I often write about the interconnectivity of our body systems. For example, how the neurological system impacts the skeletal system and how your liver and kidneys affect your bone health .
But amidst all of these physical systems concerned with the impact of outside stimuli, it’s easy to forget that the body has a control center with the power to change every one of these other parts. I’m talking, of course, about the mind.
We’ve all heard the phrase ‘mind over matter’. If you’ve ever written it off as New Age nonsense, then contemporary science would have you reconsider. There is a great deal of evidence backing-up the very real physical effects that our minds have.
Today we’ll take a look at the power of thought over your body and wellness, examining placebos, nocebos, and the way that a diagnosis can do more harm than good. In particular, we’ll look at how all this relates to your bone health.
Could the ideas and expectations planted by an osteoporosis diagnosis be harming your health for no physically observable reason? Could the fear-mongering of Big Pharma and the Medical Establishment be the source of actual physical harm? The answer is yes, and you’re going to find out how and why in today’s post.
The Placebo Effect
A placebo is any medical treatment that seems to be real, but which in fact is just a dummy. It could be sugar pills, saline injections, or other non-reactive fake drugs.
When a scientist is conducting a study that involves giving participants a drug or other substance to learn about its effect, they typically create a control group who doesn’t receive the drug. That way, they have a baseline against which to compare their data. To create a control group that has an experience as close as possible to the group receiving the drug, a placebo is given to the control group.
Remarkably, in virtually every sort of drug test, some members of the placebo group experience the benefit of the drug they think they’re taking. Even though they’re not receiving the real medication. Likewise, they experience negative side effects (more on this later). This is such a standard result that the effectiveness of drugs is typically measured not by how many people experience the desired result, but by how many more people have that result than got the same result from a placebo.
Sometimes pharmaceutical researchers can’t create drugs that are more effective than sugar pills! So the question is, why are sugar pills effective at curing diseases?
It’s Not The Pills!
The answer of course is that the sugar pills are not creating the change in the health of the participants, it is the belief that they will experience a specific result. By expecting to, for example, have their cold symptoms reduced, have a rash subside, or feel more energetic, they actually receive these benefits.
The mind is responsible for these changes. This should be no wonder, given what we know about the brain. Of course the control center of our body has the power to alter our physical selves. We know the brain releases hormones and neurotransmitters that trigger physical processes and change the way we feel.
These neurological events are not conscious acts in the way that taking a deep breath or tensing a muscle are. We can’t release endorphins in the same way that we can blink an eye. However, we are able to consciously create the conditions under which our brain executes certain functions. We just have to know what those conditions are and how to manifest them.
Sometimes this process is easy to understand: if you love coconut, then cracking open a fresh coconut and digging in is probably a good way to trigger the release of serotonin and other mood improving neurotransmitters. Said a different way, doing things that make you feel good… makes you feel good. But there are other ways to impact your body via your mind that are less tangible.
What you think, expect, or believe creates literal physical changes in your body. This article begins with placebos because they illustrate this truth with clarity, not to mention decades and decades worth of scientific evidence. If you expect to feel happier, there is a strong chance you will feel happier. If you think you’re being cured of a disease, there is a proven probability that this thought alone will lead to improvement.
This is a difficult feat to accomplish on your own. The reason placebos are as effective as they sometimes are, is because those who take them have been benevolently tricked by a trusted authority. In fact, the level of trust the patient has in doctors, and the doctor’s ability to instill trust, are observed factors in the efficacy of a placebo.1
Some doctors actually prescribe placebos and lie to their patients about what they are, because they know the placebo is more likely to work if the patients believe they’re the real thing.1
Big Picture Positive Change
The power of thought and expectation is demonstrated in a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology that compared the health and lifespans of subjects to their self-perception of aging. Amazingly, those who had more positive self-perceptions of aging lived, on average, seven and half years longer than those with a less positive outlook.2
The expectation of being healthy and high-functioning into old age helped those people to meet that expectation and live longer, fuller lives. Setting positive expectations for yourself, and regularly thinking about or imagining those results can help you achieve those goals.
