“But do you really believe you can be well?”
I ask this question to all my clients.
The answer to that may matter more than you, or they, think.
The Mindset of Placebo
The greatest minds in science and spirituality have an awareness and respect for something that is profoundly powerful and life changing.
It’s not a magic pill, panacea, or substance that can alter your consciousness, but it does have the capacity to impact your thought processes and shift the chemical cascades in your body.
Those who work with biology, psychiatry, and biochemistry call it the “placebo effect.”
In this article, let’s start to look at how your mindset contributes to your health outcomes.
It may be the missing piece you need to obtain the results you desire, and it’s often the exact thing that those who have achieved their goals have intentionally “hacked.”
Good or Bad Health Expectations: The Power of the Placebo and Nocebo Effects
The topic of the placebo effect has been a favorite subject of mine.
I am passionate about the mind-body connection and love learning about the impact of thoughts on a person’s physiology and psychology.
I previously highlighted this connection in a post that explored how a women’s belief and cultural expectations are linked to their experience of menopause.
Here’s an excerpt:
The placebo and nocebo effects are scientific terms that explain how our beliefs effect health outcomes. Literally, the expectation that an intervention will work for a symptom or disease process can cause changes in the brain and shift the body’s biochemistry.
According to Harvard Medical School:
“Your mind can be a powerful healing tool when given the chance. The idea that your brain can convince your body a fake treatment is the real thing — the so-called placebo effect — and thus stimulate healing has been around for millennia. Now science has found that under the right circumstances, a placebo can be just as effective as traditional treatments.
“The placebo effect is more than positive thinking — believing a treatment or procedure will work. It’s about creating a stronger connection between the brain and body and how they work together,” says Professor Ted Kaptchuk of Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, whose research focuses on the placebo effect.”
There is also a phenomenon called the nocebo effect, a “reverse placebo.” This is based on the belief that a placebo will be detrimental and results in negative physical effects on the brain and body. (source, source, source)
Scientists are still exploring the many mechanisms behind how the placebo and nocebo effects work. Several theories and clinical-based trials have suggested multiple pathways. These include: (source, source, source, source, source)
- Psychological theories (i.e., expectation model, conditioning model, social interactions, and personality traits)
- Biological effects (e.g., genetics, the opioid pathway, CCK, and dopamine)
- Changes in brain patterns (e.g., changes in emotional center activity and other areas)
In one 2014 mini-review, the authors explored the various explanations of how our mental model of treatment influences our healing processes:
Expectation model explains how thoughts and beliefs can have strong influence on the health state and on the neurochemical reactions in the body and can lead to hormonal and immunological response of the patient, what seems to be the placebo reaction but is actually a true therapeutic response. On the other side, negative beliefs and expectations can lead to worsening of the health state or the nocebo effect (Moerman 1981, Guess et al. 2002, Manchikanti et al. 2011). The main role in this phenomena is our “belief system,” an important part of our mental model and of our healing process, including feeling sick, seeking relief, meeting the therapist and receiving the therapy. (Jopling 2008, Benedetti 2013) (source)
Interestingly, the nocebo effect seems to be highly influenced by a physician’s expectations and communication of the treatment. Several studies have shown that a patient who doesn’t feel listened to and/or does not have a therapeutic bond with the doctor may experience worse outcomes with the intervention vs. someone in a healthy partnership with their provider. (source, source, source)
Is This a Sugar Pill or Not? Doesn’t Really Matter….
What is even more intriguing about this concept is that it doesn’t seem to matter if one knows if they are taking a placebo (an “open placebo”) or not (a “concealed placebo”)!
Several studies have shown that just taking a sugar pill, even if one is told it’s a placebo, may still positively influence outcomes. For example, this study showed an open placebo alleviated symptoms in those with irritable bowel syndrome. Furthermore, some studies, such as this one with migraines, found the placebo effect worked better than the intervention alone!!
Why does this matter?
What Every Scientist Knows, But Docs Often Don’t Think About
According to the National Institute of Health (NIH) National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health page on “Placebo Effect”:
The “gold standard” for testing interventions in people is the “randomized, placebo-controlled” clinical trial, in which volunteers are randomly assigned to a test group receiving the experimental intervention or a control group receiving a placebo (an inactive substance that looks like the drug or treatment being tested). Comparing results from the two groups suggests whether changes in the test group result from the treatment or occur by chance.
