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Interesting article about placebo and mind over body

Discussion in 'General Discussion Subforum' started by Sienna, Jan 29, 2016.

  1. Sienna

    Sienna Well known member

  2. Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021)

    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) Beloved Grand Eagle

    Thanks for sharing this article, Sienna. Some excellent health thoughts in it.

    I used to have a placebo years ago when I had strong anxiety. My doctor prescribed some Librium, and it helped, but after I felt better and stopped using it, I kept it on me or in the car when I drove. Maybe it was a placebo I didn't use, but I thought of it as my "Dumbo'sd feather." Yes, it was there as a mental crutch, but it helped me over some tough times. I finally put it away and relied on my one MindBody strength and that together with TMS, has made me a happier, healthy person without pain. So I say yes, placebos can be good. But positive thinking and 100 percent belief in TMS is not only better but the best.
    Sienna likes this.
  3. mike2014

    mike2014 Beloved Grand Eagle

    Thank you kindly for sharing this Sienna. It's a very important topic.
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  4. Forest

    Forest Beloved Grand Eagle

    This looks tremendous. She actually has a PhD in genetics and medical microbiology so she knows her stuff.

    Her book is currently the #1 best selling book in the following three categories:
    • #1 in Books > Health, Fitness & Dieting > Diseases & Physical Ailments
    • #1 in Books > Medical Books > Psychology > Neuropsychology
    • #1 in Books > Health, Fitness & Dieting > Psychology & Counseling > Neuropsychology
    I'm listening to the full interview right now and just ordered the book. Here's a link to download the full interview as an MP3 as well as a link to the transcript:

  5. blake

    blake Well known member

    I like the idea that when we feel cared for, we can just relax and believe that things will work out. Sounds like what tms work is all about: learn to care for ourselves, stop worrying about the pain and trust that it will go away.

    Thanks for sharing, sienna.
  6. Sienna

    Sienna Well known member

    The book looks quite interesting, let us know your thoughts once you go through it!


  7. Forest

    Forest Beloved Grand Eagle

    I definitely will. It may take a while, as I tend to read multiple books at once. David Schechter also wrote me to say that he's ordered the book and is looking forward to reading it. I think that there is a deep desire for real scientific evidence about these complex topics and this book looks like it delivers it.

    Here's the New York Times review of the book. The review is a tad on the snarky "I'm a jaded New York Times health reporter who assumes everyone else is already up to date on all of the latest science" side, but is generally positive. The bottom line is that if anyone hasn't already read all of this material several times, it is vitally important knowledge.

    Review: In ‘Cure,’ Accepting the Mind’s Role in a Body’s Health

    Books of The Times
    Author Jo Marchant. Photo Credit: Garry Simpson

    It’s been almost 40 years since Jeff Goldblum appeared in “Annie Hall” as an unnamed party guest who couldn’t remember his mantra. Mr. Goldblum has done very well since then; mantras, alas, have had a rougher go of it. But perhaps it’s time to ask: Must the mantra be forever impugned?

    This is one of the many questions that the English science writer Jo Marchant tackles in “Cure: A Journey Into the Science of Mind Over Body.” She’s grown weary of the old Cartesian dualism, which seats the mind at one end of the table and the body at the other, like a married couple with nothing to say to each other.

    “Stacked up on one side are the proponents of conventional, Western medicine,” she writes in her introduction. “According to their paradigm, the body is like a machine. For the most part, thoughts, beliefs, and emotions don’t feature into treatment for a medical condition.”

    And on the other side? “Everyone else,” she bluntly concludes. Among them: Past-life regression therapists, energy healers, homeopathic doctors — all the peddlers of loosey-goosey gooey-hooey who had Woody Allen running for the hills.


    Ms. Marchant’s aim in “Cure” is to expose the absurdity of this dichotomy. (Though it feels a little artificial as the book goes on: A number of academics who reject it work at Harvard, hardly a scientific backwater.) Ms. Marchant is careful to emphasize that she will not countenance silliness. She has a Ph.D. in genetics and medical microbiology. The scientific method is her friend.

    But Ms. Marchant, the author of“Decoding the Heavens”and“The Shadow King,”wants to acknowledge the alternative therapies that have withstood the scrutiny of Western peer review. More broadly, she wants to acknowledge the important and influential role of the mind in our overall health.

