Using Information to Heal
Jen was a patient of mine a number of years ago. About three to four times per year she would limp into my office with severe low back pain. The pain was so severe I could barely touch her. She would say that not any one activity caused the pain but it would just appear every so often. My evaluation indicated that she had a recurring disc problem in her low back. This was a very specific type of low grade disc bulge that would become inflamed and occasionally flair up. The flair ups would produce intense pain causing her torso to shift to one side. She would come into my clinic for a few treatments and then disappear. Her pain would subside within a few days.
On the other hand, another patient by the name of Rick came into my clinic one day with the same type of disc injury as Jen. This was the exact same type of disc injury in exactly the same location with the same symptoms. Unlike Jen, Rick’s treatment took three to four months before he “recovered.” His treatment was also more intense than Jen’s with more visits and use of more therapies.
Why did Jen and Rick differ in their healing? This is a question that health care practitioners deal with daily. People differ in the way they heal. I have seen two people of similar age, build and health in the same automobile accident absorbing the same forces with one healing much faster than the other. Many factors affect healing. These include genetics, age, sex, habits and activities all contribute to healing.
If we think of healing in terms of information we could say that disease represents disorganization and the only thing that can reduce disorganization is information. This is a fundamental process of life. Life continuously captures and integrates information from the environment to create and maintain organized systems. If we apply this idea to healing then healing has to do with the flow of information.
Why then the difference between Rick and Jen? If both are considered as informational systems then Rick and Jen’s ability to accept and integrate healing information must differ in some way. For example, Rick may have pre-existing disease (disorganization) such as arthritis, or perhaps the system that causes tissue healing is compromised in some way. He may engage in unhealthy activities such as poor eating habits, stressful physical activities or even unhealthy thoughts. All of these activities work to compromise the flow of healing information.
We could think of this as people having information that varies in the degree to which it can be altered. The information stored in the DNA such as the biochemical processes and defined neural patterns can somewhat be altered. There is exciting new research about this in the field of epigenetics. The information that is stored in the mind, brain and consciousness has a different degree of alterability. You could think of this concept in terms of a computer’s RAM or random access memory, its disc storage memory and its ROM or read only memory.
A program which is a set of instructions is loaded into the computer’s RAM memory. This memory is interactive with the environment. When the operator strikes the keyboard or clicks a mouse, the program senses the activity and changes occur in the RAM memory. External devices operate much the same way. Changes occur outside of the computer and are sensed by the program with resulting changes occurring in the RAM memory within the parameters of the program. So the RAM memory is the computer’s link to the outer world.
The RAM can also communicate with the memory stored in a disc or other storage medium such as a compact disc, memory stick and so on. When the operator saves data, the data goes from RAM to the disc. The word processing program I am using right now does this. The RAM senses changes in the environment (keyboard strokes) and when I save this data it goes from RAM to the hard disc. The information in RAM interacts with the information in the storage medium which in this case is the hard disc.
The Read Only Memory or ROM is a permanent set of instructions (information) stored on a memory chip residing inside the computer. The ROM contains instructions related to the most basic of computer functions. For example, it relates the instructions to the computer for loading much larger programs from the hard disc into RAM. In the “old days” of computing, when personal computers were first becoming available the ROM would automatically look for the computer’s operating system on the first few areas of a “floppy” disc and load these in when you turned it on. One had to always insert the operating system disc into the computer first before it would work properly.
There is also information contained within the processor and other components of the computer, the “wiring” so to say. The computer is “wired” or put together in a specific way that allows it to process information. The interconnection of logic gates and other various circuits also contain information by virtue of their connections.
Okay, so back to our analogy. The RAM memory is analogous to the “interactive” areas of the human brain. I am purposely a bit vague here in not specifically naming these areas because at present we do not know the physiology of the brain well enough to list all of these areas. I will, however, state that we could think of the mind in general as the entity that interacts with the internal and external environment of the body. The mind, like the RAM in the computer, takes in information about the environment via the sensory system and relays it to deeper areas for processing a response or storing it for future use. We could say that the information in the mind is interactive in nature. This information interacts with the outside world and the information in deeper areas of the brain, brain stem and human body.
The information stored in the hard disc is analogous to deeper areas of the subconscious mind. We could think of our actual memories working in this way. Say for example you picked up a hot cup of coffee. The “hotness” of the coffee was sensed by temperature receptors in your skin and relayed to the spinal cord via nerves. The information traveled via a path otherwise known as a spinal tract (lateral spinothalamic tract) which crossed over to the other side of the spine and continued up to the brain stem, thalamus and finally to the cerebral cortex in an area known as the post-central gyrus. Here the sensory information was processed to elicit a response. The information was also sent to storage areas in the brain for future reference (be careful when picking up a hot cup of coffee). In response to this activity, neural pathways were produced to store the information about this event for future reference.
