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Show 1130: Exploring the Hard Science of Self-Healing

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We have remarkable capacities for self-healing. Learn about the serious research on the connections between our bodies and our minds.

Have you ever thought of your body as a machine and the doctor as its mechanic? It’s a common metaphor, but one that can get us into a lot of trouble. Machines can’t heal themselves, but our bodies have superb capacities to do so, if we help them. It turns out that there is more to health than just physiology. Going beyond the machine metaphor can help us learn more about self-healing.

Attitude may not be everything, but it makes a huge difference. Find out about the scientific evidence that shows hope can alter the course of an illness or a treatment. Our expectations about a therapy can shape our experience, a phenomenon known as the placebo effect.

What Is the Placebo Effect?

The placebo effect is frequently misunderstood. People sometimes take it to mean that when a placebo makes you feel better, it’s “all in your head.” To them, the placebo effect seems very soft and squishy, unsupported by genuine evidence. On the contrary, improvement from placebo treatments can be shown to be real. Moreover, our expectations also contribute to the effectiveness of pharmaceuticals as well. What should we know about the placebo effect, and how can we put it to good use? What do rigorous scientific studies tell us about the placebo effect?

Stress and the Relaxation Response:

Most of us experience stress in the course of a day or a week, whether we find stress at work or at home. How does stress affect our health? What do you define as stress?

One way to manage stress is to invoke the relaxation response. How does that work? Studies demonstrate that the relaxation response can change blood sugar, blood pressure, immune system activity and digestion. What are the implications of this research? Our guest describes how we can optimize our bodies’ abilities for self-healing.

This Week’s Guest:

Dr. Jeremy Howick is the author of Doctor You, Introducing the Hard Science of Self-Healing,  a book based on his own experience and research (which includes over 75 academic publications).

He is also Director of the Oxford Empathy Program  at the University of Oxford. He was recently awarded the British Medical Association Dawkins and Strutt award to pursue research on the health benefits of empathic care. His website is http://www.jeremyhowick.com/

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