    What follows her introduction is a 12-chapter tour d’horizon, with the author crisscrossing the globe to make a detailed relief map of the latest mind-body research. Virtual reality therapy in Seattle! Hypnosis in Northern England! Placebo studies in Italy and Germany!

    It’s a familiar format, this jet-pack journalism, and much of Ms. Marchant’s material is familiar too, particularly in the second half of the book. (That stuff about the health benefits of friendship and social connections? You’ve read it. Those serene Buddhist monks who spent tens of thousands of hours in meditation? You’ve read about them too.)Anyone who’s ever picked up a book about neuroplasticity or positive psychology is well acquainted with the general contours of this terrain.

    Two things separate “Cure” from other books of this type.

    First, Ms. Marchant writes well, which is never a guarantee in this genre; you often must make a choice between authors who understand science but can’t write, and authors who can write but don’t understand science.

    Second, Ms. Marchant has chosen very moving characters to show us the importance of the research she discusses — we forget that those who turn to alternative medicine are often people in extremis — and she possesses an equal flair for finding inspirational figures. I will always like a book, at least a little, if it mentions a 102-year-old Costa Rican woman who can recite a six-minute Pablo Neruda poem from memory.

    My favorite chapters of “Cure” come mostly at the beginning, when Ms. Marchant discusses the placebo effect. It, too, is a topic some readers may consider old hat, but the studies are irresistible, and they come in an almost infinite variety.

    Did you know, for instance, that there are placebo trials involving fake surgery? Surgery! (Not with a general anesthetic. But still.) Or that large-pill placebos work better than small ones? (Which is funny if you think about it, considering they are equally inert.) Or that placebos sometimes workeven when we knowthey’re placebos? (There is, correspondingly, a niche market for placebos online.)

    And that’s just the kid stuff. There’s also evidence suggesting that placebos affect the immune system, not just the subjective experience of pain.

    “It isn’t trickery, wishful thinking or all in the mind,” Ms. Marchant writes, when explaining the biology of the placebo effect. “It is a physical mechanism, as concrete as the effects of any drug.” What we are swallowing with any pill is essentially an idea: That we will feel better. This belief alone is often enough to trigger the release of our body’s natural endorphins, or dopamine, or whatever other chemical our body was expecting to make or consume if we’d taken an actual drug.

    After placebos, Ms. Marchant looks at how researchers are trying to harness the powers of the mind to fight chronic fatigue, irritable bowel syndrome and intractable physical pain. The biological origins of each condition may differ. But what most of the treatments she examines have in common, whether they involve hypnosis or cognitive behavioral therapy or virtual reality, is that they divert our attention away from our ailments.

    This deceptively simple idea is one of the most powerful in the book: Sometimes the difference between feeling well and feeling awful is simply a matter of where we direct our attention.

    As the book progresses, however, Ms. Marchant starts outlining the ways we can rewire our brains and improve our well-being, and in doing so, she serves up the same old chestnuts — lightly roasted and seasoned for our delectation, perhaps, but chestnuts nonetheless. Again with the mindfulness? Still with the biofeedback? Must we read, for the umpteenth time, about the salubrious effects of faith?

    I’m also a little tired of reading about the dangers of rinsing our brains in cortisol. Like most anxious New Yorkers, I’d give half my life savings for my amygdala to scale back its hours. But there comes a point when reading so many studies about the toxicity of stress starts to feel punitive, not informative.

    By the end of her book, though, Ms. Marchant has won me over again, with a chapter about the pilgrims of Lourdes. She speaks to a woman named Ann, a depressive with a terrible life story. Why does Ann love Lourdes? “Love is oozing out of the walls.”

    Ms. Marchant, a scientist to her bones, notices it too. “Random acts of kindness are the norm,” she writes. “In the baths, volunteers tie pilgrims’ shoelaces.”

    If there is one lesson to be drawn from “Cure,” it is this: For the ailing, there is no substitute for face time with someone who cares about your fate. Is Western medicine conducive to such radical intimacy? No. Doctors are forever rushed, harried, swamped. But considering that tenderness costs us nothing, it may be the easiest fix we’ve got.

    A Journey Into the Science of Mind Over Body
    By Jo Marchant
    300 pages. Crown Publishers.
    A version of this review appears in print on January 25, 2016, on page C1 of theNew York editionwith the headline: Repeating a Mantra, With Some Evidence.