The information about the event of picking up the hot coffee then involved two functional areas of the brain. The first involved processing the information about the hotness of the coffee. This is our link to the external world much like the computer’s RAM. The second was stored information about the hotness. This was like the RAM’s connection to the hard disc storage. The important thing is to look at the degree of potential change in the various functional areas of the brain. The cortex or areas like it are very interactive with the environment. The deeper areas involved in memory are less interactive but have a direct connection to the outside world via the cortex.
The ROM is represented by the deepest areas of information storage in the body. An example of this is the genetic information stored in DNA. Here lies information that is difficult to alter. The “program” contained in the DNA contains sets of responses that remain consistent given the same stimuli. All of the instructions for cellular responses originate in the DNA. The instructions are transcribed and translated to proteins that direct cellular processes throughout the body. There are connections to the mind, but the information contained within the DNA is much less dynamic. It is difficult to alter this program. Hormones and neurotransmitters will always elicit the same cellular responses. However, the higher levels associated with the mind are more alterable as you may still choose to pick up a hot cup of coffee.
Lastly, the central processing unit and the hard “wiring” of the computer is analogous to the most minute structures of the body. These are the atoms and molecules of the human body. The information contained here is also very difficult to change through interaction with the mind. Even though there is continuous interaction with the environment and information flowing through the computer and human body, the information contained here is very difficult to alter. The information contained at this level also represents the connection to the information contained within the physical universe. The computer was put together by humans in a certain way. Humans were constructed in accordance with the laws of the universe to function a certain way. The computer cannot alter its own wiring. Humans cannot alter their atoms, at least not at present.
So, all informational areas are interconnected and the degree of altering the information contained within these areas varies. Some areas, such as our memories can be readily changed, other areas such as the deeper areas in the brain are more difficult to change and the deepest areas represented by our molecular structure and DNA, our inherent programs, are very difficult to change. We contain some informational programs that change all the time and some that do not.
What does this have to do with healing? The human body contains a set of instructions or “programs” that allow it to heal. It is the degree of information transfer that occurs between the healing program and a stimulus that facilitates or inhibits healing. If information that facilitates healing is readily transferred to the healing program, then healing is enhanced. If negative information is transferred, then healing is inhibited.
Healing then can be thought of as information transfer. If the connection is open and flowing with positive information, healing is facilitated. If the connection is functioning poorly, then poor or no healing occurs.
Let’s look at some examples. Let’s say you were cooking dinner and accidentally cut yourself with a knife. The cut is deep enough in the skin to cause bleeding, some blood vessels are damaged and some bacteria enters the wound. The body responds by producing inflammation. Damaged tissue cells and a type of white blood cell called a basophil release chemicals that cause an increase of blood flow to the area. Examples of these chemicals are histamine, bradykinin and leukotrienes. The increase in blood flow brings in more blood cells and substances to attack the bacteria and repair the damage. More white blood cells arrive and attack the bacteria and digest it via a process known as phagocytosis.
White blood cells also multiply through the secretion of colony stimulating factors by T-lymphocytes. Other chemicals are secreted that cause pain, a warning sign to the rest of the body. These chemicals include prostaglandins and bacterial toxins. The increased number of white blood cells cause further digestion of the bacteria and the area is effectively “cleaned.” A byproduct of this cleanup is a yellowish substance consisting of dead white blood cells and debris called pus is produced.
The blood vessels stop bleeding by forming a clot made of an insoluble protein called fibrin. The clot will form a scab and eventually the margins will retract and draw the ends of the tissue back together to complete the healing. All of this is known as the inflammation response. The body does a very good job of using this program to produce inflammation. And in many cases this is a good thing especially in the above example. In some cases however, the body does too good of a job in producing inflammation. Such is the case in chronic inflammation such as in a chronic condition or disease. In the case of chronic inflammation, the program will actually impair healing.
In the above case of inflammation, where do the information exchanges occur? We stated that a number of chemicals are released in response to the stimulus which was in this case a cut. The information is contained in the interaction of chemicals producing the various chemical reactions associated with the inflammatory response. Chemical bonds are broken and formed according to a specific set of instructions and according to physical laws. How then can this information exchange be altered?
If we think of this in terms of the degree of information transfer by introducing a stimulus then we can examine the effects of various stimuli in altering the inflammation “program.”
One common way to inhibit inflammation is the use of cold packs. The function of the cold pack is to cause local vasoconstriction via stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system thereby counteracting the vasodilation caused by the inflammation program. The cold pack also decreases the conduction of impulses through the various damaged nerves thereby reducing pain. According to thermodynamics, chemical reactions proceed at a slower rate at cooler temperatures.
