The Placebo Response: How You Can Release the Body's Inner Pharmacy for Better Health

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9780060932978: The Placebo Response: How You Can Release the Body's Inner Pharmacy for Better Health

The brain can heal the body: that's the remarkable truth behind the body's placebo response. As one of the nation's foremost authorities on the mysterious connection between mind and body, Dr. Howard Brody introduces a radical new understanding of this phenomenon -- and how it can be used to foster good health.  The body, says Brody, has an "inner pharmacy" that the brain taps into, according to what we anticipate, how we are conditioned by experience, and how we interpret events.  Consider the following:In one study, people with allergies showed no response when exposed to the irritant, when they were first convinced it was somethingSham surgery has sometimes produced lasting results, indistinguishable from the results of real operations.Patients recover faster from surgery when they have window views of trees or grass, rather than brick walls.

But the placebo response is more than an astonishing medical fact -- it can be put to practical use.  The Placebo Response gives you access to a new kind of alternative medicine, one proven by science and found within your own body.

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Review:

Could a tiny sugar pill actually hold the secret to a miracle cure? In his well-researched new book, Dr. Howard Brody, a family practice physician and university professor, brings forward an intriguing, and provocative, premise about the healing effect of placebos, the much-maligned fake cure of popular lore. Brody asserts that while placebos themselves have no medical value, time and again real illnesses and pain have been diminished by their use.

According to Brody, the placebo phenomenon--which he pronounces mysterious and unknowable at its very heart--is when the convergence of healing signals, assigned meaning, and human expectations stimulates the body's inner healing power. The patient's positive mental and emotional reaction to a medical intervention releases what Brody terms the "inner pharmacy." In other words, even though the treatment is benign, the body's biochemical pathways are stimulated to induce healing in the same manner actual medicines do. "Could harboring hope, faith, or expectation be genuinely potent factors in the healing process?" Brody asks, "I believe they are. In fact, I see them as the heart and soul of the placebo response."

In this lucid, easy-to-follow book, Brody lays the foundation for his argument by reviewing the history of placebo use as well as the results of several major studies. He takes ample time up front to explore a variety of theories about why placebos work, who responds to them, and the role of the medical provider in the process. The later half of the book is devoted to guiding individuals who wish to release their own internal healing power. One of Brody's primary contentions is that patients are not inert objects in this process: they must take control of their own health before the healing response can be unleashed.

Is the public's rising confidence in the effectiveness of alternative medicine partially a result of the placebo effect? According to Brody, the more personal, caring treatment offered by alternative providers could be more effective in releasing the placebo response in patients who do not respond well to conventional medical approaches. His premise: the tenor of the healing message as well as the carrier of that message are key to stimulating--or shutting down--the inner pharmacy. A provider who does not believe in the patient's ability to heal can inadvertently cause the opposite reaction--the "nocebo effect." If a patient expects to get worse, they often do just that.

While Brody's holistic approach, as well as his advocacy of a strong patient-provider partnership, are not new ideas, this wise, compassionate book thoroughly explores yet another angle of the mind's fascinating ability to induce true healing. --Marianne Painter

About the Author:

Howard Brody, M.D., Ph.D., is a professor of family practice and philosophy and director of the Center for Ethics and Humanities in the Life Sciences at Michigan State University. He is the author of Placebos and the Philosophy of Medicine, The Healer's Power, Stories of Sickness, and Ethical Decisions in Medicine. Dr. Brody resides in Holt, Michigan, with his wife, Daralyn, and their children, Sheila and Mark.

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