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Attitudes, Emotions & Disease

Posted Jul 07 2009 5:45pm
Way back in 1952, the Department of Medicine at New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center found that diseases and conditions ranging from eczema and cold hands to migraine and hypertension were correlated to particular attitudes and emotions.

Specifically, the researchers defined emotions as being "an attitude with its associated physiological changes." Thinking about carrying a certain weight actually increases electrical activity in appropriate muscles for carrying heavy loads. And, "sustained contraction of the skeletal muscles can be painful."

Here are some more of the findings from interviews with 128 patients:
  • Eczema, with associated vasodilation, is associated with frustration and may possibly represent heat loss by an organism which has abandoned its readiness for action.
  • Arterial hypertension occurred with a sense of vigilance, when an individual felt he must be constantly prepared to meet all possible threats.
  • Cold skin, the result of cutaneous vasoconstriction, is associated with an anticipatory response and occurs in individuals contemplating some kind of action, even if he doesn't know how to take such action.
  • Vasomotor rhinitis & asthma are both associated with feelings of wanting to have nothing to do with something (the desire to exclude, similar to how the respiratory mucous membrane reacts to noxious agents).
Mind affecting body. Not exactly new age, in fact, not new at all. And, at the cellular level, it's akin to proving Newton's Third Law of Motion (the law of reciprocal actions).

Sometimes, folks in the nutrition industry attend only biochemistry, specifically, how nutritional agents can help cells function and repair themselves. Necessary but not necessarily sufficient. What's often missing is a more integral approach that acknowledges that our cells are in communities, which function based on relationships. Emotions affect how cells coordinate action with one another.

To quote a 2009 article, " The Rebirth of Neuroscience in Psychosomatic Medicine:"

"The brain influences end organs through "information transfer systems," including the autonomic, neuroendocrine, and immune system."

So minding our moment-to-moment thoughts, our persistent attitudes, and our seemingly-mysterious emotions can yield critical insights to the root of our difficulties and paths to healing.

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