This is what people mean when they talk about the power of positive thought. But there’s also a dark side to the power of suggestion and expectation.
Thinking Yourself Sick
If a placebo might trick your brain into creating the positive result you think it should have, it shouldn’t be too surprising that it could also inspire any negative side-effects you think could result. This is sometimes called the “nocebo” effect, and it describes the parallel phenomenon in which the mind causes harm to the body based on a belief or expectation.
It seems our minds are better at carrying out our instructions than we realize. If we think of taking a placebo as asking our minds to rectify an issue in the body, we can think of expecting a negative side effect as asking our body to feel that symptom. People report feeling dizziness, nausea, changes in energy, and all manner of physical effects from placebos.
It’s not so different from the common experience of medical students in which they start to feel the symptoms of the diseases they are learning about. The brain misinterprets the information, obsessively imagined in the course of study, as a sort of instruction! Anxiety about a particular malady might lead you to obsessively think about it, and to question whether you’re feeling its effects, until you actually start to.
If you think it’s a foregone conclusion that you’re going to experience a particular condition, whether it’s back pain or headaches, you might be inadvertently instructing your brain to engineer that result.
A part of this effect has to do with the impact of stress and negativity on your body. High stress levels result in the release of epinephrine and cortisol. These hormones trigger a state of high alert and suppress many normal processes. If you are in a dangerous situation, this response could save your life. But if it becomes chronic, they have a deleterious impact on certain biological functions such as digestion, immune response, and even new bone formation.
This means, ironically, that anxiety about your well-being could actually be harming your health!
Diagnoses Can Make You Sick?
If the authority assumed by doctors makes placebos more likely to work, then imagine how that power translates to creating expectations around diagnoses. Since you’re more likely to suffer from a disease if you believe you’re going to have it, then having a trusted doctor tell you you’ll suffer basically insures it will happen. This isn’t the doctor’s intention of course, but it’s a byproduct of the focus of the Medical Establishment on sickness, instead of on health.
This is particularly a problem with osteoporosis and osteopenia diagnoses. First off, we must be clear that neither is a disease, as explained in the Osteoporosis Reversal Program.
Additionally, there are many issues with the way that bone density is tested (DXA scans), and thankfully, more scientists are recognizing that the amount of bone you have isn’t as important as the quality of the bone. It’s relevant to note her that the prevalence of osteoporosis in the past few decades has coincided with the development of expensive (and ineffective) drugs to bulk up bones. This is no coincidence.
The designation of what constitutes osteoporosis, the very existence of osteopenia, and the proliferation of drugs to ‘treat’ osteoporosis are clearly the work of Big Pharma.
The Negative Effects Of Fear
These diagnoses are also used to frighten patients into taking action. More specifically and almost universally within the halls of the Medical Establishment, these diagnoses more often than not scare people into buying osteoporosis drugs.
As you’ve learned today, the anxiety, fear, and negative expectations created by such a diagnosis from a trusted authority can actually create additional problems. Living in continual fear raises your stress levels, doing harm to your body’s ability to heal itself. This includes bone health, meaning that if your bone quality is not optimal, being scared and stressed will only do more damage.
Expect Better And Be Healthy
Focusing on your capacity for growth and positive change is far more productive. Understanding how your body builds bone can reduce the harmful effects of stress and fear and help you to harness the power of positive thought and expectation. This is one of the many benefits of the Osteoporosis Reversal Program.
The Program reveals how you can become the younger, healthier version of yourself, and embrace those positive changes in your life. Look forward to the way you want to live and see yourself enjoying that life as you work toward your goal. The Osteoporosis Reversal Program can show you how to get there:
Stop Worrying About Your Bone Loss
Join thousands of Savers from around the world who have reversed or prevented their bone loss naturally and scientifically with the Osteoporosis Reversal Program.
