W3: Relationships between Health, Healing, and Religion

Like we discussed last week, there is  HUGE relationship between the mind and culture. This week, there was more emphasis on the mind and the BODY within the culture. Religion is and always has had a huge impact on daily life, and it’s hard to deny that someone’s faith doesn’t affect how they think about things. A prime example of this in a religious aspect is the situation of the Namibia and the Botswana people. The gatherers used “healing dances” in order to enter an altered state of mind. During this altered state, if they touched someone, they could be healed. While this is so vastly different from western medicine, we do see our own versions of interesting healing in our own world that has to do with the mind that actually uses science. For some people, this can contradict everything they believe about science, meaning that science should be purely biological. The Placebo Effect is a direct relationship between the mind, science, and healing all in one. For a lot of patients dealing with health issues in the “science world,” AKA in a clinical trial, for example, a lot of doctors will use a Placebo pill in order to relieve their symptoms. It works simply because the patients THINK that they are taking an actual pill that is going to help them, when in reality it’s something along the lines of a sugar pill (Wang).

Personally, I believe science and healing go together in vastly different ways than healing and religion. A lot of doctors are quick to use pills as an only resort to healing a biological illness. This is very important in it’s own way; sometimes pills and treatments are the most effective way of treating an illness, such as cancer. However, there is always another side to the story. While a pill may help the problems physically, there is always an emotional problem that is most of the time gone untreated by doctors. This is where I believe that healing and religion can go together. For example, patients in the hospital who are receiving various treatments often are visited by pastors who will guide prayers with them and for them. This act of treating the inside and the outside of a person goes a long way in their healing process. Like Aristotle says, “there is absolutely nothing human about a corpse! The soul is what is truly human.” Furthermore, we see an overlay between science and healing by the mind in Sarah Berga’s approach to fertility: to just relax. The stress that can take over the mind and body can seriously alter the ability for women to reproduce. Her research tells us that stress alters signals to the hypothalamus (science), which leads to reduced levels of two important hormones needed for ovulation. Her fix to this problem? Relax and learn to cope with stress (healing by mind).

“In Clinical Trials and in the Clinic, What is the Placebo’s Effect?” Last modified January 1, 2003. http://jnci.oxfordjournals.org/content/95/1/6.full

2 thoughts on “W3: Relationships between Health, Healing, and Religion

  1. I agree with a lot of what you said in your post. One thing in particular I agreed with was when you were saying that biomedicine does have its place in helping people, via medication and the like, when they are dealing with major health issues. But you then also stated that religion or culture do have a part to play in the healing process as well. The stress the individuals experience every day and the reactions from their families to the health issue or issues that they are experiencing, as well as the treatment that they are undergoing, play an enormous role in their ability to become healthier and their reaction to the administered treatments.
    Your reference to Sara Berga’s findings on how stress can affect fertility was a great example of how prescribing someone a pill or other form of biomedicine is not always necessary. Sometimes, as was found in this fertility study, reducing stress and learning coping mechanisms to deal with stress are incredible ways to increase fertility. There was science involved in this study that showed that chemicals in regions of the brain were being adversely affected by stress, so in order to regain chemical balance the stress had to be decreased. And all of this is done without prescribing a pill or other biomedical treatment, which may or may not have been affective.

  2. I think your comments about how the mind influences our recovery from illnesses was really interesting. It was a great use of example citing the placebo effect example and how that influences people’s recovery time.
    It’s very interesting to think that the mind can literally trick your body into healing… OR if it really was the mind creating the symptoms. That would be an interesting thing to research: to see the amount of cases that were purely mind related symptoms that could be healed (headaches, nausea, pain) as opposed to body related symptoms (tumors, blood sugar/pressure, blood levels, bone healing, etc).

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