Dr. Lissa Rankin: "Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof You Can Heal Yourself" | Talks at Google



so I'm really excited to host dr. Lissa Rankin today it's funny to say doctor in front of your name I call you Lissa but I've met Lissa through a mutual friend and last year when I met list says she talked about this book that was coming out and it's all about her research and the medical world that she comes from so this is the book mind over medicine it's available here as well for anyone looking to purchase but first a little bit about dr. Rankin so dr. Rankin is a mind-body medicine physician founder of the whole health medicine Institute training program for physicians and other healthcare providers and is the New York Times bestselling author of mine over medicine scientific proof you can heal yourself she is on the grassroots mission to put the care back in health care and to heal our broken health care system one doctor and patient at a time lissa blogs at Lissa Rankin calm and has created two online communities heal health care now calm and owning pink calm she is also the author of two other books and Lissa will work on the focus in an upcoming public television special that will appear on PBS as she just finished taping and she delivered two popular TEDx talks which are available on her website she's also on the speaking circuit with Hay House I can do it conferences Lissa's work has also been featured on over 30 television shows over 50 radio shows and in publications such as Oh magazine New York Times WebMD and CNN she's also a social networking guru when you can follow her on Twitter and on her blog which you can sign up for her newsletter daily so without further ado I will hand it over to Lissa thank you so much hi everyone so nice to see you all here so I want to tell you the story of how I ended up being here in front of you talking about the things that I'm going to be talking about today in many ways I'm the most unlikely person on the planet to be talking about how you can heal yourself I was raised in a very conventional upbringing with a physician father it cut you know I came to believe that in order to get well to be healthy you do the things that they teach us how to do in medical school right so my definition of health meant okay so you eat well you exercise daily you get enough sleep you take your vitamins you go to your doctor for preventive maintenance you know and you should be healthy right well and I had once worked in the inner city of Chicago my patients were often very very poor and they had very poor health habits so it made sense to me that these people were sick because you know when I was investigating their health histories and that sort of thing they were eating poorly they weren't getting enough sleep they had many bad habits often they weren't exercising at all so it kind of made sense to me why these people were sick well then I came to Marin County and I'm not from Marin so I had no idea what kind of people were in Marin County but these people are proverbial health nuts I see you guys are smiling right so I took a job at an integrative medicine practice and my patients were eating their vegan diets they were drinking their daily green juice they were working out with personal trainers they were getting eight hours of sleep every night they were taking 20 supplements they were getting the best medical care at places like Stanford and UCSF so these people would come to see me and they'd have these laundry lists of chronic health conditions and it made no sense to me I mean these people should be the healthiest people on the planet and they were some of the sickest people that I'd ever met so it didn't make any sense many of them by the time they had seen me they had optimized everything that Western medicine had offer so they had gone to all of their fabulous doctors and had every fabulous test out there so a few of them you know is sort of practicing a functional medicine and so some of them I would find the occasional lab test that someone else hadn't ordered and I'd find some abnormality that we'd be able to treat and all of a sudden it would be like the lights would come on you know they felt great and everything was terrific but that was maybe 10% of the time and 90% of the time I'd looked through everything that all the other doctors had done and I didn't know how to explain why these people were sick so I did something sort of radical I decided you know what maybe I'm not asking the right questions maybe maybe the answer is not in their medical record but in the rest of their life so I redid my patient intake form you know the forms that you fill out when you go see the doctor so I was asking all the conventional questions but I started asking some other questions I started asking things like if you could break any rule and there were no consequences what rule would you break and I start asking people about their romantic life you know are you in a relationship and if so are you happy if not do you wish you were I started asking people about their work you know do you love your job do you feel like you're in touch with your life's purpose do you have a calling and if so what is it and I came across some real doozies I started asking people if your health condition had a message to teach you what is it here to teach you and then the one that really started being the mother lode for me I asked people what does your body need in order to heal now when I started asking that question I thought that I would get you know treatment intuitions from people that maybe they'd tell me you know I think I'll skip the antidepressant and we'll try the tryptophan instead or something like that and occasionally they would say things like that but more often than not I'd say what does your body need in order to heal and my patients would say things like I need to leave my abusive marriage or I need to quit my soul-sucking job or I've got to get my kid in rehab or I've got it you know deal with my aging parent get my mom out of my house or I need to finally write my novel and I'd say well great like you've just written the prescription for yourself go do it and they'd look at me and said well I can't do that that would be crazy right but so I started talking to my patients about well let's assume for a minute that you just answered the question of what does my body need in order to heal and that it's true what if you actually did that thing and your health conditions went away would you be willing to do it then and some of them would say you know what actually not I'd rather be sick than have to follow through on what I just said but some of my patients started getting really brave and so I was watching these patients as they were going out into the world and sort of making these courageous choices often from this laundry list of things that they've written out about you know the answer to what does my body need in order to heal and I started witnessing my patients having these incredible spontaneous remissions from a whole host of health conditions so I was not giving these people any medical treatment they had already gotten the best medical treatment out there and they were getting better and I couldn't explain that that didn't make any sense to my very logical very scientific very academically educated doctor brain it's like does not compute I could I really couldn't explain what was going on so I started researching spontaneous remissions this is a term that doctors use to explain patients that get better either with no medical treatment or with