Cure: A Journey into the Science of Mind Over Body
By: Jo Marchant
Publication Date: 1/19//2016
My Rating: 4 Stars
A rigorous, skeptical, deeply reported look at the new science behind the mind's extraordinary ability to heal the body
Have you ever felt a surge of adrenaline after narrowly avoiding an accident? Salivated at the sight (or thought) of a sour lemon? Felt turned on just from hearing your partner's voice? If so, then you've experienced how dramatically the workings of your mind can affect your body.
Yet while we accept that stress or anxiety can damage our health, the idea of "healing thoughts" was long ago hijacked by New Age gurus and spiritual healers. Recently, however, serious scientists from a range of fields have been uncovering evidence that our thoughts, emotions, and beliefs can ease pain, heal wounds, fend off infection and heart disease, even slow the progression of AIDS and some cancers.
In Cure, award-winning science writer Jo Marchant travels the world to meet the physicians, patients, and researchers on the cutting edge of this new world of medicine. We learn how meditation protects against depression and dementia, how social connections increase life expectancy, and how patients who feel cared for recover from surgery faster. We meet Iraq war veterans who are using a virtual arctic world to treat their burns and children whose ADHD is kept under control with half the normal dose of medication. We watch as a transplant patient uses the smell of lavender to calm his hostile immune system and an Olympic runner shaves vital seconds off his time through mind-power alone.
Drawing on the very latest research, Marchant explores the vast potential of the mind's ability to heal, acknowledges its limitations, and explains how we can make use of the findings in our own lives.
A special thank you to Crown and LibraryThing Early Reviewers for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Award-winning science writer Jo Marchant travels the world to meet the physicians, patients, and researchers on the cutting edge of this new world of medicine in her extraordinary book, CURE, A Journey into the Science of Mind Over Body. "The healing power of the mind -or lack thereof; has thus become a key battleground in the bigger fight against irrational thinking." Drawing on her training as a scientist and a science writer, Marchant precisely and thoroughly investigates both promising and improbable theories of the mind’s ability to heal the body. When the health problems we face aren’t just physical or psychological—they are both. By combining the best of both world, one day, hopefully a workable solution of medicine. Using life-saving drugs and technologies when they are needed, but also supports us to reduce our risk of disease and to manage our own symptoms when we are ill; and when there is no cure- allowing us to die with dignity. We cannot wish ourselves better. Harnessing the power of the mind providing alternative treatments offering something conventional medicine has missed. There are ways we can use our conscious minds to influence from believing we have taken a pill or focusing on the present moment to seeking support of a loved one. If we feel safe, cared for, and in control during an injury or disease, we feel less pain, less fatigue, and our immune system works with us instead of against us. To focus on repair and growth. However even though the mind plays a role in health, this does not mean it can cure everything. As the author reiterates, the problems with modern medicine run deep; clearly they will not all be solved by mind-body therapies. But trying to improve medical outcomes by treating patients as the complex human beings we are, rather than simply as physical bodies, is a good starting place. The implications of embracing the role of the mind in health go beyond medicine, based on the research in the book (stresses of poverty and inequality) are creating life-long chronic disease before babies are out of their nappies. Understanding the link between mind and body—not just about health, medicine, or society, but something more fundamental. What it means to be human. It is now clear the principle holds true for health; our thoughts, beliefs, stress levels, and world views-- all influence how ill or well we feel. However, you don’t have to believe what your brain in saying. I recently read Michael A. Singer’s The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself-highly recommend. Also, Dr. Joe Dispenza's You Are the Placebo: Making Your Mind Matter. Physical reality— and in turn, the health of our physical bodies influences the state of our minds. As examples: Inflammation induces fatigue and depression. Low blood-sugar levels make us short tempered. Calming our bodies by slow breathing, improves our mood. The main threats facing us today are not acute infections, easily cured with a pill, but chronic stress-related conditions for which drugs are not nearly as effective. Shocking, the top ten highest grossing drugs in the US help only between 1 and 25 and 1 in 4 of the people who take them; statins may benefit as few as 1 in 50. Combined with the ongoing problem of physicians pushed to see more patients in less time, contributing to a loss of empathy among medical professionals. Our country spends $3 trillion a year on health care, meanwhile prescription drug use is high- almost half of Americans are on medications for cardiovascular disease and high cholesterol (both caused by high stress), with nearly 60% of adults aged over 65 taking five or more different drugs at any one time. From allergy side effects, adverse drug reaction, complications of medications, interventions, prescription drug abuse and the rise of antibiotic resistance, there needs to be other alternatives. The US is the richest country in the world yet even with trillions of dollars to spend, it cannot match the life expectancy of a middle-income country like Costa Rica. Unfortunately, the clinical trials are funded by drug companies who have no interest in proving the benefit of any approach to care that might reduce the need for their products. Sadly in comparison: "Annual budget NIH $30 billion, versus .2% goes on testing mind-body therapies". Marchant is not advocating relying solely on the mind to heal us, but denying its role in medicine surely isn’t the answer either. Her hope is that this book might help to overcome of the prejudice against mind-body approaches, and to raise awareness that taking account of the mind in health is actually a more scientific and evidence-based approach than relying ever more heavily on physical interventions and drugs. With our minds as well as our bodies shaped by evolution, we are built to hold beliefs that aid our health and survival, not that are necessarily true. There are powerful evolutionary forces driving to believe in a variety of remedies and faith, and some more positive than they are. By simply understanding how our minds influence and reflect our physiology, we can resolve that paradox and live in tune with our bodies in a way that is based on evidence, not delusion. Well-researched, informative, beautifully written, and laid out in easy to read chapters—"a must read"! Baby boomers will appreciate the immediate effects of thoughts and beliefs--how our state of mind shapes disease risk throughout our lives, especially as we move into older adults, with dementia, Alzheimer's, and other health concerns. On a personal note: I happen to be one of those, with a family history of heart disease, cancer, and high cholesterol. However, due to my severe allergies, I am unable to take any medications or undergo any procedures. Therefore, thyroid, heart, cholesterol, and other conditions are controlled by vegan diet, yoga, environmental changes, exercise, and low stress. I am a firm believer in the mind-body, meditation, and other ways to heal the body, versus medications. Embrace alternative treatment!
About the Author
Jo Marchant is an award-winning science journalist and author. She trained as a scientist and has a PhD in genetics and medical microbiology from St Bartholomew’s Hospital Medical College in London, and an MSc in Science Communication from Imperial College London.
Jo has worked as an editor at New Scientist and at Nature and has written on topics from the future of genetic engineering to underwater archaeology. Her articles appear regularly in publications including New Scientist, Nature and The Observer.
Her radio and TV appearances include BBC Radio 4’s Start the Week and Today programmes, CNN and National Geographic. She has lectured around the world, including at the Royal Institution in London, the Edinburgh Science Festival, the Getty Villa in Los Angeles and the Dutch-Flemish Institute in Cairo.
Jo’s first book Decoding the Heavens: Solving the mystery of the world’s first computer was described by the LA Times as “an epic of forgotten geniuses, lost treasure, death-defying underwater exploration and egomaniacal scientists” and was shortlisted for the 2009 Royal Society Prize for Science Books.
Her second book, The Shadow King: The bizarre afterlife of King Tut’s mummy was published by Da Capo press in June 2013. Read More