The main idea of this book is to demonstrate close connection between mind and body, show its power in defining health and overall wellbeing of the person, and review some probable mechanisms of these connections.
It starts with reference to homeopathy to illustrate science/non-science duopoly and then goes to author’s qualifications as scientist. After that it goes to the purpose of this book: to review mind-body connections and healing power represented by placebo and similar well-documented phenomenon.
- FAKING IT: WHY NOTHING WORKS
This retells the story of non-working medicine for autism: secretin and how despite the lack of evidence of its effectiveness parents did everything to get it for their children. Another story is about false surgery that nevertheless successfully healed some individuals from back pain. Then it discusses overall effect of placebo and how it clearly demonstrates connection between mind and body including self-healing.
- A DEVIANT IDEA WHEN MEANING IS EVERYTHING
This is about another disease – IBS (Irritable bowels syndrome), which despite impacting physiological functions seemingly outside of conscious control nevertheless was cured by placebo. This chapter also discusses negative placebo or nocebo effect such as cases of mass poisoning when no real poison was found. It also provides illustration of similar effect with voodoo curse when individual’s believe in it causes very real physiological effects.
- PAVLOV’S POWER HOW TO TRAIN YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM
This chapter looks in more detail on physiological effect of though starting with simple example of looking at lemon and feeling sour. From here author goes into discussion of training conditional reflexes and how they allow substitute at least partially a very strong and negative impact of some medicines used in extreme cases like chemotherapy. Moreover conditional reflexes training via connections between nervous and immune systems allow training immune system to become more resistant to various illnesses.
- HGHTING FATIGUE THE ULTIMATE PRISON BREAK
This is about unbelievable physiological achievements of top-level athletes obtained via mind’s conditioning. It includes human ability to claim Everest without oxygen, swim across ocean and similar feats. Author also reviews sleep disorders and a couple of therapies that handle it via mind-body connection: Graded Exercise Therapy (GET) and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).
- IN A TRANCE: IMAGINE YOUR GUT AS A RIVER
This is about the use of hypnotherapy and how it demonstrates once again strong link between mind and body, regardless of whether bodily functions in question are normally under conscious control or not.
- RETHINKING PAIN INTO THE ICE CANYON
This is a look at application of mind – body technics to the chronic pain. As in other cases use of powerful drugs causes negative consequences that could be alleviated by use of computer generated virtual reality. It also presents other experiments including “rubber hand” and mirror treatment of phantom pain.
- TALK TO ME: WHY CARING MATTERS
Here author reviews pain problems with childbirth including her own experience. From there she pivots to impact of not only individual’s mind, but also of people who take care about this individual. In short personalized approach produce much better results in healthcare than assembly line approach.
- FIGHT OR FLIGHT THOUGHTS THAT KILL
This chapter about impact of various stress situations on health is another demonstration of influence of mind on body. It looks at stress caused by emergency events, but also on the long term continuing stress as result of family problem or poverty and inequality. Interesting physiological result of stress presented such as reshaping of brain after 9/11 in otherwise healthy adults leaving nearby World Trade Center. Stress also causes unhealthy behavior such as smoking or overeating.
- ENJOY THE MOMENT HOW TO CHANGE YOUR BRAIN
This chapter is about validity of meditation as a method of improving functioning of the brain with demonstrable positive impact on the body. It also discusses mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) technic and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT). An interesting research with Buddhist monks with high level of meditative experience demonstrated that they have physiological difference: higher thickness of cerebral cortex.
- FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH THE SECRET POWER OF FRIENDS
This is a review of another powerful technic of improving condition of body via mind: impact of close friendly relations with other people. Research review provided that demonstrated impact of loneliness on expression of genes with result confirming negative implication for health if person is lonely. However when it comes to formal research results are mixed. The final part of the chapter is about early intervention for families to alleviate stress for poor children.
- GOING ELECTRIC: NERVES THAT CURE
This is about biofeedback when individuals can see electronic representation of some uncontrollable physiological function of their body like heart rate and learn to control it. It also discusses a bit chemical/electrical mechanism of this phenomenon.
- LOOKING FOR GOD THE REAL MIRACLE OF LOURDES
The final chapter looks at religion as somewhat conduit between mind and body allowing mind to influence body via preying and strong believe regardless whether these believes are true or not.
MY TAKE ON IT:
There is no doubt in mine mind that human body is highly interconnected system and any part of it has at least some influence on overall wellbeing of the whole. I believe that our brain is just a small part of controlling information system distributed throughout the body. Therefore as long as something is within technical capability of biological system to control itself via production of proteins, or electrical signals, or muscle movements; it will use these tools to achieve improvement from whatever condition the system is into whatever condition the system prefer to be. However such functionality is limited, otherwise we would not need medicine or any other external intervention. For example I believe that if one has appendix, the surgery is much better bet than meditation, even for Buddhist monks.