When Medicine Hits a Roadblock

One of the lessons I highlighted in the post I made about “Forever Today” was that medicine doesn’t always have the answers. We rely very heavily on doctors and drugs to keep us healthy, or even alive. What we often forget, however, is that sometimes, medicine fails to help us. When we find this out, we’re often surprised, shocked, or angry. How can something that’s meant to keep us healthy prove to be unable to do just that?

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The Frustration …

Though I understand the frustration of a patient finding himself at a roadblock, I don’t want to be too quick to blame the whole of medicine. The reason is that I understand that we can’t expect to have all the answers to everything. Science, in general, has slowly progressed over hundreds of years. This means that in the past people knew less than they know now. This also means that in the future, they’re going to know more than in the present moment.

That’s quite a frustrating thing to deal with, especially when speaking of specific cases, such as the one of Clive Wearing. It’s easier to speak in abstract terms, and generalize everything. But when we start paying attention to a particular case in which medicine failed to do its job, we get angry. Alternatively, we feel sad and disappointed. But then again, we have to learn to live in the present, with all the limitations it brings.

Even as a student, I find myself frustrated when I’m studying something one year, only to learn the next that due to research, that thing is not believed to be valid anymore. I start wondering why on Earth did I spend all that time trying to remember something, when now it’s useless. However, I’ve started to attempt at least to live with that. It’s simply a “side-effect” of the present day. Plus, I try to remind myself that it would have been that much worse if I would have been born in the past.

I think we have to take that attitude and use it when it comes to medicine as well. Now, I’m not saying we should settle. Never settle! Ever. There are alternative things we can try when medicine is unable to help. What I am saying, however, is that we should at least try to put that frustration aside, because it’s probably not going to help. Instead, put that energy into finding different ways to cope with the medical issue you have.

The Body Doesn’t Always Need Medication

Sometimes, we’re too quick to assume we need medication. We forget that the body is created to deal with disease and intruders on its own. At least generally speaking, it has the capability of curing itself.  Of course there are cases when outside help is needed, but those cases should be the exceptions. As things are right now, those cases are the rule.

To some degree, it is understandable that we prefer medication over self-healing. We live in a society where we just don’t have the time to be sick. We need to become healthy as soon as possible. Yesterday would be great, in fact.

The problem is that in this process, we’re handicapping ourselves. Instead of letting our immune system become strong and able to fight on its own, we push it aside and take antibiotics. But we don’t think of what will happen when antibiotics will no longer be able to fight bacteria. And that time will come, because by taking antibiotics we’re actively selecting for resistant strains of bacteria.

 

So, at the end of the day, maybe it’s time we understood the caveat that comes with living in this very moment. That is not to say that we have to give up because “all the answers are not here yet”. We can at least try to find some of the missing answers ourselves 🙂

/Larisa

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Your Body and Mind Interact with Each Other in Ways that Might Surprise You

This post is a follow-up of  “Matters of the Mind: “How to Be a Mentalist: Master the Secrets Behind the Hit TV Show”, by Simon Winthrop”. Here, I am expanding upon the first lesson, The Mind-Body Connection, I discussed in that post. Let me know what you think 🙂

 

We are all quite familiar with the idea that exercising helps you concentrate, improves your mood, sleep, and that it has an overall good influence on your general state. What this phenomenon suggests, is that there is a connection between the mind and the body. However, it is difficult to know just how strong that connection, and if it goes both ways.

It seems that it does go both ways. Have you ever been under a lot of stress, experience which lead to you getting sick easier than you normally would? I think all of us have gone through this type of situation at least once.

In “How to be a Mentalist”, Winthrop explains that taking care of your body will result in your mind working better. He also mentions meditating as a means to improving your power to relax and concentrate, but do these things go further than that?

Brain, computer art
Brain, computer art (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Mind and the Body are Not Separate

Research has started to concentrate on finding out how the workings of the internal organs affect the mind. One such research has proven that the heart has an influence on the way we handle fear. Interestingly enough, when the heart is pumping blood, we tend to notice the fear on other people’s faces more than when the heart is relaxing. Read more here.

Here’s another interesting finding: if you’re right-handed, you tend to prefer objects located on the right than those on the left. The opposite is true for left-handed people. The suggestion is that we tend to prefer the side with which we “cooperate with” more. You can find out more here.

What about the Placebo Effect?

The Placebo effect is another example of how the mind influences the body. In various experiments it has been shown that just thinking that something will help you in a certain condition, tends to result in an improvement in that condition.

One example is a study in which Parkinson’s disease patients were either given medication which behaved like dopamine, or a Placebo pill. The result? The brains of the patients who received the Placebo manufactured more dopamine, mimicking the pill. For more information, click here.    

Research is at its infancy when it comes to this fascinating topic, but perhaps we can still use these ideas to our advantage. Things that might sound silly, such as “Think you can, and you’ll be able to do it”, begin to make more sense.

The reason I am so tempted to give up most of my skepticism (but not entirely) when it comes to this phenomenon is simple. Even if it is not true, the worst that could happen is that we’re all going to take better care of our bodies, and try to stay more positive. That’s not so bad, is it?

(When I say “the worst”, I’m not thinking of people giving up on modern medicine entirely. Even if this theory of the mind-body connection being strong is true, being ready to cure all diseases with the mind alone would probably be a difficult point to arrive at).

If you have time, and want to read more on the connection between mind and body, here are two articles I suggest you read:

Welcome to the Mind-Body Revolution

The cancer patient cured by a broken radiotherapy machine and the paralysed man who walked again after visiting Lourdes: New book shows incredible influence of the mind over the body