My training included 4 years of medical school, 3 years internal medicine residency, and 4 years in cardiology specialization. During all that time, the focus was on learning about drugs and procedures. What they didn’t teach me during my formal training was the power of inner healing – our ability to tap into internal forces for healing that were equal, if not greater, than the high-tech versions I had spent more than a decade learning about.
But why choose? Now, 30 years since my training ended, I’ve come to appreciate that the highest possibilities for health and healing come from harnessing the powerful internal forces paired with the best of high technology. As we enter the new year, I wanted to share a few examples that I believe make this point exceptionally well.
Irregular Heart Beat
Atrial fibrillation is a serious type of heartbeat irregularity that often does not respond well to potent and side-effect laden medication. When medicine fails, an ablation procedure is often recommended that stun the nerves that propagate the irregular beat. This invasive procedure has a high rate of early success, but recurrences are relatively frequent.
It turns out that after an ablation procedure the best protection against recurrent fibrillation is…..nutrition and lifestyle! A study that examined outcomes after an ablation procedure showed that those who adopted lifestyle changes (including modest weight loss, control of blood sugar and blood pressure, and better sleep) cut their risk of new heartbeat irregularities by 2/3 (see References). A beautiful example of integrative medicine-the best results from combining high and low tech!
The flu vaccine is far from a panacea, but apart from some basic hygiene, it’s the best protection there is against the flu. But did you know that you have the capacity to make the flu shot more effective? A fascinating study showed that a positive mood on the day of vaccination was a strong predictor of a brisk immunologic response against the flu measured up to 4 months later (see References). Mood is strong medicine.
Even the most potent antibiotics can’t fight infections without your help. Antibiotics help reduce the burden of bacteria, but it’s ultimately up to your body’s own defenses to finish the job. That’s why antibiotics don’t always work well in people with compromised immune systems. Antibiotics, like all medicine, are most effective when paired with our innate capacity for fighting infection.
A favorite study of mine is one where a group of people with heart disease were treated with all the guideline-based medicine but, in addition, half were also instructed to practice twice daily meditation. The result was a nearly 50% reduction in heart attacks and deaths among the meditators! The validity of this remarkable study is enhanced by its publication in one of the most widely respected journals in cardiology (see References).
When our health is in jeopardy, why not take advantage of the wonders of high-tech. But keep in mind that pills and procedures can only play a supporting role.
As we look to the new year, it’s a wonderful time to marvel at our body’s internal capacity for health and healing. In the coming year, I wish for you to develop and make full use of your vast inner resources for healing.