By Julia Gumm
?It’s all in your head.
That can be a really devastating thing to hear when you feel sick, especially from a loved one or a physician. After all, how can something you feel so viscerally- chronic pain, migraines, joint aches, even visible skin irritations- be all in your head? These symptoms are all over your body after all, and besides, it’s not like you wake up in the morning saying ??Gee, I wonder how awful I can will my headache to be today! Could I go for a cluster this time?! Let’s hope my liver can handle all the Excedrin I’m gonna hit it with! Go me!
When someone tells you your pain or illness is all in your head, it’s actually pretty insulting. There’s a ?just? implied in that sentence, right before or replacing the ?all,? spoken or not, and it minimizes the seriousness of your discomfort. At it’s best, it’s seems to be a suggestion steeped in the mystical. A possession of sorts?bad spirits have entered your soul through a portal of energetic weakness and are now wreaking havoc all over your body, pinching all the wrong nerves and sitting like a brick in your bloated belly. At it’s worst, you’re being called a neurotic basket case, a hypochondriac milking your misery for all that it’s worth. Either way, what you’re feeling isn’t “real” because the cause of it isn’t tangible or quantifiable in a way we comfortably understand.
Neither diagnosis is especially flattering, nor do they offer much in the way of hope for a recovery. The treatment is usually a chuck on the chin, a slap on the back, a suggestion to take a vacation and a well-meaning ‘snap out of it!”
See, the trouble with how we interpret ‘the words ?it’s all in your head? lies in the dim view we take of the brain and it’s capabilities. We think of it as a big grey lump of gobbledeegook, kinda buzzing along, keeping the involuntary functions going, following direct commands, daydreaming, and when utilized to it’s full potential, inventing marvels like the Shamwow.
We tend to think that our conscious intentions are the only operations being carried out by the control room. And who the hell would consciously order the brain to invent a headache or backache or something more extreme? What kind of nutcase masochists would we be to do that?
Interestingly, as a child, I suffered from a recurring illness. Doctors weren’t sure what it was, but my mother, the high priestess of healing, called it ?Schoolitis. And like Chicken Pox to Shingles, there is an adult version of this disease that is far more painful and difficult to beat- ?Workitis. I’ve experienced nausea, headache, cramps, sore throat, heartburn, hives, constipation, diarrhea, vomiting, panic attack, muscle aches, joint pain and extreme fatigue- all in anticipation of returning to school after a long weekend, or going to a job that I HATE, but have to go to anyway because, hey, we all got a mortgage.
So I had physical symptoms, honest to god sickness and pain, all brought on by just knowing I was on the eve of doing something that I didn’t want to do. That’s how powerful the brain is. How many of us do things in our daily lives that we don’t particularly enjoy? As a kid, it’s easy to understand the issue. School sucks and tomorrow is Monday and son of a gun, my tummy hurts. As an adult, we aren’t as aware of our true feelings. Our instinctual reactions are hidden beneath thick layers of sediment, things like duty, commitment, necessity, love, expectation, need to belong, etc.
But those feelings are still there. Just because you aren’t acknowledging them or feeding the data consciously to your nerves, they’re bound to bubble up somewhere. Perhaps as a pain in the neck. Or maybe you’ll become a tight ass. Sayings like these are interesting because they come from somewhere, you know. We didn’t just pull ?em out of our tight asses. People who are very tense or stressed often develop neck pain that radiates into the shoulders. I know I do. And according to massage therapists and energy medicine practitioners, folks who are unable to let go of themselves and be vulnerable in their lives, quite literally develop tight asses. Not the sexy kind, but the kind where you’re too uncomfortable to relax so you clench the hell out of your butt cheeks, conscious of it or not.
Tight ass can lead to other pelvic pain, as well as lower back pain. Trouble in the body doesn’t exist in a vacuum, you mess one thing up and it’s going to cause reactions up and down the line. So theoretically, you could be in a relationship that you’re not quite comfortable with and bam- you got yourself a walloping case of Tight Ass, which leads to back pain which leads to headache which leads to fatigue which leads to you sick in bed wondering what the hell the problem is. It happens. Your body is often telling you things that you aren’t consciously letting yourself know. It’s smart to listen.
There’s a whole host of these kooky old sayings that seem to have some actual root in corresponding bodily functions. The word ?gall? is defined as ?a cause or state of exasperation? or ‘something bitter to endure. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, a gallbladder attack or gallstones are caused by built up anger and resentments. Or perhaps, ?a state of exasperation.
Jealousy, an emotion connected to the liver in TCM, can cause one to be ?green with envy. The liver produces bile, which is of course, green. In Indian Ayurvedic medicine, the liver is the seat of ?Pitta,? one of the three ?Doshas? or temperaments. Envy is a Pitta emotion. See what I’m sayin??