Till next time,
1 Philip Hunter. “A question of faith. Exploiting the placebo effect depends on both the susceptibility of the patient to suggestion and the ability of the doctor to instill trust.” Science and Society. 2007 Feb. 8(2): 125–128. Web: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1796768/
2 Levy, Slade, Kunkel, and Kasl. “Longevity Increased by Positive Self-Perceptions of Aging.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 2002. Vol. 83, No. 2, 261–270. PDF: https://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/psp-832261.pdf
Comments on this article are closed.
When I purchased save our bones material I assumed I would receive hard copies and was very disappointed to receive 9 pdfs which have largely gone unread. Would much prefer hard copies which are easier to read and easier to mark for later reference. Recent studies have shown that learning and memory are not enhanced by reading and writing on pcs, tablets and phones. Students of all ages retain information better when reading and writing using books, paper and pen.
I agree with this writer. I also prefer a written copy of the items rather than a pcf file. I also received them and never was able to read them or even get them on line. I want a hard copy. I would like to have the Save Our Bones book.
I also agree with Linda and Sara . I was never able to open the pdf and lost it
Hi Vivian, I am so grateful for the information and weekend exercise challengers you have made available to me, which I find so helpful. However, I do find reading e books difficult and uncomfortable due to eye issues and wondered whether your program is available on hard copy. Thanks
Vivian, having eye problems I find it difficult to read and focus on e books and would like to purchase a copy of your program but this method is uncomfortable for me, please let me know if this is available on hard copy? Thanks for all the information and weekend exercise challengers you have sent to me, I find them so helpful.
Good afternoon Vivian,
Excellent article, Vivian. Thank you very, very much for
” Most folks are about as happy as they make up their
minds to be “. Abraham Lincoln.
Have a wonderful day.
FYI……………..Reading e-books and using the internet have been proven to keep the brain more active.Less chance of Dementia
Wonderful article ! It’s amazing what and how the body and mind respond to regards positive and negative information input. I can relate to being influenced by both! It can seem like a tug o’ war at times. Receiving bad results from various tests like dexa scans can, I feel, set one on a downward spiral of despair, which of course can only be detrimental to body and mind and lead to further deterioration as the body responds in kind by releasing more stress hormones, a vicious circle. You kind of prove your condition by responding in kind. I think that if someone has had a bad test result it may help to fret and wallow for a day or two but then try to turn things around by imagining yourself getting stronger. Learn and research about conditions and don’t let medics wear you down with doom and gloom scenarios. I realise that this may be difficult to do but, positive thinking, positive action and being in control as much as one can can make a real difference to how one’s mind and body reacts. This great site continually boosts my confidence especially if I am wavering or doubting myself. The mind has great healing powers I feel, just like being in control of a situation empowers a person. Looking after oneself, being kind to oneself, eating and drinking to nourish the mind and body and exercising somewhat all lead to feel good hormones being released. Give a being what it requires and it will respond accordingly.
Hi FM I read your comment which is really a wonderful analysis. But what I wanted to say is that whatever you do and try to eat good and healthy food, do some excercises, yet if your surroundings are not adequate, that is to say the city you live in is highly noisy, the neighbours having no sense of respect for anything, behaving utterly uncivilized; the street you live on, besides being narrow, a lot of cars pass by day and night, the garbage “monester” passes twice per night, making the most horroble noise you can ever imagine (at 12 midnight and 1 am daily!!!!), besides plenty and other unlimited inconveniences…So, how can one feel healthy or happy?? kind regards, Marlyn
I was diagnosed at 50 with full blown osteoporosis. I will NEVER take any of those scary drugs. I will be 60 this year, I eat clean, exercise with strength training every day and keep my weight in the 130’s…for 9 years my scans remained the same, some improvement in my wrist. I also take a bone supplement and calcium, no worse so I must be doing something right?
