question convention led her to investigate cases of spontaneous remission, and how this research assisted her to reach the conclusion that the medical profession was neglecting a key component of healing.
Most western doctors are trained to see patients as a series of symptoms that need to be individually treated. This compartmentalised, clinical approach encourages detached objectivity and fosters a tendency for practitioners to forget about the whole human being. Dr. Rankin realised that this clinical way of thinking often led doctors to minimise the importance of extending empathy, care and sensitivity when approaching a patient. From her new understanding, she could see that by ignoring these attributes doctors were inadvertently increasing fear levels in patients which puts the body into a state of high stress, and ultimately contributed to the problem of declining health. Lissa celebrates the ‘placebo effect’ and encourages a new medical model that supports the body’s own ability to heal.
When we take this aspect of health into consideration it becomes apparent that those who focus solely on their nutritional diets are missing a key component of the wellness picture.
It would seem that a healthy reality diet, i.e. what we feed our minds and souls, might be just as important as what we put in our body. We could be eating a perfect diet of top quality, organic super-foods, but if our day is filled with negativity, stress and/or anxiety, we may be sabotaging our wellness journey.
Also ironically, stress can arise from being too stringent or obsessive in relation to what we are consuming; so in an attempt to attain perfect health we could end up compromising it.
Balance is key
I believe everything comes back to balance. If we want to live a vibrant life we need to take responsibility for what we introduce into our systems, whether it be dietary or reality. There’s nothing like a few hours of wallowing in bitterness, jealousy or self-pity, a long violent video game session, over-exposure to world problems, a nasty gossip fest, or a messy, chaotic home environment to bring our vibration down and negatively affect our mindset, and thus ultimately our health. Whereas activities like creating, laughing with friends, expressing gratitude, walking in nature, enjoying art, playing, indulging in an occasional decadent treat, following our dreams, meditating, being silly, and admiring beauty are uplifting activities that contribute greatly to our general sense of wellbeing.