Prayer and the Placebo

Prayer and the Placebo

© GLOW IMAGES Model used for illustrative purposes

by Don Ingwerson

When the subject of placebos enters into the conversation, what’s the perception? That the brain can fool the body? That doctors sometimes use it to convince the patient that a substance or pill will change the existing conditions of the body? Are there ethics guiding the use of placebos?Continue Reading

Time to Rethink Health Care?

© GLOW IMAGES Model used for illustrative purposes

© GLOW IMAGES Model used for illustrative purposes

by Don Ingwerson

Where to start when thinking about health? Everyday there seems to be a new twist on ways to gain the promise of better health or ways to overcome health problems – and many of these ideas seem logical, requiring only modest changes in lifestyle. But it’s easy to get hooked on a new fad, which is soon forgotten when a new idea comes knocking.Continue Reading

To Present a Clear View of Health Care Treatments, Prayer Should Be Included

To Present a Clear View of Health Care Treatments, Prayer Should be Included

© GLOW IMAGES Model used for illustrative purposes

by Don Ingwerson

I’ve found that prayer is crucial to everything I do and believe. So you can imagine how interested I’ve been to find prayer surveyed and reported as part of national studies on alternative and complementary therapies. A 2007 report indicated that 77% of the public used prayer in connection with their health and that prayer was among the 10 most common complementary and alternative (CAM) therapies.Continue Reading

Creating the Right Environment for Health

Creating the Right Environment for Health

© GLOW IMAGES Models used for illustrative purposes

by Don Ingwerson

Would practicing alternative medicine allow her to spend more time with patients and, thus, lead to an environment more conducive to healing?

This final question came from a young lawyer turned physician who, like me, attended a RAND Corporation meeting on alternative health care.Continue Reading

New Approaches in Health Care

New Approaches in Health Care

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by Don Ingwerson

In a professional meeting a while ago, I listened to a consultant talk about the effects of fear on the body. He asked each of us to hold a thermometer between the thumb and forefinger for a few minutes and then read their thermometer’s indicated temperature. After this initial reading, he guided us to think about something very stressful and fearful while holding the thermometer as before. After a few moments, he asked us to read the thermometer again. I found that my temperature reading had dropped 4 degrees!

The consultant explained that the body responds to situations where fear or tension is created by blood gathering around the heart in order to have the strength and energy to “push back” against the object creating that fear or stress. That leaves less blood circulating through the extremities of the body – so those areas become colder. It was a great exercise to see how one’s mind affects the functions of the body.

This demonstration would be referred to today as an example of mind-body connection. The mind-body connection has led to developing alternative therapies, which are rapidly being considered by the public as effective ways to maintain or improve health. Researchers studying these trends in health care are using terms such as alternative, integrative, or CAM (complementary and alternative medicine). Whatever the name, there is a growing interest on the part of the public to find effective ways to maintain their health.

Spirituality and prayer are also included among alternative approaches.

Professor David G. Myers shared data of just how important this topic has become to the public in “Spirituality and Faith”:

Of America’s 135 medical schools, 101 offered spirituality and health courses in 2005, up from 5 in 1992.

Since 1995, Harvard Medical School has annually attracted 1000 to 2000 health professionals to its Spirituality and Healing in Medicine conferences.

The National Prayer in Medicine Survey reports that:

Across multiple studies and polls, most Americans report that they believe in a higher power (90% – 96%). Therefore it is not surprising that the rates of prayer are also high among Americans. The World Values Survey data from 2006 report that 84% of Americans pray and other surveys report that out of those who pray, up to 81% pray a few times a month or more frequently. Among those who pray, the belief that prayers are answered is also high. The 2007 Pew Forum study reported that 80% of respondents reported that they had received answers to prayer and a second study by Magaletta reported that 44% of subjects described personal healing through prayer at least once. Clearly, spiritual beliefs and prayer are important among Americans.

For me personally, I have found turning to prayer a great help in resolving family, health, and professional needs for the past couple of decades.

These trends in health care are truly fascinating and the researchers who are reporting this expanding field are providing the public and professionals alike interesting information from which the public can make informed choices.

Article previously published December 11, 2011.

Health Care is More of What?

Health Care is More of What?

© GLOW IMAGES
Model used for illustrative purposes

by Don Ingwerson

Never before has society been so bombarded with the portrayal of health as a lucky break. Advertising is everywhere to convince us that it’s not normal to feel well.