medical treatment deemed to be inadequate for cure so you know I started looking into this and I came across a database called the spontaneous remission project and this is a database of over 3,500 case studies in the medical literature put together by the Institute of noetic Sciences and their case studies the doctors have written up as kind of medical mysteries of people that had everything from stage 4 cancers that disappeared there was an hiv-positive person who became HIV negative there's a gunshot wound to the head left untreated and it wasn't just life threatening illnesses like heart failure kidney failure it was you know ordinary things like thyroid disease or autoimmune disorders or diabetes or high blood pressure so I was reading through these case studies and this didn't make any sense to me again dr. brain does not compute because I was not only a very skeptical physician but I was a very skeptical patient so by the time I was 33 years old I had been diagnosed with a whole host of chronic health conditions and I was taking seven medications that my doctors had told me I'd have to take for the rest of my life so being a doctor and being raised by a doctor I believed my doctors and I believed that these were chronic conditions that I would have for the rest of my life so when I started reading these these cases of spontaneous remission it was like this light bulb going off in my mind like wait a minute every single health condition that I was dealing with myself I was able to find a case study of somebody who had that condition and got better without medical treatment and it was like it was like a switch flipped in my brain where all of a sudden I started thinking what if my illnesses aren't chronic what if they're not incurable what if it's possible that I might not have to take seven medications for the rest of my life and it was really until you guys heard the story of the four-minute mile so yeah I see you guys nodding so exercise physiologist once believed that it was impossible like humanly physiologically impossible for a human being to run a mile in less than four minutes and nobody had ever done it it was kind of this worldwide belief in the athletic community that this was impossible and then Roger Bannister ran the mile in 3 minutes and 59 seconds and now almost every world-class runner has run a sub four-minute mile so it was like that belief that it was impossible suddenly shifted everything for the world of athletics and reading the spontaneous remission project and and then going through even more case studies in the medical literature was like that for me it was like all of a sudden everything shifted and I suddenly started thinking what if it's possible that I could have a spontaneous remission what if it's possible that you could have a spontaneous remission and I was watching my patients do that by asking the question what does my body need in order to heal and then getting really brave so one of the stud the case studies that I came across was recently in the New York Times this guy Stamatis Mirai tiss so Stamatis Mirai TISS was a Greek War veteran who came to the United States in the 1940s with a combat mangled arm so they fixed his arm he wound up getting a job in manual labor and he married a Greek American woman settled down had kids and one day Stamatis was at work and he's getting really short of breath so he goes to see the doctor and the doctor tells him you have terminal lung cancer and basically tells him he's got nine months to live so they offered him aggressive treatment but they said it's really not going to extend your life very much and you know the side effects are going to be rough so stamatis decided well I only have nine months left I'd rather skip the treatment and I might as well save some money I don't have a whole lot of money I might as well save the money for my wife so he and his wife decided to move back to his native Korea a small island in Greece he figured he might as well you know be buried in the in the graveyard with his ancestors overlooking the Aegean Sea so they moved back to Acharya and they move in with stomata as parents and you know his word gets out friends here that he's back and they start coming and bringing bottles of wine and board games to play figures hey I'm Diane in nine months I might as well die happy so this goes on he he decides he's going to plant a garden you know he doesn't really expect that he's going to be around to harvest it but he thought it would be lovely for his wife to be able to pick some vegetables and think about him and he starts going back to the old church that he grew up in you know reconnected with his faith and with the people that he grew up with so one thing leads to another and actually the vegetables come to harvest and he's feeling well enough to harvest the vegetables so he decides he's going to start tending the untended vineyards on his parents property and he winds up making some wine well long story short that was 45 years ago and Stamatis my right has turned ninety eight years old on New Year's Day of this year so 25 years after his initial diagnosis he decides it's going to go back to the United States and track down his doctors to find out what happened and apparently they were all dead so stories like this made me really start to question what's going on here and the question that kept coming into my mind was can the mind really heal the body you know you hear about it sort of this new-age folklore and I had read some books about mind-body medicine and none of them seemed very well substantiated from a scientific perspective so I was curious I was intrigued I mean it's it's a it's a nice idea but you know again my skeptical brain sort of thinking that sounds like at best wishful thinking and at worst just good old-fashioned snake oil selling crackery but then I started investigating further you know is there any evidence that the mind can heal the body and and that's when I realized that the medical establishment has been proving that the mind can heal the body for over 50 years we call it the placebo effect right you guys well heard of the placebo effect it's this thing we kind of brushed under the carpet in Western medicine we know it's there we know that in clinical trials when you give people a sugar pill or a saline injection or most effectively a fake surgery 18 to 80 percent of them get better so they know they might be getting either the real treatment or you know or this fake treatment but they don't know which they're getting and neither does their doctor so on average is about thirty to thirty five percent of people get better and I certainly as a doctor you know I know about the placebo effect it's it's out there we're sort of taught about it but nobody really explains it what's happening when thirty to thirty five percent of people get better from getting a sugar pill so I started investigating the placebo effect I thought is it just in in their mind so they just feeling better but no it's physiologically measurable these people in these clinical trials they're bronchi are dilating their warts are disappearing their colons are becoming less inflamed there's measurable physiological things that are happening bald guys getting sugar pills in the Rogaine studies actually grew hair so it's not just in their minds it's something physiological happening in the body so it sort of led me down this rabbit hole of my own research of one question after another I found that the mind can not only heal the body the mind can harm the body so there's something called the nocebo effect