Mind, Body and Spirit

A study by Dr Anna Phillips, of the University of Birmingham, involving neutrophil – a white blood cell hungry for bacteria – found that grief in older people sabotaged the neutrophil’s ability to work properly, for weeks and months after the emotional shock of bereavement.  Interestingly the same kind of grief in younger people did not have the same effect.

This shows the close bond our body has with the mind.  Emotions are not remote factors to be ruled out in our mechanistic dissection of illness, they are woven so closely with cells that a healthy emotional state reflects throughout the tissues.  Back in the 1970’s, Dr Carl Simonton, a well-known cancer researcher, declared that all of his patients suffered a traumatic shock between six months and a year before the detection of the dread disease.  In the 1990’s, my father, a haematologist, pointed to research which showed that patients with a more positive outlook tended to have much better prognoses than those with a gloomy one.

The damaging impact of grief on the immune system could be traced to the disruption in the balance of two hormones, cortisol and dehydroepiandrosterone sulphate (DHEAS), involved in coping with stress.

In younger people the proportion of the two hormones remained balanced after the death of a loved one while in bereaved elderly, levels of cortisol were relatively high compared to the low levels of DHEAS.

DHEAS is known to counteract the harmful effects of cortisol in times of stress and protect the immune system, and its level declines with age.

“Cortisol is known to suppress elements of the immune system during times of high stress, so having an unbalanced ratio of cortisol and DHEAS is going to affect how able we are to ward off illness and infection when grieving,” said Professor Janet Lord, also from the University of Birmingham, a co-researcher on the study.

Evidence suggests other elements of the immune system might also be affected by bereavement, including T-cells and “natural killer cells”, which are important for fighting viral infections and cancer, the scientists believe.

Bruce Lipton, a geneticist who lectures on the mind and body connection points out that to combat the immune system’s tendency to digest transpanted organs, the patient is given stress hormones.  The stress hormones suppress the immune system – a phenomenal thing to consider,bearing in mind that life in our society is largely built upon layer after layer of stressful situations!  Lipton believes that it is the cell membrane, which detects the body’s emotional content via chemical signal receptors, which is the true brain of the cell.  In fact if you remove all the DNA from a cell, it will continue to live, move, react and avoid for months.

blue-dancers-1889-by-degas

Beautiful choreography lessens the blues

In other news today, The Telegraph reports that sleeping pills have been linked to a 50% increased chance of Alzheimer’s.  The link is associated with as little as 3 months’ worth of ingesting the brain-changing chemicals diazepam and lorazepam.  Supporters of chemical medicine claim that these people may have already been involved in the downhill cascade to Alzheimer’s, which may well be true.

Nevertheless, common sense would dictate that tangling with brain chemistry, particularly in times of stress, is probably the worst thing we can do.  In our society we prefer chemicals to sunshine, gratitude, rest, nutrition, relaxation and affection.  Having no marketable value, and without the stunning kick in the pants that chemical medicine offers, these six essentials seem feeble and useless – but look beneath the surface and they create a beautiful choreography inside your cells.

Jennifer_Saunders__3004721bChemical medicine is reluctant to think about emotions and sunshine, because chemicals are a business model, and unlike chemicals, things that come free with this world can’t be patented and manufactured, and won’t make money.  One professor in Harley Street told me nutrition would have no effect at all on cancer.  Really? And how much training in nutrition do chemical salesmen have after seven years of medical school?  About an hour and a half.  So, an expert opinion then!

This attitude naturally filters down to the mass of people who reflexively look up to scientists, considering them to be better informed.  Jennifer Saunders, diagnosed with cancer in 2009 and taking a six month course of chemotherapy followed by tamoxifen, reports that she was actually told off for being positive!

The pic went in the papers, and for a few days it was news. And then, just as quickly, it was over. I made a statement via my agent that I had caught it early and now it was gone.

Surprisingly, I got lots of correspondence from people telling me it was a reckless statement and that cancer is never gone. That I was only in remission and it could come back at any time.

I was being told off for being positive! But as far as I was concerned, it was gone and the chances of it coming back were — and are — really small. You move on.

Positivity is the key.  Who can’t tell the difference between cheerful energy and sour pessimism, and which do we instinctively prefer?  This is a powerful motivator.  The current “Yes” campaign for Scotland’s independence often contrasts the cheerful faces of their campaigners with the hardened, serious faces of the “No” voters.  True or not, the impact is understood.  The “Yes” compaign is based on the optimism of freeing a whole country from a war-bound economy.  The “No” campaign is based soley on fear:

  • fear that companies will pull out of Scotland
  • fear that Britain will lose its global brand image of the Union flag
  • fear of losing control of Scotland’s massive energy reserves
  • fear of being unable to turn back
  • fear of Britain’s currency going downhill

And fear is indeed a powerful motivator.  IBM’s salesmen had a company policy of creating “fear, doubt and uncertainty” in the minds of prosepcts.  What would happen if they risked buying from a smaller vendor?  People’s normal, default state, is optimism.  Barring everyday phobias, when you see fear – especially large-scale fear – you know it has been somehow imposed from outside.  Fear is the basis on which politics is run today.  As Hermann Goering said at the Nuremberg trials after WWII:

Naturally, the common people don’t want war, but after all, it is the leaders of a country who determine the policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag people along whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship.

Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders.  This is easy.  All yuo have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger.  It works the same in every country.

The first thing a chemical salesman will do when dealing with a cancer patient is instil the fear that without the vital chemicals, the body will be overrun and succumb.  In this process the patient is encouraged to pass responsibility for their body to a confident professional. Patients always have misgivings about this, because a small voice inside them, which they have been conditioned to ignore as meaningless, tells them they are no entering very dangerous ground.

