While spring is a great time of year to be cleansing and/or changing your habits, ridding the body of toxins built up over the winter due to inactivity, dietary excesses, illnesses, etc, it can also be a powerful time for
giving your mindset a reboot
, releasing some of those old, repetitive negative thoughts, and consciously choosing more positive, life-affirming ones.
You may already even have a practice of doing a cleanse, or eliminating certain foods from your diet, at this time.
How about doing a fast from negative thinking?
How about committing to a practice of no thoughts of guilt or shame for one day, not complaining or judging, whether it's about your own state or comparing yourself to someone else? This kind of "cleansing" could be equally, if not more, powerful than a cleanse for the physical body.
In this newsletter, I am going to talk about a phenomenon that many of us aren't even aware of, but that can have a profound effect, on not just our thoughts, but also our physical health. It's called
the nocebo effect
, considered to be the opposite of the placebo effect, and you may be surprised by how it works.
Anne Louise then talks about
the power of positive thinking
, the importance of looking beyond the statistics with health issues, and how we can learn from and cultivate empowering qualities in all of us, which allows us to grow and heal, and even thrive, despite the challenges we face.
And then just one more reminder about the detox treatments we are offering at the clinic every Friday, now thru May. As many of you already know, acupuncture can help you reset and feel better, in mind, body AND spirit.
With thoughts of daffodils and asparagus poking thru the ground, and tiny buds on the trees forming... wishing you a healthy spring! ~ Rachel
Do Your Beliefs Affect Your Health? Part One, the Nocebo Effect
Rachel Condon, Licensed Acupuncturist
One of the questions I get asked fairly often is,
Do I have to believe in this stuff for it work?
I often reply no, because I am assuming that when people ask that question, they have some skepticism about acupuncture and "energy," or Qi , and they wonder if they have to go along with this "woo-woo" kind of medicine idea to get some relief from their pain or whatever symptom they come in with. I usually assume I'm not going to convince them or change their beliefs in five minutes, by explaining the power of Chinese medicine, and instead trust that it will speak for itself if the person is willing to try some acupuncture.
However, I'm coming to discover that this is actually a far more complex and interesting question than one might think. So I'd like to explore this topic in the next few newsletters, beginning with the concept of the Nocebo Effect, and then addressing the more familiar Placebo Effect, and the implications of each.
Let's start with some definitions.
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.
is said to occur when negative expectations of the patient regarding a treatment
cause the treatment to have a negative effect
than it otherwise would have. (Wikipedia)
Now wait a minute... the
you have about a treatment may actually affect the treatment itself?? Yes, that is exactly right. And both effects are actually quite interesting and worthy of further exploration and understanding.
I thought this was pretty interesting too...
Nocebo comes from the Latin noceo, to harm and means "I shall harm" whereas placebo means "I shall please." - Wow. It seems like we should at least be aware of this effect, that is potentially harmful,
Though note - the harmful effect is coming NOT from the drug or intervention itself, but from our beliefs about it.
So, let's dig into the nocebo effect a little more. Some common examples given are when patients in the placebo group of a drug study (so they are given no active medication) report having
induced by the supposed medication. They are actually getting physical symptoms that are listed as side effects, even though they've been given no active drug.
As another example - in the
Framingham Heart Study
, the largest and longest running study on heart disease in the world, women who believed they were prone to heart disease were nearly four times as likely to die as women with similar risk factors who didn't hold such fatalistic views. - So just to repeat, the women who
that they were prone to heart disease, just measuring their beliefs alone, compared to women with similar risk factors, these women were four times as likely to die as women who didn't hold such beliefs. You can read more about other examples and references in this article by functional medicine doctor, Chris Kresser,
And many people understand this effect instinctively. The idea of being
"scared to death"
or having a "nervous stomach" or being
reminds us of the mind-body connection, and how much our thoughts influence disease.
But it's easy to lose sight of this connection, especially during a time when standard Western medicine has become a field of disease management, where the approach is often to rule out more serious diagnoses and conditions, and arrive at a diagnosis if possible, and then recommend treatment, usually involving medications and/or invasive procedures. And there are risks usually, with these medications and procedures.