which is you know the evil twin of the placebo effect those same clinical trials where 18 to 80 percent of people get better from taking a sugar pill we also have to warn those people when they're in those studies that of the side effects that they might get if they're getting a real drug right so we tell them here's the side effects well an equally high percentage of people actually get those side effects when they're not getting the drug they're getting the sugar pill so thinking that we might actually be at risk of these side effects actually makes people get these side effects and there's much more dramatic instances of things like that there's case studies all over the medical literature of people that were told that they were going to die in three months for example of a cancer diagnosis and then they died almost exactly three months to the date and on autopsy it turns out they don't have cancer so there's all kinds of studies out there showing that when we have negative beliefs about our health and many of us do many of us are programmed with negative beliefs about our health from an early age you know we have those Oh breast cancer runs in my family therefore I'm at risk of breast cancer thoughts or we have you know I'm always going to be battling my weight because my parents have always battled their weight or even just something simple like I can't heal myself I'm dependent on doctors to heal me so I actually when I was doing this research I have a seven-year-old and at the time my daughter was four and I was reading all the data showing that basically our subconscious minds get programmed by the time we're about six and that 90 to 95 percent of the time were operating from these beliefs of our subconscious mind that are often programmed into us by the time were six so I was noticing you know my husband when my daughter would get injured or when she'd get a cold or something you know he'd start pretending he's an ambulance and he's going around going whew we got to take Sienna to the kids factory we got to get her a new knee we've got to get her a new throat or whatever and I told my husband I was like we gotta stop doing that because we're programming our child to think that the solution is at the kids factory but she needs to go and that it's outside of her this ability to get well so we started reprogramming and we started telling her you know what we're going to put this bandaid on your knee so that you'll feel better while your body heals itself and I'm going to give you this cough syrup so that you're going to feel a little better while your body heals itself from this cold and now she's great I mean she's so programmed so people talk about being sick and she's like it's okay your body knows how to heal itself so I was reading about all of this and I'm researching all of this and I'm I'm I'm slowly getting kind of accustomed to the idea of like oh maybe the mind can heal the body there's so much research and it's all included in my book mind over medicine scientific proof that you can heal yourself so I was chronicling all of this as I was going but my skeptic brain really needed an explanation what's happening here how do we explain this I needed a physiologic explanation it's not magic it can't be magic right so I started researching what what explanations are out there of how the placebo effect works and what I found is that researchers believe that some combination of the positive belief that they're going to get well people are in this clinical trial they're going to get the new wonder drug or the new fancy surgery or whatever so so they believe that they're getting the real treatment and so they believe the real treatment is going to work so it's that combination of positive belief and and then there's also this element of the nurturing care of somebody in a white coat saying I believe this is going to help you and we've put a lot of meaning in that we've we're conditioned to believe that if somebody in a white coat says this is going to help you that it will so researchers believe that that combination of positive belief in the nurturing care of a health care provider leads to changes in the brain that are translated into the physiology of the body through a whole cascade of hormones all changes so let me explain this for you I'm going to give you a little neuroanatomy lesson first so there's this part of our brain called the amygdala and the amygdala is in the limbic brain so this is not your thinking rational logical forebrain it's the ancient lizard part of your primordial brain and the Migdal as primary job is to keep on the alert for danger so you have you guys seen those meerkats at the zoo little prairie dogs there's I love them there they're always sitting there and there's always the the meerkats sentry up on the mound kind of looking around to make sure that there's not a tiger on the loose and it's their job to signal to the whole community if something's coming you know so the amygdala I like to think of as it's sort of like that meerkat the the century up on the mound it's always trying to protect you so it's always on the lookout for danger and this is a good thing right because if there's a tiger on the loose then this is something that we need because what happens is if the amygdala sees that there's a tiger on the loose all of a sudden the amygdala can communicate with the hypothalamus which communicates with the pituitary gland that talks to the adrenal gland and all of a sudden the adrenal gland is spitting out cortisol and epinephrine so you're now in the middle of a fight-or-flight response right so Walter Canon at Harvard called this the stress response and it's it's there to protect you it's so that when you're in stress response and your life is in danger your heart rate goes up your blood pressure goes up you get blood flow to the large muscle group so you can outrun the tiger so this is here to protect you right but the problem is the amygdala is not smart so it can't tell the difference between there's a tiger on the loose then you're about to get eaten or nobody loves me or my family has a history of breast cancer and so I might get breast cancer or I hate my job or even something simple like somebody just spilled red wine on my white carpet as far as your amygdala is concerned all of those are equal threats so whenever you have a thought like that the amygdala starts this hormonal Kaskade and the body is full of cortisol and epinephrine now fortunately there's a there's an equal and opposite reaction called the relaxation response which is when the body is in the parasympathetic nervous system so the fight-or-flight is the sympathetic nervous system the parasympathetic nervous system is the homeostatic state of the nervous system so in the relaxation response all of those stress hormones go away and the body releases healing hormones like oxytocin dopamine nitric oxide and Dorff ins these are all hormones that help the body heal so here's the the one thing if you get only one thing from my talk today this is what I want you to hear the body is beautifully equipped with natural self-repair mechanisms we know this they teach us this in medical school it's in our physiology textbooks so we know that we all make cancer cells every day we fight the cancer cells our body knows how to do that you know we're all exposed to infectious agents all the time right but we fight the infectious agents they don't make a sick most of the time you know the body we have broken proteins the body knows how to fix things like that but here's what I didn't know until I started