Psychoneuroimmunology…the Mind-Body Connection
by Sue Kira, Naturopath & Clinical Nutritionist
Psychoneuroimmunology is the study of how our emotional states, particularly stress, can affect our immunity and health.
Stress appears to be part of our normal lives, but it doesn’t have to be this way. What is stressful to one person can often have no affect on another. Stress occurs as a result of the way we think and react to life.
If we change the way we think or react we can avoid most of the stressors in our life. And that has to be good for us because science is now validating what we have intuitively known for years, that stress – our emotional state – can affect our immunity and have a destructive effect on our bodies.
For example, you have probably been told not to go swimming directly after eating? This is not an old wives tale. It has more to do with a scientific reason that relates to our nervous system.
The body’s parasympathetic nervous system governs the digestive systems. When we eat a meal our nervous system shunts a large volume of blood to the organs of digestion, assimilation and elimination. If we go for a swim while digesting food, there is less blood supply available for the heart, lungs, arm and leg muscles. As a result we can suffer from cramps.
A similar thing happens in reverse if we eat when we are stressed. In a state of stress, the nervous system automatically shunts the blood supply to the heart, lungs and limbs as a protective measure (the flight or fight response). As a result, blood vessels in other parts of the body are constricted and blood flow reduced.
Not only is the digestive system affected, other problems may occur such as high blood pressure and migraine headaches because the blood supply vessels to the brain are constricted. Do you see the mind body connection?
I look at my clients’ situations holistically to help them realise there is more to their state of health than the obvious virus, deficiency, parasite, fungus etc. Sometimes it is necessary to dig deeper, to show them what message their body is trying to convey.
Because we lack a clear form of communication between the mind and the body, the body has to give us signals or symbols to help us work out what to do. It’s a bit like playing charades.
Many are aware that stress lowers our immune defense and know all too well that if we are run down and stressed we are more prone to getting sick. But we have little understanding of the ‘why’ behind it all. There’s the scientific view that explains how there is a change of chemicals and hormones in our body stimulated by stressful situations. However, this doesn’t account for how we get different health disorders in different people, even though their stress factors are the same.
The answer is related to vibrational energy, and our vibrational energy is affected by how we feel. I’ll explain…
Everything on this earth whether dead or alive, metal, wood or flesh is made up of trillions of vibrating atoms. When I worked in pathology using electron microscopes that could magnify thousands of times and go deeper and deeper into an object, it became clear that eventually you get to only atoms and empty spaces between atoms.
The rate at which atoms vibrate determines what an object actually is. Similarly, every organ and body part vibrates at different frequencies. This is the basis for energy medicine which aims to correct an imbalance in the vibrations of the atoms that make up our body.
The thoughts we have can change the pattern of the vibration of our atoms. Consequently the way we react to stress in our life, whether emotional or physical, can have an impact on our health.
You may have heard about positive and negative ions. Positive ions are harmful – those that emit electro-magnetic radiation from electrical devices such as televisions, computers and power lines. These have an effect on our vibrations.
When I studied microcurrent therapy I was horrified to discover that the devices that scan us when leaving a shop (to see if we have stolen anything) have the vibratory frequency that can disrupt our reproductive systems. Many technological devices around us can affect us.
But don’t get disheartened. We can change our vibrations quite easily by the way we think, feel and deal with life. Meditation can do this. Also the vibrations from good wholesome foods, clean fresh air, water, and exercise are vital along with the negative ions associated with sea air, waterfalls, and ionised water.
It is also important to look at how our emotional life is affecting us.
In Candace Pert’s book ‘Molecules of Emotion’, Candace explains how blood flow is closely regulated by emotional peptides. The peptides send signals to receptors that cause blood vessel walls to constrict or dilate. In turn, we see people turning ‘white as a sheet’ or ‘beet red’ depending on their emotional situation – a direct result of the responsiveness of our internal system to various emotions.
Candace also tells us that if our emotions are blocked due to denial, repression or trauma, then blood flow can be chronically constricted. This deprives the frontal cortex of the brain and other organs of vital nourishment. In turn this can affect alertness and subsequently impact on our ‘mind/body conversation’ that makes decisions which can change our physiology or behavior.
As a result, people may be unable to respond freshly to their environment and thus continue to repeat old negative patterns of behavior and feelings.
In essence, memories become stored in the receptors of your cells. By learning how to bring your awareness to past experiences and conditioning, you can release yourself from these blockages.
If ‘trapped’ emotions within our body are not released by direct action, the affect over time will invariably show up in our health.
For example, how long can you endure a stressful situation before it starts to take affect your body? We also see a relationship between specific emotions and particular body organs (which in turn can provide clues to health issues). For example there is a relationship between anger and the liver, grief with the lungs and we feel fear in the pit of the stomach.
Being aware of emotional hurts is a great place to start but many need support to help release the trapped emotions we are no longer aware of. This is where a good counsellor or healer can help.
Even a good massage helps to release trapped energy in our muscles. Anyone who’s had a massage knows how good that feels 🙂