My 8 year old son asked me last week, if he ate a piece of paper would it give him nutrition if he thought it would? My initial reaction was, wow, what a great question, and what a great opportunity to explain to him the placebo effect. If your itching to know my reply then read on……
If we refer to a medical dictionary then we will find that the ‘placebo effect’ is ‘a beneficial effect produced by a placebo drug or treatment, which cannot be attributed to the properties of the placebo itself, and must therefore be due to the patient's belief in that treatment.’
What’s puzzling about this is that orthodox doctors dismiss the result of the placebo effect thinking, as a negative result, i.e. the drug hasn’t worked as well as the placebo, which is often an inactive substance like sugar, distilled water, or saline solution (even if it is their thinking around taking it). I think it’s really cool that a patient's condition can improve simply because they have the expectation that it will, without the need for expensive, dangerous pharmaceuticals and their risky side effects. It also puts us back in the driving seat for our own healing.
Of course the increasing number of drugs that have failed in clinical trials in recent years has grown rapidly, which for Big Pharma means reduced profits. This would also explain why pharmaceutical companies have massively increased their advertising expenditure, as they recognise that advertising the effectiveness of a drug can make it far more effective for the consumer, if they believe it can do what the advert says it can. In 2008 a study of 35 clinical trials covering 4 of the most popular SSRI’s (antidepressants), including Seroxat and Prozac found that out of 5,133 patients, the placebo effect accounted for 81% of the effect of these drugs. Drugs that treat psychological disorders have the greatest placebo effect.
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you’ll be familiar with how strongly I believe the mind affects the body. Of course eating a healthy, balanced diet is going to give you more nutrients and better health, but I should also add that I’ve had many a client who’s had a pretty healthy diet on balance, but if they are prone to having a very busy mind, then this can have at least as damaging effect on their health as a poor diet, if not more so.
If we then take that a step further and look at people’s thinking around the food they eat then we can sometimes notice another interesting pattern. Food allergies, intolerances and sensitivities are at an all time high and often go hand in hand with all sorts of health issues. Sometimes we do well to avoid foods that trigger a reaction and certainly if you are full on allergic, particularly in the case of those that risk going into anaphylactic shock, then you really do need to avoid certain foods (if that is you want to avoid having to dial 999). There are other scenarios where adjusting the foods we eat in such cases like leaky gut syndrome and candida are going to be beneficial in the short term. But it has been my own experience and that of a few of my clients, that the thinking they have around different foods, can also create a negative response if they believe it is going to. The power of our thought about our food and how it is going to nourish us or harm us can be as powerful an effect as the actual health-giving nutrients or health-harming chemicals in the food, just like the placebo effect. Any thought we have produces a physiological effect in both our mind and body.
I have a very close friend who is American but has resided in the UK for twelve plus years now, who on occasions flies back to the US to stay with family. America has got to be one of the highest risk countries when it comes to poorly labelled, chemically ladened, genetically modified food. She, like me, is very aware of wanting to eat natural foods and so initially had a lot of thinking about returning to her homeland for 6 weeks in the summer. She eventually realised that if she was fearful about the food she consumed whilst she was out there then that was likely to do her even more harm.
Typically most of us believe the person with the food issue is the overweight, sweet toothed, high carb intake individual that struggles to exercise or stick to a healthy diet. I’ve also come into contact in recent years with many vegan, raw-foodists who are extra vigilant about what they eat. In fact both these examples have the same problem. The connection is the thinking they have around their food and not really the food itself. This is a major reason why weight loss diets don’t work. Come on folks, we all know they don’t work - that’s why we always hear about people moving from one faddy diet to the next - and why whenever there is a new diet book it shoots into the bestsellers list. To maintain a healthy diet we don’t need more thinking around food, we need less!!!
When the mind is quiet we intuitively know what to eat. I’ve seen it play out time and again with my kids as their food tastes change all the time and food they’re attracted to changes all the time. I can remember quite clearly when my son was around 4 years old and started consuming bag upon bag of raw carrots, only to discover he was low in betacarotene, (in case you didn't know carrots are a good source). They’re born with that natural intuition, as we all are, and as long as we, as parents (for those of you that are parents), don’t give our kids loads of thinking around food they will continue to know intuitively what to eat.
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