doing this research the body's natural self-repair mechanisms only operate when the body's in relaxation response so anytime your body's in stress response those mechanisms are disabled so that was a huge realization for me because we're only supposed to be in stress response you know in emergencies I was just driving to Munster Indiana last week to go speak to a bunch of a bunch of people at a Cancer Center and all of a sudden two tires on the left side of the car blew out and the car literally almost tipped over just something in the road got into the tires and all of a sudden I noticed myself in that stress response right because all of a sudden I gotta figure out how I'm going 65 on the highway I got to get this car off safely to the shoulder right so this is good my body is supposed to be in a stress response during that time so I'm I'm wrangling the car I've got cortisol and epinephrine like coursing through my veins I managed to get the car safely off to the side of the road now if I were an animal as soon as I'm safe my amygdala would say you're safe now and that stress hormone would go down you know the stress response would stop because those stress responses are only supposed to last about 90 seconds after the threat is gone but what starts happening right my brain suddenly starts going like oh no I'm still far from where I'm speaking and I suddenly now have two flat tires I'm going to miss my speech I'm going to disappoint the event planner I can't even where's my triple-a card it was my wallet was stolen I don't have my triple-a card this isn't even my car I'm driving my best friend's car these thoughts right we have these spiraling stress responses and I was really aware in the moment of like oh this is how it happens right and this is how it happens for most of us so on average we have about 50 stress responses per day and people who hate their jobs or they're in difficult relationships they probably have more like 100 and every time we have a stress response our body's natural self-healing capacities are disabled they don't work so this is how the placebo effect works when we have that positive belief that that we're getting the wonder drug and when it's delivered to us by a nurturing health care provider the amygdala is calmed down so before before the person comes into the clinical trial they're usually nervous and scared right their amygdala is firing you've got an illness things aren't right things are at risk you know the lumière cats up there but that combination of positive belief in the nurturing care of the right kind of health care provider can calm the amygdala down and all of a sudden the body is filled with those healing hormones and voila the body starts to heal itself even though all you're getting is a sugar pill so you know the next question that sort of was coming into my brain was well we're not all in clinical trials right should we all be going around popping sugar pills or is there some other way that we can do that that we can have that same sort of placebo effect in a way that we can maybe control so one of the things I was researching when I was looking at spontaneous remissions and patients who had had these kind of medical mysteries was was were these all just flukes you know was Stamatis my rightis just lucky or is there something that these people were doing was there something proactive that they were doing and I came across the research of dr. Kelly Turner who did her PhD thesis and she studied at Harvard in UC Berkeley and she did her thesis on people who had had spontaneous remissions from stage four cancers and she was interviewing these patients as well as the often alternative healthcare providers that had facilitated their healing journeys and she was trying to figure out was there something in common could she learn something from these people about how to heal ourselves and what she found is that there were six behaviors that these people had in common and only two of them were the sort of things that a forward-thinking doctor might have prescribed one of them was changing your diet to a more vegetable based often gluten-free sort of diet and the other was taking some sort of supplement that the patient believed was really going to help strengthen their immune system help fight off the cancer the other four things and they're all listed in mind over medicine the other four things were all things that were happening here they weren't medical treatments per se so that's when I started getting really curious like what could we do to flip on our body's natural self-repair mechanisms the way people in clinical trials have them flipped on when they're getting a placebo so I the whole second part of my book is about the research that I found showing that in order to be healthy we need more than just a healthy diet a healthy exercise regimen you know getting enough sleep taking your vitamins getting your pap smears or whatever right we need healthy relationships we need healthy professional lives we need a healthy spiritual life a healthy creative life a healthy sex life we need a healthy relationship with our money we need to live and work and healthy in Fireman we need to have healthy minds and this is why my patients in Marin were sick right I mean I love kale I'm I drink my green juice five green juices a day I'm a big fan of a healthy diet but the reality is that no amount of kale can counterbalance the poisonous effects of chronic repetitive stress responses in the body and all that cortisol and epinephrine which not only turns off the body's self-repair mechanisms it also poisons the heart it has all kinds of other negative effects on the body so I wanted to try to figure out how can I help people activate those natural self-repair mechanisms how can we have the benefit of the placebo effect without having to take a sugar pill so I came up with a new wellness model that I teach in mind over medicine it's based on something called a Karen you guys seen these I loved Karen's and they're all over San Francisco when you're when you're at the marina they're you know they're stacked along the water there and it's amazing because they're so simultaneously strong and fragile right I mean they can withstand waves crashing upon them and yet you get one of those stones out of balance and the whole thing falls apart so I created a wellness model based on this I call it the whole health cairn and it's based on all of the data that shows that every single one of these facets of your health is scientifically proven to affect the health of your body so for example people with strong sense of community they have half the rate of heart disease as people who are lonely and there's tons of research looking at relationships and health and there's a whole chapter in mind over medicine about that about the effects of loneliness on health so researchers concluded after looking at all of this data that alleviating your loneliness is more important for the health of your body than starting an exercise program or quitting smoking but when was the last time your doctor put a prescription that said alleviate your loneliness work stress is another huge thing that can trigger our stress responses and disable our natural self-repair mechanisms in Japan they even have a word for death by overwork it's called Karoshi and I include in mind over medicine all of the all of the data showing how much work stress affects our physical bodies financial stress same thing of so many people in this country worried about money and the amygdala cannot tell the difference between oh my goodness