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The Interesting Connection Between Our Minds and Bodies

anatomical black and white drawing of human body with brain, heart, lungs and intestines in color

Our mind plays a vital role in our physical health. The mind-body connection has been accepted and incorporated into healing practices for thousands of years in other cultures and parts of the world. It wasn’t until the rise of Western medicine in the 17th century that the mind and body were treated as different entities. They are quite closely connected – and not just because one sits on the shoulders of the other!

There is evidence that our thoughts and feelings affect our biological functions, and how we treat our physical bodies affects our mental state.

Most of us have heard the expression “broken heart”, which is a prime example of how powerful our minds really are. There are multiple documented cases where a person has actually shown symptoms of various heart problems such as an enlarged heart or failure to pump blood due to experiencing significant grief such as:

  • recently suffering a broken relationship
  • the death of a family member
  • losing a close friend, a cherished pet or other loved one
  • uprooted family situations as in the case of:
  • children (and adults!) involved in the foster system
  • displaced victims of natural or social disasters
  • relatives of deployed military members
  • families of military personnel recently re-stationed
  • many other highly emotionally stressful reasons

Although temporary, these conditions may lead to severe heart failure. Let that sink in. Your MIND can give you symptoms that a medical professional might interpret as a problem with one of the major organs in your body!

The body releases increased hormones like adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol when a person is under stress. Treatment with medication will not be effective in these cases because the cause of the condition is mental, not physical. Only psychotherapy focusing on emotional management can help heal a “broken heart”.

Another example that shows how the mind can affect the body is through the placebo effect. Reports by Dr. Lissa Rankin, founder of the Whole Health Institute, show how patients in the control groups of clinical trials are led to believe that they are getting medical treatment, while they are actually given saline injections, sugar pills, and fake surgeries. Surprisingly, 18-80% of control-group patients in these trials have improved conditions after placebo treatment. These patients clearly illustrate how the mind can greatly influence the body!

In similar fashion, studies have shown that medical students often report they develop symptoms suggestive of the illness they are studying. Most of us know someone that uses Google or WebMD to self-diagnose and winds up convincing themselves they have a serious disease, rather than consulting a medical professional like your healthcare team at Sunshine. When we worry too much our bodies produce elevated levels of cortisol and epinephrine, which is harmful to our bodies.

Have you ever heard someone say, “Go with your gut.”? That phrase exists because sometimes we just ‘have a feeling’ about a situation that has nothing to do with facts. This is a great example of how our bodies affect our mind. Our gut, which includes the stomach, intestines and other lower organs, is lined with 100 million neurons and is sometimes called the ‘second brain’. When your physical health is in balance, your body, or “gut”, is capable of assisting the mind with decisions. Your gut also produces 95% of the serotonin and 50% of the dopamine in our bodies. When these chemicals and gut bacteria are imbalanced, decisions become more difficult and depression can even occur. It is essential to keep our gut bacteria balanced and strive for improved nutrient absorption, because this positively affects our mental health as well.

The mind and body communicate in many ways through a shared chemical or hormonal language. Stress can cause an imbalance in these chemicals, which could lead to dangerous health conditions such as:

  • heart problems
  • depression
  • other mental problems

We are also aware of how having a healthy gut can improve our mental health. Better posture not only relieves back strain, it can also lower cortisol and raise testosterone, which makes you feel more powerful and confident. Who doesn’t want to feel like that?

Recognizing the connection between our bodies and minds is essential to feel our best. It is sometimes necessary to seek help through a licensed counselor, who can help you with what you are going through right now. If you need help, please ask someone here at Sunshine Community Health Center! In addition, we should be more mindful of how our body and mind communicate to provide it with the necessary actions to keep it healthy. Ask your healthcare team to help you understand how to take care of yourself, mind and body. Your health is your responsibility! Acting on what makes you well is essential.

 

 

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