So the nocebo effect presents an interesting ethical dilemma for doctors,
of sorts - do you tell a patient all of the potential outcomes and adverse side effects from a new drug or procedure, and risk inducing a negative and harmful consequence, or do you keep this information from them and risk a malpractice lawsuit for not sharing this information if something happens? A tough position to be in for sure, and I understand why most doctors want to share the information that they have, so that the patient is at least aware of the risks.
the power of our beliefs
and the effects they have on our bodies and health
is vastly under-rated
and not emphasized often enough. I think we should have ALL of the information available, including that this nocebo effect exists, and then it becomes the responsibility of each of us as to what we do with the information, and what we choose to focus on. We can, on some level, make ourselves sick with our thoughts. But we can also help make ourselves well.
In an article on WebMD about the nocebo effect, the conclusion was made that
"if you believe a treatment won't help you, it probably won't - and vice versa."
While "positive thinking/beliefs" can be dismissed easily by our rational minds as silly or not practical, this phenomenon appears to be quite common, and has now been proven through research, as well as being instinctively understood to be true. So I think the best way to use this information is to understand that
our minds and perceptions are quite powerful
, and we can consciously choose to focus on the best possible outcomes in our situations, as they arise.
Anne Louise continues the conversation here, digging into what "positive thinking" actually looks like, and what qualities we can cultivate within ourselves, when challenges arise.
The Effects of Positive Thinking on Health
Anne Louise Smallen, Lic. Ac.
Pursuing a healthy life is not easy in this time of
. Some of the information available online is reliable, but much of it is manipulative, shallow or self-serving. Never before in the history of humanity has the ordinary person been able to know so much about the scientific explanations of disease. When we learn that we suffer from a certain condition, we can immediately go to the internet and gather tons of information, much of which
often scares and discourages us
. We start making
stories about the future
from the long list of symptoms we see, and feel terribly vulnerable. It is indeed, baffling and discouraging, to see all of the unsavory possibilities that a disease can bring.
However, the list is gathered from a pool of statistics manipulated in certain ways, and does not include the array of individual qualities that speak to our resilience and adaptability - including our
capacity to change
- because it is just a list of everything that could go wrong.
We are left to create the part where things can improve on our own. If we observe multiple people given a diagnosis for a similar “dis-ease”, some are doing poorly and others are doing better than expected. For our own sake,
we should definitively study those who are doing better
What makes people live full lives despite their sickness and even turn their health around? Genetics, lifestyle, education, and the way we were raised contribute, but healthier patients probably look less at the dreary list and more at
ways to gather support
and keep their spirits up. They
look at possibilities
and associate with people who know about their challenges and can help them maintain their quality of life. How can that positive outlook become ours? If we were lucky when we were young, our parents might have taught us to be aware and rely on our strength and gifts. But it is not always the case. However everyday life also teaches us a little wisdom.
Our thoughts, our intentions and actions can either help or injure us
, and we should choose them carefully as they can be powerful allies or nagging adversaries.
In fact, it is very helpful when we have challenges,
to craft our stories and make them big enough so we can live in them.
Let's not close our eyes to the difficulties, but let’s also concentrate on the people and things that support and help.
Optimism with open eyes
certainly has its place in life and greatly contributes to our sense of well-being. In the midst of adversity, we can learn what we are really ready to count on.
Chinese acupuncture was born in the times of Daoist and Buddhist teachings where life is One and where there is
no absolute good or bad
, dark or light. Instead, anything contains everything and is constantly enriched by what happens.
What seemed an insurmountable obstacle can become our best opportunity to grow
, and our health problems can become our greatest life teachers.
We are offering these
, 9am-7pm, in addition to our regular appointments, thru May 31st.
Please note that you are welcome to
use an existing follow up treatment package,
eg, the 6 or 12 treatment packages, to pay for your treatment, or the special 10 detox treatment package. Otherwise the cost is $35/treatment.
Spring is considered the MOST beneficial time of the year for cleansing and detoxification
in many traditions, including Traditional Chinese Medicine. The Liver is at its strongest in the spring, and it's a wonderful time to clear out any excess, stagnation, and toxins in your system from the winter.
While doing the full series of detox treatments can be a powerful boost to help break an addiction or unhealthy habit, or reduce medications or toxins in your system, doing one or more of these throughout April and May can also help give your body's natural detoxification abilities a boost and
help you embrace the spring with renewed energy
Please see the online scheduler or our website for more information.