The placebo effect is a beneficial health outcome resulting from a person’s anticipation that an intervention will help. How a health care provider interacts with a patient also may bring about a positive response that’s independent of any specific treatment.
Research supported by NCCIH has explored several aspects of the placebo effect. One study identified a genetic marker that may predict whether someone will respond to a placebo, another supported the idea that placebo responses may occur outside of conscious awareness, and a third suggested that placebos may be helpful even if patients know they’re receiving placebos.
Drug manufacturers and supplement companies have a fair opponent, as they are up against the placebo effect!
How one feels about their pill may ultimately be just as important as what it does! This is something that is just accepted, but it is often not integrated into clinical practice.
Taking Control of the Placebo Effect
The placebo and nocebo effects are real and powerful!
I have always been perplexed by the fact that more doctors don’t use them to their patients’ and clients’ advantage.
I always ask my clients if they feel comfortable with an intervention and do not push “compliance” if they do not. After all, that would mean I’m fighting an uphill battle. Their belief about the effects it will have on their body will trump mine, every time!
In fact, a 2021 meta-analysis published in Trial reported that half of the impact in randomized trials is related to contextual effects vs. the actual intervention. This is true for both physical and mental health.
In the 2011 article, How Placebos Change the Patient’s Brain, the authors wrote:
The real placebo response, that is, the real psychobiological phenomenon, is not irrelevant. Its contribution to the clinical improvement is substantial. For example, in antidepressant clinical trials, it has been shown that the natural history of the disease (ie, spontaneous remission) accounts for 23.87% of the overall effect, the real placebo effect (ie, expectations of benefit) for 50.97%, and the drug effect for 25.16% only (Kirsch and Sapirstein, 1998). Therefore, in clinical trials for major depression, one-quarter of the benefit is due to the specific action of the active medication, one-quarter is due to other factors such as spontaneous remission, and one-half is the real placebo effect, that is, the real psychobiological phenomenon.
So, this means that what you think and your subconscious thoughts that lie dormant (from past traumas or belief systems) will ultimately determine the efficacy of your wellness and medical treatments.
This is huge.
It can either make you empowered or a victim of your own mind.
You Can’t Ignore This Any Longer- Your Health Depends on It!
So, it’s mindset and beliefs that are the often the missing KEY to unlocking the health outcomes many desire.
In an upcoming article, I’ll explain more about mindset, but for now, I think I’ve provided enough incentive and evidence for you to believe that your thoughts are impacting every aspect of your health!
So, it’s time to act on this and get unstuck!
Make a commitment now to start paying attention to your beliefs and be mindful of how you “feed your mind.”
For many, this is easier said then done, they need support, real-world examples, an expert to guide them through.
I’ve promised more accessible options for naturopathic medicine, and soon, I’ll be releasing my first one!
My PREMIER online, live, program combines mindset, intentions, and lifestyle interventions for optimizing wellness and alleviating stress and overwhelm. (Recordings will be made available to participants not able to attend live.)
I urge you to stop wasting time on the next potion or program that doesn’t move the needle because you feel unmotivated with uninspiring assignments!
Wouldn’t you love to move from a mindset of disease and into an amazing, freedom-filled life?
Wouldn’t you love to release fears and fully connect with your mind-body to positively influence your health naturally?
Stay tuned for more information coming!
Disclaimer: This material is for information purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prescribe for any illness. You should check with your doctor regarding implementing any new strategies into your wellness regime. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. (Affiliation link.)
According to experts and the World Health Organization (WHO), there is no approved standard of care treatment, cure, or preventative for COVID-19. Supportive measures, vaccination, and containment are in full force as a result. Please see the CDC website and your state’s website for more information and updates. They also state when to contact your physician related to symptoms and travel history, exposures. Please read my more detailed article on this subject here.
This information is applicable ONLY for therapeutic quality essential oils. This information DOES NOT apply to essential oils that have not been tested for purity and standardized constituents. There is no quality control in the United States, and oils labeled as “100% pure” need only to contain 5% of the actual oil. The rest of the bottle can be filled with fillers and sometimes toxic ingredients that can irritate the skin. The studies are not based solely on a specific brand of an essential oil, unless stated. Please read the full study for more information.
Thanks Pixabay and Canva.