how am I going to pay my bills and there's a tiger on the loose so what I realized is that every stone in this whole health cairn can either trigger stress responses or it can trigger relaxation responses right so if you're in a loving nurturing relationship then that's going to fill your body with oxytocin dopamine nitric oxide endorphins these healing hormones because the amygdala is calmed down whereas if you're in a stressful relationship things aren't going well you're going to be triggering stress responses all the time so each one of these stones in the whole health cairn is essential to the health of our bodies so it led me to go back to my patients and and help them look at their lives and I started teaching my patients what I call the six steps to healing yourself and these are all step by step listed out in mind over medicine but based on what I learned essentially this is the six steps number one is you have to believe that it's possible it was huge for me when I realized that my illnesses were all illnesses that at least somebody had had a spontaneous remission from and I'm now down to half the dose of one of my seven medications having done this six step process for myself but it all had to start with me shifting my belief I had to believe that these weren't chronic incurable illnesses but that I could get better and you all have to do the same if there's any health conditions you're dealing with and I'm not even talking about necessarily a diagnosis it's for so many people there's this epidemic of just not really being sick but not being vital you know we've sort of settled for being well and I know I had so many of my patients in Marin were like this they come in and they just they feel tired you know they're they're having body aches or headaches or backaches they're lost their libido you know they're just not feeling their mood is kind of in the toilet not feeling vital so I started thinking of of health on sort of a spectrum there's like sick people right where they have a diagnosis they have abnormal laboratory tests they have abnormal vital signs but and then there's well people who in the medical establishment these are the people who you know they have normal blood tests they have normal vital signs but they still have this early feel great so these people are often very frustrated because they come to doctors thinking that we're going to have the solution and and we fail them very often because what they want to be is they want to be vital you know they want to feel just electric with energy like overflowing with life force and what I realized is this is how we become overflowing with life force we go through this process so step one is believe that it's possible that you could get well that you could be vital step two is finding the right support so it's what I found in the scientific data is that it's sort of a misnomer to say that you can heal yourself because the reality is the body can heal itself but the body more effectively heals itself with the support of someone else who believes that you can heal yourself with the right healer I'm now training doctors and other health care providers at the whole health Medicine Institute how to be that kind of healer because doctors can be both the placebo effect you know they can be that nurturing care that calms the amygdala that doctor that says you're not going to have to go through this alone I believe in you I know that you can get through this and and we're going to do it together that is very calming to the amygdala the the body's natural self-repair mechanisms are more likely to be optimized in that situation but the opposite is also true the doctor can be the nocebo so my mom recently she had a sore neck and she went to see the doctor and the doctor did an x-ray and found an abnormality on the x-ray and ordered an MRI and my mom asked why why the MRI and he said well because it's probably metastatic cancer and he turned around and walked out of the room without a single comforting word and you can imagine my mother who is a big fan of my work and has read mind over medicine and practices this in her own life my phone rings and my mom says my amygdala is freaking out because her doctor just said the C bomb you know without any other explanation that is exactly what the body doesn't need like if she had metastatic cancer he did the worst thing a doctor could do because he triggered her amygdala rather than being a calming influence so my mother being smart about this she said I need to I need to look at my whole health cairn right now and I need your help walking me through how am I going to get through the week because if I do have metastatic cancer I want to make sure my body's natural self-repair mechanisms are totally optimized right so my mom and I walked through all of these stones in her whole health cairn how can we activate relaxation responses in your body and how can we make sure to reduce any stress responses in your body this week and my mother wrote what I call writing the prescription and and she included all of these things that she was going to plan to do that week and she was religious about it Oh fortunately my mom went in to get her MRI and it turned out to be a schmorl's node it's this benign lesion that doesn't need any further treatment or follow-up but I told my mom this was a huge AHA to me because I realized we shouldn't have to wait for a metastatic cancer diagnosis everything that she put on that list I said mom you need to be doing this everyday right this is how you live to be 98 years old like Stamatis Meredith who is still healthy and vital to this day we can we can live to be 98 by figuring out how do we reduce stress responses in our bodies how do we increase relaxation responses in our bodies so step three is all about listening to your intuition to that part of you I call your inner pilot light which is the foundation stone of the whole healthcare this is your inner doctor this is the part of you that knows better than anybody how your body is going to heal itself so you know as doctors we like to think that I know your body better than you do you know ostensibly I went to school for 12 years and spent 10 years of medical practice becoming a body expert but the reality is you know your body better than anybody because nobody but you knows how you're going to be able to balance your whole healthcare and in this way so my agent my literary agent Michele Martin when she was the first person to read my book and she called me after reading it and she said listen you changed my life because she said honestly before I read your book I thought my body was none of my business she said I thought it was like my car you know my car breaks down I take it to the auto mechanic I expect the auto mechanic to fix it and hand it back to me perfectly fixed she said I was doing the same thing with my body she said but after reading your book I realized my body is my business because I am the gatekeeper of my mind and it is my responsibility to calm my amygdala and optimize my body's natural self healing mechanisms and that is that that step3 part of listening to your intuition is all about that it's about listening to that voice that knows the answer to the question what does my body need in order to heal so step four is all about diagnosing the underlying root causes of illness it's figuring out what is triggering your stress responses and which ways might you activate relaxation responses that you're not optimizing so in the book there's a whole series of questions that were some of the questions that I