No wonder a recent Pew study showed that 80% of adults who use the internet look for health information online. Sure, some people are satisfied with the care they’re receiving. But many are not. 100 million Americans say they live with a chronic health condition.

Naturally, health professionals are among those seeking various options to improve health and wellbeing. In 2007, researchers from UCLA and UC San Diego surveyed medical students across the nation, and found that 84% agreed conventional medicine would benefit by integrating more complementary and alternative medicine ideas and therapies. 99% agreed that a patient’s mental state influences his or her physical health, and 98% agreed that a patient’s treatment should take into consideration all aspects of his or her physical, mental, and spiritual health.

Some people feel that patients should consider only medicine proven to be effective in clinical trials. However, the 99% of medical students who agree that a patient’s mental state influences his or her physical health are onto something big, something that addresses the root of health concerns.

Not only are medical students investigating other options, but the public is searching for and trying new things. According to the NIH, adults in the U.S. spent $34 billion out-of-pocket in 2007 on non-conventional treatments and products.

In my own life, I’ve seen that the quality of my thought affects the quality of my health. Turning to a spiritual source improves health and wellness. A number of years ago when I first started teaching, I had a wart start to grow on my middle finger. It was located where I held the chalk or pencil to write. The area became painful and inflamed because I was continually using that hand to write while teaching. I tried holding the pencil or chalk in a different manner, but that just didn’t work for me. After awhile, the wart became larger and more ugly and my students began asking about it. I realized that I needed to do something about this condition. As was my usual practice, I prayed. After deep and sincere prayer for about a week, the wart fell off and I have never had a problem with warts since.

The Los Angeles Times published an article called “The X Factor of Healing,” in which the author addresses whether there is a spiritual factor that’s essential in healing. She cites studies that show no measurable link between a spiritual approach and better health, but she also points to some anecdotal evidence that some people found spiritual means to be a good option. It’s difficult to measure spirituality and wellness in a lab, but someone who’s experienced it knows how it feels.

People are searching for something more. Could it be that as both health professionals and the public continue to drill deeper into concepts of health and wellbeing as not split into various compartments of physical, mental, and spiritual elements, but as one whole, the “more” will crystallize?

Article first published in Blogcritics

Living a Longer and Better Life

Living a Longer and Better Life

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Models used for illustrative purposes

by Don Ingwerson

How would you answer these questions? Would you like to live longer; be more flexible, centered, balanced?

According to “Tap into the Power of Prayer,” those who pray are able to demonstrate the above qualities to a greater degree than those who don’t pray. The article reports a landmark study in the 1980’s that states, “…prayer was tested in heart patients in a large hospital. Half of the patients were prayed for; half were not. The results revealed a significant therapeutic effect from the prayer.

Even more interesting, distant or intercessory prayer worked without the knowledge of the recipient, reports Larry Dossey, M.D. in his book In Healing Words: The Power of Prayer and the Practice of Medicine.

Robert Hummer, a University of Texas sociologist and one of the authors of the landmark study stated, “It does seem that behavior is influenced by church or religious involvement that affects expectancy.” So if you’re interested in living longer, attend church regularly. Results from this study (involving 22,000 people over a nine-year period) showed that regular worshippers lived 10% longer than those who never attended religious services.

“When you include prayer in your daily life,” says Catholic and cardiologist Stephen Sinatra, MD, “You may become more open to life, more flexible, more centered. You may find it easier to resolve your problems and cope with stressful situations. Your relationships with others will deepen.”

These results, along with results from other studies, are of great interest to me – not because of the extrinsic values they support, but because these results are also identified with better health. These values do promote a quality of life that helps one to be physically independent and to make independent decisions about health.

The separation of mind, body, and spirit was not always the case in the history of medicine. But for whatever reason, science distanced itself from the wisdom of our ancestors, which included supportive approaches for healing. At present it appears that the whole person, including the spiritual, must be addressed in any quality health care system.

And according to an NIH study in 2002, of the ten alternative medicines studied, prayer was the one alternative used more often than any other.

Many religious leaders and medical professionals have indicated that prayer has a place in determining one’s health. One source that I’ve found very helpful is Mary Baker Eddy, who wrote Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. In these writings, she presents a clear pathway for prayer to influence one’s health, which leads to a longer life that is more flexible, centered, and balanced.

Article previously published  January 30, 2012 and first published on Blogcritics.