The cold pack then transfers molecular information relating to temperature to facilitate a healing response. The cold pack contains the information in the form of temperature and exhibits an informational field of coldness around it. As it comes in contact with the inflamed area the information about coldness is transferred to the skin and subsequent tissues. The informational field is local and works in a limited area. There is also some interference in the transfer from the insulation provided by the skin and the warming of the cold pack as it and the skin reach equilibrium. If we think of this in terms of fields, we could say that there is a degree of interference resulting from an interaction between informational fields. If the interference is minimal we can say that the “channel” for information transfer is open. This is analogous to a communications channel.
Another way to inhibit the inflammatory response is by introducing a medication that in some way affects the inflammation program running in the body. There are a myriad of anti-inflammatory medications available. In this example we will use ibuprofen. Ibuprofen is a chemical that inhibits the production of prostaglandins by inhibiting the cyclo-oxygenase enzyme. By inhibiting the chemical reaction that produces prostaglandins, the inflammation is reduced. The medication can be thought of as containing information in a chemical form that can be transferred to the body’s inflammation program. The mode of transfer is the bloodstream. After the medication is digested, the chemical information is transferred in blood. The medication, once in the bloodstream elicits a systemic affect. That is it travels around the body transferring its information everywhere. Thus as it is effective in reducing the inflammation, it can also produce side-effects in other areas of the body. The channel for information transfer is very clear in this case as the chemical information is directly transferred with little interference.
The use of nutritional substances exhibits information transfer in a similar way, but since in most cases they exhibit a milder effect on the body, side effects are kept to a minimum.
The informational field exhibited by medications or nutritionals also extends beyond the actual vessel containing the substance. This was difficult for me to accept at first but I have felt the effects of this phenomenon many times. Homeopaths, Naturopaths and Nutritionists use this phenomenon in determining the substance to be used in healing. This phenomenon is easier to comprehend if we think of it in terms of informational fields. If the substance consists of an interconnection of atoms which are produced by forces and if forces are actually perturbations of the space-time continuum in which we exist, then it is possible that the information can “radiate” from the substance in a less dense informational field. More about this later.
It is as if the field exhibited by the person needing healing is such that it needs a certain type of information in order to heal. Humans constantly interact with their environments and are always seeking what they need. If they come in contact with something that is needed, they are attracted to it. In the area of personal growth this has been called the Law of Attraction. In the case of homeopathic remedies for example, if the remedy is “needed” by the body, the body will grow stronger. Some practitioners use this phenomenon by using muscle testing. A weak muscle will strengthen if the appropriate remedy is put in contact with the person.
Another way the program of inflammation can be affected is by the connection between the mind and the inflammation program. This falls under the category of mind-body healing which uses the link between conscious thought in the nervous system and the rest of the body to elicit a healing response. Various techniques have been used including hypnosis, positive thinking, biofeedback humor, visualization and imagery. An example of a mind-body imaging technique is to instruct the patient to form an image in their mind of inflammation and then “shrink” the image by visualizing it getting smaller. One problem with mind-body healing is the information channel containing a lot of noise or interference. It is difficult to get an adequate transfer of information to the molecular level to affect the inflammation program.
The nervous system continuously receives and processes information from the environment. The nervous system also has the ability to formulate thoughts and feelings. The intimate connection between the nervous system and the rest of the body is what is used to promote healing in mind-body techniques.
Thus far in our example of inflammation we have looked at three different pathways of providing information to the inflammation program. Thermal information was provided by the cold pack, chemical information by the medication or nutritional substance and electrochemical information by the mind. If we examine the noise-containing channel in each case we see a relatively good transfer of information in the medication case, less in the nutritional case, cold pack and mind-body healing technique. If we were to choose the best modality in this case it would be the medication, as long as we could tolerate the side effects. However, the other healing modalities could be used as support so that the reliance on medication could be reduced.
In the opening example of Jen and Rick we see information contained in each of them at different levels. Both have the same pain-producing problem, but each differs in the information associated with the problem. In Jen’s case, perhaps her past physical activities provided forces that were greater than the tissues in her back could handle causing them to subsequently break down. Otherwise she is healthy with good supporting tissues and habits conducive to good health. She may not be a smoker, eat nutritious food, exercises, etc.
Rick on the other hand, may have a genetic component to his problem. This would represent information contributing to his problem at the deepest level. He may also engage in poor health habits and live under unhealthy stress. The information causing his problem may originate from various levels.
So far, the elements of healing include the following:
· The healing program or programs that must be facilitated or inhibited by introducing information.
· Sources of healing information from various levels
· Channels by which healing information flows
· Interference that must be reduced
All of these elements need to be considered in designing healing programs. In my book “Unlocking the Healing Code” I present a system of healing based on these concepts. The system is easy to use and encompasses many kinds of healing information.