The placebo effect – evidence the body heals itself

The placebo effect – evidence the body heals itself

What is the placebo effect?

A placebo is anything that seems to be a ‘real’ medical treatment when in actual fact it isn't. A placebo can be a pill, a shot, or some other type of treatment that does not contain substances that can alter our state of health.

A placebo is often prescribed to reinforce our expectations to get well and interestingly many people who are given a placebo report a reduction in symptoms and improvements in wellbeing. This is known as the ‘placebo effect’.

A placebo can also be a person – a caring nurse, doctor or other health professional.

How can a placebo make people feel better, when a placebo has no medicinal properties?

The most common theory is that these changes come about from our belief that the treatment will work. This alters how we perceive our symptoms and triggers our body to produce physiological and chemical changes that are healing. These changes come from the body, not the placebo.

What is happening in the body to bring about such a change?

The common and accepted explanation is that placebos work because we expect the medication to help us feel better. And to some degree this is true, as there is a relationship between the mind and the body and how we feel.

Is this because we ‘think’ ourselves better? Or is there more to it than this?

Did you know that when we are given a placebo, the chemistry of the body changes, simply because of how we feel when we are prescribed a medication – even a placebo?

But what if there is more than just a chemical shift outplaying in the body? We know that it has been scientifically verified that ‘Everything is Energy'.

As we are part of that ‘everything’ then we too must be ‘energy’, even though we appear very solid and real.

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Everything is because of energy

If "everything" is energy and "everything" is because of energy then we need to know what energy is running us and how it is affecting our bodies and our choices.

With this understanding in mind, could it then be said that everything that happens in the body does so because energy makes it happen, given that energy is the fundamental basis of everything?

When we look at life and the body in this way, then we can start to understand that our thoughts, beliefs and how we feel are packages of energy that flow throughout the body. These packages signal the body to produce chemicals that allow the body to repair and heal.

When we are given a placebo, we are not being given anything that can medically improve our health, yet our body heals. If our body can ‘heal’ with a placebo, does that not indicate to us that we have the power within to heal ourselves at any time? If our bodies can ‘heal’ with a placebo, this means that our bodies have the power to heal themselves.

What if we were able to connect with this power, without pretending that we are taking something? As there are no medicines or chemicals involved in taking a placebo and given that everything is energy, could it be possible that it is changes in energy in the body that are responsible for the end result?

It’s interesting to know that some of the most profound placebo effects happen just from the interaction between patient and healthcare provider, especially where a person receives emotional support and attention.

If a person trusts their healthcare provider or feels cared for, it is more likely they will experience a positive result, irrespective of whether they receive treatment or not.

Research has shown that a positive rapport between doctor and patient is as powerful as some medications in delivering health improvements, both emotionally and physically.

What is being revealed here is the importance of the ‘active ingredients’ of the medical ‘prescription’ between patient and healthcare provider – the active ingredients of care, trust, and human connection and ultimately how that makes us feel.

We can probably all relate to how nurturing, lovely and soothing it is to have someone place a hand across our brow when we have, for example, a headache or feel unwell. Our body simply surrenders and melts under the tender touch and it is as if our symptoms lessen or disappear with this simple loving gesture.

When we feel cared for and understood, be it the simple act of a caring touch, someone listening to us or just being present and there for us, we often feel more at ease and at one with ourselves.

This feeling and connection releases hormones like serotonin and oxytocin, which have positive impacts on our mood and state of being. Serotonin reduces our pain response as well as improving our mood. Oxytocin reduces inflammation, improves wound healing and is produced when we feel loved.

Being cared for can impact greatly on the outcomes of medical treatment and hence it is vitally important that we foster true care in our healthcare system and true care for ourselves.

Could it be then that the reason a placebo works is due to the fact that we feel cared for when we are prescribed one? Indeed, perhaps it is the aspect of caring that is more profound than the placebo itself? And if we can understand that everything is energy, could it be that care is an energy that has a positive effect on the body?

If we can understand that it is the energy of care that can make a difference on the body, then it is possible that we can be caring for ourselves, without waiting for it to come from someone else. Knowing that, it makes sense that regularly caring for and nurturing ourselves plays a very powerful role in our ability to heal ourselves. Regular self-care provides the body with the right conditions to facilitate healing and improvements in wellbeing. Many people who have adopted a self-caring way of life can testify to these benefits.

The placebo effect shows us the body can heal from within, and that caring is an important ingredient in healing, and a very powerful one.

Caring for ourselves and feeling cared for by our healthcare practitioners is as important as any pill, and perhaps the most important prescription of all.

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HealthHealingMedicine

  • By Dr Rachel Hall, Dentist

    Dentist, business owner, writer, author and presenter. Family woman, guitarist, photographer, passionate about health, wellbeing and community. Lover of Vietnamese food, fast cars, social media, café culture and people.

  • Photography: Matt Paul