By Sarah A LoBisco, ND
The Science of Belief and the Placebo Effect
My recent blog on the science of belief discussed the role of belief and expectations on healing. This means that what we think or expect from a medical intervention will have physiological effects on our body. The role of thought processes in healing is not a mind-body medicine approach. It is a scientific fact made evident in our medical research.
A belief which causes an actual or perceived improvement in a disease is known as a placebo effect. This effect is so strong, it is actually a confounding variable in scientific research! In other words, when scientists are testing if a medication has an effect on a certain population, the placebo effect is used as a baseline control for or against the efficacy of treatment results! In medicine, a physician is always asking the question, “How does this treatment compare against the placebo and what is the benefit to risk ratio of using it?” (If you missed the interview with Dr. Lissa Rankin on her embracement of this principle, it’s worth the eleven minutes.)
In other words, a drug or intervention will be deemed successful if it outperforms the placebo. Therefore, if it is conventionally accepted that belief affects biochemistry, why is the media scaring the be-willies out of us with their constant reporting about our toxic world, premature aging, and physical deterioration?
Here’s where the art of medicine comes into play for me. A skillful balance is needed between information and solutions regarding the effect of harmful exposures verses scaring them to death. Personally, I have had physicians give advice to me about my herniated disc not healing quickly. Thankfully, I ignored them and believed in the body’s innate healing capacity. I am gratefully running, doing yoga, and kicking with Billy Blanks (taebo) daily and pain free.
What is More Powerful than Placebo?