asked on my patient intake form that are really intended to help people identify what might be out of balance in my whole health cairn which stone is is toppling here which stone isn't at peak performance right now and how can I reduce those stress responses and increase those relaxation responses in my body so that my body's natural self-repair mechanisms are fully functional and step 5 is basically once you've done that it's writing the prescription for yourself so it's answering the question does my body need in order to heal and putting into place all of those steps that you've written for yourself so this takes a lot of courage because it's one thing to identify the issues when I was asking my patients what does your body need in order to heal and they were saying I need to divorce my husband I need to quit my job I need to sell my business you know that's one thing one woman said I need to move to Santa Fe I said of Santa Fe wife's benefit and she said I don't know but I have I have a vacation home in Santa Fe and every time I go there all of my symptoms completely go away so she was brave enough to actually leave her husband sell her business move to Santa Fe put her mom in a nursing home near her because her mom had been living with her and was triggering stress responses all the time she had always wanted to go to art school so she signed up for art school she had this whole new community of artist friends she started dating this new guy she called me three months later all her symptoms were gone so step five is about writing the prescription for yourself and then finding the courage to actually take action and to put into play what your intuition knows about what your body needs in order to be optimal in order to be completely vital in order to be exploding with life force so step six is is one of the hardest steps and it's the most spiritual step six is surrender so it's essentially there are people out there that have done all of this they have so much positive beliefs that they're going to get better they have the best healers they are listening to their intuition and doing everything they can to diagnose the root cause of what's triggering stress responses in their bodies they're writing the prescription for themselves they're being brave they're doing it all and they're still sick one of these is my good friend Chris Carr who I asked to write the foreword to this book because she's the best example I know of somebody who is a model patient Chris was in her early 30s when she was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer a type of cancer for which there is no treatment so basically her doctors said well do what you can to take care of your immune system and you know hopefully you'll get another years but they didn't think she'd live beyond that so Chris started changed her diet she started following this she calls it her crazy sexy diet she's the New York Times bestselling author of crazy sexy diet and crazy sexy kitchen as well as two other books and she made a documentary called crazy sexy cancer that was about her healing journey and Chris has done all of this she has the most balanced whole health cairn of Somebody Anybody I've met I mean I just had Chris come to film a DVD with me and we did an hour-long interview it's going to be part of the pledge special for the public television special that I'm doing and there's going to be a whole package of stuff that's part of the public television special she's really amazing and yet she still has stage 4 cancer so you know whenever we talk about these sorts of things it's easy for people to kind of make the leap to well I've done everything right I'm still sick I must be doing something wrong or I must have caused my illness in some way and I'm in no way suggesting that anybody who is sick has brought this upon themselves I'm in no way blaming or shaming or trying to guilt somebody about an illness it's not about that all that does is trigger more stress responses so step six is really important because we have to at some point accept that you know maybe maybe we're battling an illness because it's our wake-up call you know maybe the illness is something our souls chose to experience in this life so that we can learn what we're here on this earth to learn or maybe it's just bad luck but there's a difference between thinking that you're a helpless victim of an illness and recognizing that your body is your business so it's a fine line I was talking to one of my mentors dr. Christiane Northrup about this and I said how do I explain this to people without it sound like I'm blaming people for their illness she said listen we are responsible to our illness not for our illness Chris Carr says she participates with her illness in other words your body is your business and you have at least some power over whether or not your body is going to be optimally vital based on being the gatekeeper of your own so figuring these things out changed how I think about the whole establishment of Medicine and I'm on this mission now to heal healthcare to put the care back in health care and I realized that one of the biggest reasons that our healthcare system is broken is because we've we've forgotten we've forgotten about the body's innate ability to heal itself and we've gotten so invested in technology that we've actually lost touch with one of the most healing things that the body knows how to do and and I firmly believe that if every empowered patient and every conscious healthcare provider started adopting this way of thinking about health what I call whole health that it would change our entire system so I've been going around the country on this book tour speaking at two groups of patients and health care providers and really trying to make a shift in this way of how we think about these things because it all starts with you it all starts with one empowered patient one conscious healthcare provider trying to heal the rift that has come up I hear so many stories of that rift there are so many doctors and patients that have the sort of experience my mother just had with her doctor when in fact as healers it's our job to be the calming influence on the amygdala to remember the healing power of love to show up in support nurturing caring somehow I mean that it used to be that's pretty much all we had as doctors right we didn't have the technology that we have now we didn't have penicillin and vaccines and all these amazing pieces of technology that I'm not in any way suggesting that we ditch in fact I mean my husband cut two fingers off his left hand a a while back with a table saw and thank God for dr. Jonathan Jones who painstakingly spent eight hours in surgery with a microscope reattaching every artery nerve and bone in my husband's fingers so that he has ten fingers today like I'm sorry no amount of mind-body medicine would have done that so I'm not in any way suggesting we shouldn't optimize what Western medicine has to offer I'm just saying it's not enough we need to not stop there it's not enough just to take the medicine or even to eat a pristine diet and exercise regularly and take your vitamins that we have to we have to take the next step to figure out how to reduce our stress responses and increase our relaxation responses so that the body can do what it does best heal itself so I want to leave you with a quote this is from dr. Albert Schweitzer and he says the doctor he said hang on I gotta get this right and bad it quotes he says I want to tell you a little secret we doctors we do nothing we only help and empower the doctor within