    Currently $16 at Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00WPQ98X2/
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  8. mike2014

    mike2014 Beloved Grand Eagle

    Thanks for sharing the review Forest. I'll definitely purchase it, unfortunately I have to wait another 2 weeks before it's available on Kindle.
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  9. Forest

    Forest Beloved Grand Eagle

    That sounds terrific. Perhaps we can make some threads about it once you have a chance to get it. I will be a very slow reader, though, with everything going on. :)
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  10. yb44

    yb44 Beloved Grand Eagle

    Went straight onto my Amazon wish list. I'll probably read it several years after you guys and will eventually resurrect these threads sometime after this.;)
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  11. Forest

    Forest Beloved Grand Eagle

    That sounds fun!
  12. Dexy

    Dexy Peer Supporter

    Forest, I enjoyed listening to this until she got to the point where she discussed how chronic stress can start to attack our tissues, doing damage and causing things like autoimmune diseases such as MS. This immediately put fear into me, of the type, "Okay, so my symptoms are not necessarily benign because the long term effect of stress can actually damage my tissues and cause disease"...and isn't this true, long-term anxiety and stress can and does damage the body, so why do we always tell ourselves that it's okay and not damaging us at all, are we lying to ourselves? I don't say this to be negative but I am curious. I am a huge TMS proponent and have had wonderful success, but this is a question that I often grapple with...what are your thoughts?
  13. Forest

    Forest Beloved Grand Eagle

    Heya, Dexy,

    I can completely relate to where you are coming from. I'm a TMSer in a big way, so living with stress and anxiety is very natural for me - it's just part of how I'm built, like with many others on the forum. That's one of the reasons why I like coming back - because I want to be with "my people."

    The thing that helps me manage this is simply to recognize that it isn't kind to myself to worry about it. I've made it into my 40s and chances are I have another 40 years to live. I'm having a great time right now, and that is what matters to me.

    For questions like this, I often think of the serenity prayer:

    I may be a stress-prone individual, but that's fine. I can accept that.

    For me, this is an easy thing to accept. I'm blessed with the serenity to accept that my stress-prone personality may shorten my life via the mind-body connection.

    But suppose it's not so easy for you. Suppose it really gets under your skin. What then?

    Well, the good news is that you can change how you react to it. (And doing so will decrease your stress, which may make you healthier!)

    How would you do this?

    Well, the first step would simply be identifying what you want to do. For example, you could decide that you want to develop serenity about health issues to decrease your worry and make your life more joyful.

    The next step would be to come up with a strategy for pursuing that goal. There are a huge number of tools available on this forum that you could use for this. A tool I would look into would be tapping, sometimes known as EFT. I don't buy into the whole meridians hooey, but the basic recipe is so simple and basic and gives you something to do (at home, for free!) to discharge a feeling like this.

    Finally, you might find that even though you want to worry less about health, when you try to worry less about health, it still gets you anxious. This could happen because by trying not to think about it, you're actually thinking about it! For this, I think that mindfulness meditation is brilliant. It takes a while, but it can truly be lifechanging. Better, there is huge amounts of scientific data to say that it is helpful.

    Hope this helps! It might be tempting to avoid learning about things that are unpleasant, but I find that if we confront our fears and "accept the things we cannot change," it leads to a richer and more fearless life in the long run.

    By the way, I hope I didn't misread your question. I thought about pausing to ask for confirmation, but I had the post all planned out and knew I would forget it by tomorrow. Either way, I hope it helps someone!
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  14. Forest

    Forest Beloved Grand Eagle

    Finally, in honor of your username, a bit of Dexy's Midnight Runners :)
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  15. mike2014

    mike2014 Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hi Dexy,

    I can totally relate to your post. That's exactly how I felt when I first began my TMS journey. I used to become annoyed when I heard long term chronic stress could be the cause of all of the serious illnesses.

    I think over time and as I've learnt more, I've come to the realisation that I have have the opportunity to be in full control of my experiences and my well being. By having this simple aware and insight has provided me with a sense of empowerment. I can now, on a concious level, learn to be with and not react to stressors. That said, I think it's important that we learn to become better at good stress, but learn to not let bad stress (preconceived thoughts), shape our experiences and future.
    Sienna likes this.
  16. Dexy

    Dexy Peer Supporter

    I don't know how I missed this reply last week, but thank you so much for outlining all of that, Forest. You did not misread my question and I appreciate everything you wrote above. You're one of my "TMS celebrities" ;), since I've watched so many of your on-line videos and read many of your awesome posts/replies, so hearing back from you is like getting Kim Kardashian to like one of my Instagram selfies ;)

    Love the song as well!
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  17. Forest

    Forest Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hi Dexy, I'm glad you found the posts and videos helpful!
  18. mike2014

    mike2014 Beloved Grand Eagle

    I came across this article on the seven days website which I wanted to share. I personally, don't believe it's ethically or morally right to package and sell a placebo pill for profit, which entrepreneur Uwe Heiss is currently doing. I also think it will reduce its effectiveness if someone knows it's a placebo pill...

