The Science Behind the Mind Body Connection

Thursday, February 7, 2013

I knew that I wanted to include a wide variety of perspectives and information in the posts for Life is Sweet month, so it was really awesome when I got Josh Gitalis on board. In today's guest post, Josh talks about the connection between our minds and bodies and the molecules of emotion. 

The term “mind-body” is thrown around like a nut in a coffee-grinder. To many, this term is about as meaningful as the quadratic formula. In other words, it is hard to understand what mind-body is, unless you are familiar with how it works.

I’ve attempted to help you understand the connection between the mind and the body by outlining what happens on a physiological level (body) as a result of our thoughts (mind).

The nervous system can be divided into two parts. The voluntary (somatic) nervous system, which is responsible for allowing us to move our limbs; and the involuntary (autonomic) nervous system, which is responsible for the internal environment.
Because science has made this physiological differentiation, we commonly associate the “involuntary” processes of our body as detached from conscious mind.
This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Have you ever found yourself saying one of these phrases?
  • “I’ve got butterflies in my stomach"
  • “I had a gut feeling"
  • “My nerves are on edge"
  • “You are on my last nerve"
  • “I have a broken heart
  • “He/she’s a thorn in my side”

We say, or hear people say these phrases almost daily. What we don’t realize is that these feelings are actually associated with distinct biochemical changes in the body. Candace Pert, a world-renowned neuroscientist and pharmacologist, labelled these biochemicals the molecules of emotion.
Each biochemical reaction that takes place is either moving us towards health or away from health. We are never in a state of stagnation. It is interesting that negative thoughts rooted from fear, are associated with inflammation and tissue break-down (catabolism). While positive thoughts rooted in love, are associated with anti-inflammatory chemicals and tissue regeneration and repair.
The Scientific Evidence Behind The Mind-body Connection
·         Military personnel that undergo intensive training characterized by mental stress, sleep deprivation, and physical exertion are more prone to developing infectious disease, particularly cellulitis and pneumonia.(1)
·         Children who encounter the stress of moving places of habitation, develop allergies more often than those who remain in one location.(2)
·         Stress may promote the development of inflammatory bowel diseases by decreasing protective biological substances along the digestive tract.(3)
·         Emotional stress is associated with various microbes such as Candida, E. Coli,and H. Pylori “sticking” better to mucous membranes more easily.(4)
·         Mental-emational stress can increase levels of C-reactive protein, an indication of inflammation.(5)
The Take Away Message
No matter what condition a person is trying to address, it is imperative that stress reduction techniques are practiced. Even more important is to make stress-reduction a daily habit before you develop a disease or condition. Unfortunately, we weren’t taught these skills in school, so we have to learn them for ourselves.
  1. Anderzen I, Arnetz BB, Soderstrom T, Soderman E. Stress and sensitization in children: a controlled prospective psychophysiological study of children exposed to international relocation. J Psychosom Res. 1997 Sep;43(3):259-69.
  2. Collins SM. Stress and the Gastrointestinal Tract IV. Modulation of intestinal inflammation by stress: basic mechanisms and clinical relevance. Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol. 2001;280:G315-8.
  3. Bosch JA, de Geus EJ, Ligtenberg TJ, et al. Salivary MUC5B-mediated adherence (ex vivo) of Helicobacter pylori during acute stress. Psychosom Med. 2000 Jan-Feb;62(1):40-9.
  4. Yokoe T, Minoguchi K, Matsuo H, et al. Elevated levels of C-ractive protein and interleukin-6 in patients with obstructive sleep apnea syndrome are decreased by nasal continuous positive airway pressure. Circulation. 2003 Mar 4;107(8):1129-34.
  5. Kimata H. Listening to Mozart reduces allergic skin wheal responses and in vitro allergen-specific IgE production in atopic dermatitis patients with latex allergy. Behav Med. 2003 Spring;29(1):15-9.

Josh Gitalis, Clinical Nutritionist, is a recognized expert in the fields of clinical detoxification and therapeutic supplementation. He runs a Toronto-based, private practice, with a worldwide client base. As a leader in his field, Josh teaches Clinical Nutrition for several natural health colleges and is the first Canadian nutritionist to be accepted into the Institute of Functional Medicine where he is currently pursuing his certification as an Institute of Functional Medicine Certified Practitioner (IFMCP). Josh is a noted expert for various media outlets including CTV News and CityTV.

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