so I encourage you to be that doctor every one of you has the power to be the doctor within thank you very much another question the cortisol that happens when you're a stress I've off I've heard this a lot that whether it's the tiger or a deadline your body experiences it the same way right and I've also heard that it takes a long time for that cortisol to get back to a healthy state that it's you know it takes a second to spike but it can take 10 hours 12 hours a day to come down but I am NOT a doctor I don't like is this has this can you speak more to it it's like how do we know it's the same whether it's minor or a car crash that our bodies like interpreting it the same way right well cortisol isn't is an interesting beast because you know it fluctuates it's supposed to fluctuate throughout the day and so cortisol when we're actively in stress response the cortisol levels are going to go up but over time if we're chronically repetitively in stress response the adrenal glands can get depleted and so our cortisol levels can actually be low so so if you if you test in the moment cortisol levels for example might be high in the middle of a stress response but then if you're checking baseline cortisol levels in the morning on a regular day those cortisol levels might be low because you've essentially depleted your adrenal glands so it can be very it can be very hard to tell with something like a lab test how stressed the body is with regard to cortisol but what happens is that those stress responses kick off like you said the cortisol levels can go up but then over time as we're getting these like I was talking about when my car went on the side of the road we get these stress responses to kind of go one after the other so like I said it's supposed to only take 90 seconds so it's possible for those cortisol levels to go right back down but for most of us we have the ongoing monkey mind mental dialogue that follows a stressful event that leads us to continue that process so it's it very much depends on that but animals for example they're much more pure about this the stress happens they get themselves to safety and then their cortisol levels go right back down so it's possible we can do that so what I wound up doing for example when I was on the side of the road I was feeling like oh my goodness here's my body and stress response right like I was watching it like a movie it was very surreal because Here I am on the road on a book tour talking about this whole process and and now I'm living it twice this thing had just happened with my mom and I was noticing the stress response that was coming up of my mom potentially having metastatic cancer my dad died of metastatic cancer seven years ago so for both of us that was like a huge trauma kind of reopening that old wound and the way in which my mind was working around that like we don't have a diagnosis right there's no need to actually be scared yet and yet I was terrified about my mom's MRI because literally I had talked to the doctor and I said is there anything it could be other than metastatic cancer and he said no and so I was I was terrified and the same thing when I was on the side of the road right I'm noticing this tendency that we have to make up all these stories about things so I sat there and what I did when I when my car when I pulled my car off to the side of the road and I realized okay I'm safe now I no longer need to need to be in stress response I can I don't need to protect myself Thank You amygdala well done good job so I literally sat down and I and I did there's an exercise in the book based on Herbert Benson this Harvard doctor has done a lot of research on the relaxation response he wrote a wonderful book in the 70 is called the relaxation response so I I practiced his technique which is based on a type of transcendental meditation and it basically is this technique where where we can do it right now I'll give you the quick and dirty thirty second relaxation response if you close your eyes for just a minute and just focus on your breath and I want you to pick a one-word mantra something that resonates with you like one or peace or love I chose the word safe when I was on the side of the road and as you breathe I want you to just repeat that one word mantra on the exhale now you may notice other thoughts coming into your mind and that's alright just passively disregard the other thoughts as they come into your mind just notice that hello remembering our hello planning and just keep coming back to your breath to that one word mantra alright go ahead and open your eyes again so if you were in one of Herbert Benson's many many many research studies he would have had you do that process for ten to twenty minutes once or twice per day and it's been proven to aid in almost every single illness out there he's got the data clear it's that simple so I sat there on the side of the road and before I called my husband to find out what my triple-a number was before I call triple-a and before I called my best friend to tell her I just blown out two over tires I did a little ten-minute relaxation response because I knew even though it was going to take ten minutes away from me getting to my event that the only way I was going to show up really in service at that event is if I was calm so the rillette putting ourselves into the relaxation response can be that simple and it's any type of meditation works but it's not even it's not even that and Herbert Benson found you don't even need to close your eyes and be seated in order to do this you can repeat this one word mantra on the exhale while focusing on your breath and passively disregarding other thoughts that come into your mind you can do it while you're shopping you can do it while you're driving you can do it while you're making dinner and it's been scientifically proven he puts everybody you know in to monitors them monitors their blood levels scientifically proven to put you into relaxation response every time if you can quiet the mind and you can calm the amygdala in that way but there are some really easy fun ways to put yourself into relaxation response laughter is a great one Norman Cousins wrote the anatomy of an illness all about how he healed his ankylosing spondylitis by watching Marx Brothers movies sex another fun one so playing with animals the healing act of generosity that's when a lot of people don't think about I just saw a great news article about this guy Andy Mackey 71 years old he's had nine he's had nine heart surgeries and he was taking 15 medications for his heart that were giving him all kinds of terrible side effects so he finally went to his doctors and he said I gotta get off I got to get off these drugs making me miserable and they said well if you stop your medications you'll die within a year so he said well if I'm going to die within a year I might as well die going out doing something I've always wanted to do so he took the money that he was spending on those 15 medications and he bought 300 harmonicas and gave them away to kids in public schools complete with harmonica lessons from himself so a month later he was still alive so he took the same money and he bought 300 more harmonicas and it's now been 11 years and 16,000 harmonicas later and Andy Mackey is still alive given out harmonicas to kids so we can calm our amygdalas in a whole variety of ways and that's part of what you're going to want to write in the prescription for yourself is how can I add more relaxation responses to my life thanks thanks a lot for coming thank you all or out of time thank you