    Uwe Heiss has long been intrigued by the power of pills. He's seen how they can improve people's lives — often for reasons that have little or nothing to do with their active ingredients. Now Heiss wants to help people treat their own minor ailments by selling them pills they know are nothing but little white lies.

    For more than 20 years, the German-born scientist, researcher and entrepreneur has worked in the health care industry. Armed with a master of science degree from Zurich's prestigious Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule, he's cared for terminally ill cancer patients, helped pharmaceutical companies speed the development of new drugs, and assisted more than 30 U.S. research hospitals and institutions in tracking patient-reported outcomes.

    In recent years, Heiss, who now lives in Burlington, has focused on products designed to empower patients by having them track their own conditions. He started by developing simple devices that clip to key chains, then moved to mobile apps.

    One of Heiss's top-rated apps, Autism Tracker Pro, helps users gauge a family member's autistic behaviors. With his Mindful Eating Tracker app, users can create self-help journals to manage their diets and lifestyles. And his Bowel Mover Pro app, which was featured last year on "The Dr. Oz Show" and mentioned inEsquire, helps people with gluten sensitivity and irritable bowel syndrome manage their digestive health.

    But Heiss' latest project, which hit the market earlier this year, is likely to be his most controversial: Zeebo pills are designed to give consumers what he calls an "honest" placebo experience. The corresponding app even gives users the option to virtually "swallow" a pill by pushing a button — no capsule required.

    Heiss emphasizes that he's not deceiving consumers: He fully discloses that the capsules contain an inert cellulose fiber. They come in "aesthetically pleasing packaging" meant to mimic an actual pharmaceutical product, and a bottle of 45 pills costs $19.90 on Amazon.

    The pills work in conjunction with Heiss' free, downloadable app, which consumers use to set a goal of addressing a symptom such as mild anxiety or sadness. They then enter a desired outcome and decide when and how often to take the capsules. The Zeebo app reminds users when to take their pills and rewards them (with points) for tracking their symptoms before and after the "medication."

    Placebos — pills containing no pharmacologically active ingredient — are a staple of medical trials, in which researchers use them to establish a control group. Doctors and medical researchers have long been aware of the "placebo effect" in clinical settings.

    During World War II, combat anesthetist Dr. Henry Beecher witnessed a nurse administering saline injections — rather than morphine — to seriously wounded soldiers before surgery when their supply of morphine ran out. Astounded that the patient experienced little pain and no shock during surgery, Beecher repeated it with other patients when morphine wasn't available. Believing they were getting a powerful painkiller, 40 percent of soldiers reported actual pain relief.

    In the decades since Beecher first published his findings, researchers have tried to pinpoint how and why placebos work. In many pharmaceutical trials, placebos used in the randomized control group have higher efficacy rates than the drugs being tested. In fact, as consumers increasingly become conditioned to take pills to relieve various symptoms, the placebo effect appears to be getting stronger every year.

    As Wired magazine reported in its August 24, 2009, story "Placebos Are Getting More Effective. Drugmakers Are Desperate to Know Why," the percentage of new pharmaceuticals that were dropped after their phase II clinical trials, when drugs are first tested against placebos, rose by 20 percent from 2001 to 2006.

    And this past January, a study involving 12 patients with Parkinson's disease suggested that they may feel better — and their brains may actually change — when they're told they're taking a more expensive medication.

    "Placebos are a way to get messages across to your mind and body," Heiss says. "There's a broad understanding right now that the placebo effect is not just make-believe. It actually has a real effect on the body on several different levels."

    But, unlike drug-research subjects, Heiss' customers know they're getting placebos when they purchase Zeebo pills online. The placebo effect can be just as effective when users know they are taking a placebo, Heiss contends, and there's research to back it up.

    He points to a Harvard study of irritable bowel syndrome. Some test subjects were given pills they were told were placebos, while another group received nothing. Over three weeks, the group taking the placebos reported relief of their symptoms at double the rate of the untreated group.