I was diagnosed with osteoporosis when i was 55 and myself or my G.P. Do not know why. This has gradually gotten worse over the years. I am now 66 and have several other serious diseases. I do have a stressful life which cannot be changed and blood tests showed up very high cortisol in me. I also have a very fine skeletal frame and have had to do heavy work all my adult life. I wonder Vivian could this have had an impact on my bones? I am a full time care worker and will be as long as I am able.
I was diagnosed with osteoporosis when i was 55 and myself or my G.P. Do not know why. This has gradually gotten worse over the years. I am now 66 and have several other serious diseases. I do have a stressful life which cannot be changed and blood tests showed up very high cortisol in me. I also have a very fine skeletal frame and have had to do heavy work all my adult life. I wonder Vivian could this have had an impact on my bones? I am a full time career and will be as long as I am able.
I too would buy a hard copy of your book if available. Do not enjoy reading e-books.
Vivian, agreed the body is designed to be healthy.
Listening to free support calls of the Sedona Method also on You Tube has enhanced learning of the role of our mind/body vs Spirit.
Besides it fun to learn to ignore that voice in our head. And to BE.
I whole heartedly agree with this article. I have gone through many health challenges, including Osteoporosis and being frightened by my Doctor about that diagnosis. While Positive thinking might not cure or prevent us from getting a particular disease, it will surely help us to heal and recover or at the very least to deal with it as best as possible. To feel as good as possible in spite of our situation will improve the quality of our life. Feeling anxious and worried and fearful is never helpful when living with a difficult diagnosis. Staying positive and optimistic and visualizing a healthy body may indeed help us heal and will at least make us feel a little more in control and not quite so helpless or depressed. This is said from my own personal perspective and experience. But I respect everyone’s thoughts on this. Thank you so much Vivian!
Vivian, are you ever going to offer a hard copy of your book? I just can’t read e books.
I would pay more for hard copy Any chance of getting in hard copy?
This is about the e-mail regarding tea causing bone loss. Does this include matcha tea? I’ve read that matcha tea is helpful for a lot of things and even good for fighting breast cancer. I’ve been drinking it on most days, one scoop of the powder in 2 cups hot water.
While it’s true that fear and anxiety can be psychologically debilitating, it’s simply false that so-called positive thought, or mind over matter, can conquer osteoporosis, cancer, etc. I can’t even begin to count the number of people I’ve either known personally or have heard of who, despite having a so-called good attitude, still succumbed to cancer. The suggestion that positive thought is a determinant actually ends up making people feel guilty and as though any progression of disease or any adverse outcome is somehow their fault. This boils down to blaming the victim. I know that’s not your intent, but the philosophy that you’re endorsing tends to have that effect.
I have severe osteoporosis and osteoarthritis with radiating nerve pain from the back and neck. This is not in my mind – I literally have fractures up and down the spine. Can you fix that and stop the nerve pain
I go to a chiropractor every two to three weeks.I try to eat clean
And healthy..exercise, weight training, and yoga.really helps.
Dear Norma Bell,
I’ve been taking “Ultimate Bone Support” with a hot liquid (dissolves faster)
for years and it’s helping me. ALSO, I had to increase my Vit-D3 intake until
my fingernails stopped cracking/breaking so often. That was an internist’s (MD) recommendation. If your D3 blood levels aren’t above average, your body can’t
absorb any extra bone-building to build with. I hope that can help your situation!
What you think, you shall be.
I would like to know what is damaging my bone density so much. I am only 52 and have osteoapnia.
Charlene, make sure your parathyroid glands are working properly. If any of those four glands are hyperactive, they pull all the calcium out of your bones. So a blood test by your endocrinologist will give you the answer. This is one of the causes of some one so young having this problem.
Charlene, it could be what you eat and drink or that you need to be more active or it could be that the DEXA scan is comparing you to a younger person or actually just flat out incorrect . Keep reading and researching. YouTube is a good place to research alternative thinking compared to Big Pharma sales .
This is a very interesting subject and 100% believable. I appreciate your articles and do learn a lot from them. THANK YOU