50 comments

  1. What about mental illnesses? How does one repair their brain when there is a documented chemical imbalance of neurotransmitters, to then use a healthy brain and healthy emotions to heal?

  2. My body needs rest from the fear and anxiety of my physical symptoms ( fatigue and flu like symptoms) but I have no idea how to break the cyle. Or maybe that's not true, I know what I need to do but I can't find the discipline and courage in me to do what I need to do.

  3. The doctor 😷 who said, "I don't heal I just connect you to the healer within, "is my kinda bedside manner

  4. No amount of kale can counteract the poisonous effects of cortisol and epinephrine in our body from repetitive stress response

  5. The true healing comes from GOD! Pray to our Father. Fear is your enemy! Put your diagnosis away. He wants everyone to be healthy and happy. We create health problems ourself not following our Father perfect law.

  6. Hi I found a spot where you can find lot of new yoga tips available on the internet. All you have to do is type: "MindYoga4U" in Google. It will be very helpful to you personally.

  7. A placebo effect is not an "effect," it's the absence of one. The talk is nice and talker is even nicer, but there's zero real evidence to support her claims as for real deep physiological changes for better or worse in one's body as a result of one's thoughts.

  8. This doctor is amazing as I been trying to say to people all of us are own doctor we now what is good for are selves

  9. So poor people are sick because they eat junk food and don't exercise, generalisation, well off people are neurotic, another generalisation . Poor people have the same emotional problems as well off people but well off people have more toys to play with.All people need love security social interaction and hope

  10. You come to such a high level of academic prowess you realize the thoughts of a child. Logic has its place but imagination is endless. If there is one place your mind has the most control over it is the place it is encased in; your body. The conscious and subconscious are like a ven diagram. There is significant crossover in the people who dictate their own biometrics. Wim Hof is probably one of the best.

  11. this is the same talk she did at her Ted talk, Saint Lissa finding the medical answers where all the other doctors can't, still the book sales a healthy

  12. I changed my mind about having spinal cancer. My excruciating pain and debilitating neuralgia dropped away and 4 weeks later, I'm fine.

  13. I heard that a red blood cell can be converted back to a stem cell by an electric current so small your mind can produce it. And I just made a mental connection between that and the Ebner effect……….hmmmmm….

  14. I believe in this "new" medical perspective, very interesting at least in Wester society we dont know so much about Ayurveda, its a very ancient model so similar with she said it.

  15. Wow I agree with her! Stress is so bad for us. I was under so much stress after becoming a mother. I've never felt that much anxiety and lack of control. Then a year later I get a cancer diagnosis at a young age. I know stress had everything to do with it. I really need to work on relaxation and finding things to do everyday that I enjoy.

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