In reality, patients who never consult a chemical doctor at all – either through ignorance of their own condition, or deliberately avoiding the corporate nature of chemical medicine – statistically fare much better than those who do – one doctor quoted a survival period 12 times greater, and many autopsies reveal the presence of cancers completely unknown to the deceased.  Positivity has a different effect entirely – research cited elsewhere on this blog showed that patients who visualised their tumours being digested by the body had much longer survival times than control groups.

YES campaign

Salmond vs Prescott: even the colours reflect the emotion – placid blue, insistent red.

The link between positivity and success is evident in the career of Lewis Hamilton, surely the unluckiest driver of this year.  Having experienced dramatic brake failure, electrical failure, an exploding engine, having his Monaco qualifying sabotaged by a mistake by his teammate, being puntured off the circuit by another mistake from his teammate, and even having to start from the back of the grid (still managing to finish 3rd) in his quest for the championship this season, he began the most recent race in Monaco with a software failure that ruined his start.  he could only watch as cars roared off into the distance, including that of his teammate, who has experienced almost no reliability problems this year.

Lewis Hamilton at Italian GP

Lewis Hamillton: wheels of fire

Instead of giving up at having lost his hard-won pole position, he clawed his way back up from 4th and finally, through a superb piece of luck – a mistake from his teammate, who went off at the chicane – won the race.  I remember a charity kart race in Stephenage many years ago in which our team raced against Hamilton’s – he must have been barely 10 at the time, but still looked every inch the professional, racing with metronomic precision in a bright white racing suit and a look of earnest modesty at the end.  When he first met Ron Dennis, he said, “I want to drive your cars one day.”  No doubt an amusing thing to hear even from a very talented child, but watching him race today, you see the kind of spirit which has carried him forward.

So keep positive, think of the best, believe in yourself, and stay well!

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

Philippians 4:8

About iain carstairs

I have a great interest in both scientific advances and the beauty of religion, and created www.scienceandreligion.com about 15 years ago with the aim of finding common ground between the scientist and the believer, and to encourage debate between the two sides.
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4 Responses to Mind, Body and Spirit

  1. And you seem to be a shining example, Iain! I am a great believer that we can heal ourselves – the body is such an extraordinarily complex, and beautiful, creation that surely it has the mechanism to correct its ‘glitches’ BUT, we must do all we can not to block our immunity but to encourage it by our lifestyle, attitude and spiritual values.
    However, I do find it hard to remain positive in our current world. Having had rather a grim time one way or the other, until my late fifties, I was lucky enough to meet my ideal man and, for the last thirteen years, have been very happy. I think it may be because of this that I am able to concern myself with what goes on in the wider world, which is deeply depressing. The only way I can cover myself is to say I’m positive about facing realities. It’s no good hiding. If we know what’s going on, no matter how horrendous, we can decide what to do in our own lives so as not to add to the downward spiral. And, spiritually, there is a great deal of joy in having a set of principles and gearing one’s life to them. From there we have a foundation.
    To prepare for death and bereavement, I think 1) it’s vital to talk about it, think about it and make a few plans and 2) to decide whether we think we’re snuffed out like a candle and no trace of us is left (bar bones or ashes) or that there’s a benevolent god who will look after us or that we will be absorbed into the greater energy that is the force behind everything in the Universe. Once we have chosen, then we need to come to terms with the idea. I tend towards the third possibility and therefore hope to be able to cope better with bereavement than I otherwise would.
    I think it’s also helpful to look into NDEs (near death experiences) and concepts of re-incarnation. Totally fascinating whether we ‘believe’ them or not.
    Hope this all makes sense!

  2. Ha, positivity feedback straight away! You have come through a difficult time, but you didn’t lose your optimism, and you certainly make some valid points.

    One of the biggest stumbling blocks today is that corporations have taken control of our governments. Monsanto and Merck and Raytheon call the shots in the American system, having bought congress and bought their way into the justice system. Prisons are run for a profit, so anyone who even has a twitchy eye is labelled a criminal at the first opportunity, to better fill the prisons and turn a return for the stockholder.

    GMOs, chemotherapy, vaccines, wars, weapons – these are the bread and butter of the billion dollar corporations. It’s up to us to learn what is wrong and right, to form a foundation for the next phase in humanity, which hopefully will be the age of common sense and inner growth. A superstition-free spirituality will have its part to play in that, while the skeptics are likely to realise they’ve been conned left and right – the world they thought they were living in was geared up for profit, and it was all bound to come crumbling down around their heads.

    Sooner or later I’d like to write about NDEs which have a big bearing on S&R. Perhaps we can pool our knowledge!

    Many thanks!

  3. Rob says:

    The No campaign also leveraged the fear of the older generation losing (or at least delaying) pensions. All the media chorused how difficult it would be to untangle the web of finance of the two countries, blah, blah, blah. Hmmm, sounds like it’s just the way the financiers like it; obfuscated to the working man, while they gamble with the money, taking the profits, and charging fees.

    • I was sad to see that the No vote won out – fear winning over optimism. What was worse was seeing examples of voter fraud – a woman putting all the YES votes in the NO pile, and a table stacked to the rafters full of NO votes but when the camera closed in on the papers, you could see they all had the YES boxes ticked! Then seeing Cameron and Milliband haggling over whether to actually do as Cameron promised regarding Scotland – it makes you feel that a whole country has been undermined by the usual sly opportunism of the political class.

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