    Does that mean the subjects' IBS was all in their heads? Not at all, Heiss says. Recent research suggests that patient conditioning to the effects of taking pills, even inert ones, can elicit actual physiological responses. As Robert Todd Carroll writes, reviewing the scientific literature in his online compendium the Skeptic's Dictionary, "A person's beliefs and hopes about a treatment, combined with their suggestibility, may have a significant biochemical effect. Sensory experience and thoughts can affect neurochemistry. The body's neurochemical system affects and is affected by other biochemical systems, including the hormonal and immune systems."

    As Heiss explains, the placebo effect likely stems from a combination of factors, including the ritual of medicating, the expectation that it will provide relief, faith in the medical system itself and the body's own conditioning to pill-taking.

    He cites an experiment in which subjects were given an orange-flavored drink containing an immune suppressant with measurable effects at the cellular level. Later, when those subjects were given the same orange-flavored drink without the immune suppressant, their immune systems responded in the same way. In effect, Heiss says, the body "learned" to associate the orange drink with a suppressed immune system, even though the subject had no awareness of how the active ingredient worked.

    So how could virtually swallowing a pill by pushing a button on a smartphone achieve a similar result? "People have a very strong relationship with their phone. It's almost part of who they are," Heiss says. And that intimate relationship with their device, which contains so much of their identity and consumes so much of their time and attention, holds enormous powers of suggestion.

    And, in a country where people are conditioned to taking pills to make their problems go away, Zeebo's virtual pill popping might reduce reliance on pharmaceuticals. "We are basically a pill-taking society and an overprescribed people," Heiss says. "Without being judgmental, I just think there should be options for people to deal with their real issues in other ways than just taking pharmaceutical drugs."

    According to 2011 data from the National Center for Health Statistics, the rate of antidepressant use among teens and adults jumped by nearly 400 percent between the periods of 1988 to 1994 and 2005 to 2008. Today, one in every 10 Americans takes antidepressants, including one in every four women over the age of 40.

    Zeebo is no substitute for the potent, life-saving drugs that are routinely used to treat serious, chronic and debilitating conditions, Heiss acknowledges. Nor, he emphasizes, should it ever be used to delay critical care. But for people who suffer from mild anxiety, sadness, headaches or occasional insomnia, Heiss believes Zeebo could help. Certainly, he acknowledges, those people might just as effectively get relief from yoga, diet or exercise.

    "There are a lot of people who are totally locked into the default mode of taking prescription drugs, but they may not be benefiting from them, or they may have undesirable side effects," Heiss says. Zeebo offers consumers "an experience that they can relate to," customized to them and without side effects. "If the placebo does no harm," he asks, "why wouldn't you want to try it out?"

    Heiss is careful not to call Zeebo a "medical treatment or procedure," a claim that could get him in hot water with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Rather, he describes Zeebo as helping people "design beneficial experiences on their path to well-being.

    "Basically, I'm giving them props to work with; I'm not making any claims," he says. "I designed this beautiful bottle. I sell you this like I would sell you a walking stick." Heiss hasn't actually studied whether Zeebo works on users, nor does he offer guarantees. In short, if you fall down using his "props," you're on your own.

    Several Burlington-area medical practitioners contacted for this story acknowledged the legitimacy of the placebo effect in a clinical setting, but they declined to comment on Zeebo or its potential benefits.

    Reached via email, Charles Irvin, director of the Vermont Lung Center and associate dean for faculty affairs at the University of Vermont College of Medicine, notes that he has witnessed the placebo effect in a UVM study of asthma patients and their ability to expel air from their lungs. But Irvin declines to opine on Zeebo, saying only, in regard to the alleged benefits of taking pills virtually: "I don't buy that."

    Consumers may not, either. Indeed, Heiss — whose alma mater has helped produce 21 Nobel laureates, including Albert Einstein — runs the risk of being called a fraud, or worse. But he seems unfazed. "I don't mind if people accuse me of being a snake-oil salesman. I love to be controversial," Heiss says. "I just don't want to do harm."

    Even if some Zeebo consumers find relief, Heiss still encourages a broader perspective on health and healing. "It would be wrong to attribute a beneficial outcome to the placebo alone," he says. "What we need is more differentiated thinking about how to best restore health. And, most of all, we need a more patient-centered perspective."
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