Ah, this is all just a bunch of hocus-pocus, right? Well, I’m not so sure, and it’s something I intend to explore more deeply here. I think this subtle language of the body is a helpful place to look towards the next time you feel out of whack and go searching for answers. I have no doubt that there are elements to the function of the body that can’t be explained and cured by the very direct, mechanistic way modern medical science approaches healing. Just because a problem doesn’t show up in a blood test doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. I’m reminded of an old Star Trek episode where Spock’s tricorder picks up no life form reading, yet right in front of him, moves a living creature. Spock’s tricorder can only detect what it’s
programmed to understand. The life form he discovered was silicon based, not carbon based, so according to that piece of high-tech, 23rd century machinery (despite looking like it came from a bargain prop box in the 1960’s), that life form simply did not exist. (Bonus points to whoever can identify the name of the episode in question.) Likewise, if you expand your programming, if you become sensitive to signals the body is producing that aren’t showing up on the exam table, you will have a better chance of understanding what’s going on with yourself, and giving it the attention it needs.
If you feel like garbage and after ruling all else out, your doctor tells you it’s all in your head, don’t get insulted. See it as a clue. Perhaps there are feelings inside of you that you aren’t honoring and your body is giving you the heads up. So often we are encouraged to ‘suck it up? when it comes to discomfort. Like a cartoon boat springing a leak, you can try and plug it up all you want, but the pressure of the water will force it’s way in somehow or other. Headaches before seeing someone, bellyaching? about the job that’s giving you bellyaches, these are all clues that something is amiss. Instead of trying to squash your pain, try understanding the root. It takes bravery, but you might dig up some interesting stuff and feel much better for it.
I have houseworkitis. Last weekend we had a houseguest and the thought of the extra cleaning involved to get the house presentable brought on a migraine. plus when I get anxious like that I can’t eat, which leads to a whole host of other problems.
I know just how you feel, Melissa. In my case, it’s acute, chronic, incurable houseworkitis. And also paperworkitis – do you get that as well ?
and this is why the opposite of stress is happiness.
Voltaire – “The pursuit of pleasure must be the goal of every rational person. “
great article julia,i truly believe in this, personally, I’m constantly shocked at how my mind influences my perspective, ability in and view on certain situations.
That’s what my GP told me for years- she said all my symptoms were down to depression after basic blood panel came back clear. I knew she was wrong and after several years managed to get a referral to a musculoskeletal specialist who diagnosed me with a genetic collagen disorder which explains every one of my symptoms from gut problems to asthma to joint pain to fatigue and so on. She told me that I couldn’t have a joint condition because I could touch my toes. Greater than normal flexibility is a symptom of my condition! My opinion is, don’t give up too easily, note everything shows up on standard basic testing, and doctors can make mistakes too.
Absolutely true. There are truly physical conditions that don’t present in routine exams. I totally advocate ruling out ALL major possibilities. Getting a great diagnostic doc who is willing to dig is key.
My granny was a doctor and she used to say that the only part of medicine worth a damn was being able to give a proper diagnosis. It’s really the trickiest part. I’m so sick of all the guesswork that passes for diagnosis these days.
Me too! Great granny quote. I had one of these “all in your heads” a while back, and what was so shocking was that NO doctors were interested in doing any real looking. Until, strangely enough, the closest doctor to my house, who I never knew existed, came onto my radar and actually tested me for everyfrickinthing. And I turned up all whacky in the adrenals, which I do believe, started out “all in my head.” I just made it a lot worse by cutting out carbs. A good diagnostic doc is hard to find, but once you do, hold on!
I have always thought the ‘in your head’ diagnosis to be a doctor’s cop out.
Oh, yes. Once I had what I later knew was an identity crisis and I had the worst heartburn you can evern imagine (I couldn’t even talk because my throat was sore of all the acid) and doctors would only give me Omeprazol and all that crap, but in the first 20 minutes of talking to a psychologist my heartburn was completely gone.
Some years later it came back since I was trying to “manage” my anger (i.e. swallow it). Not to say that we all shouldn’t manage our anger, but mine was certainly an important message.
Georgina, I am experiencing exactly this! I also got the meds and am taking them but truly wish I could solve the issue! The meds are no miracle! I went to the health food store the other day to get ice cream and told the lady about my issue. She said that some kind on angst might be the culprit and said that problems with the voice are related to expression. I started crying like a baby, out of nowhere. I understand that dealing with underlying issues can help, but how in the world do you find out exactly what that issue is, if it’s kind of ‘unconscious’?!
Good question, Carmen…
From my experience, I can say that we already know what the issue is, but because something seems more important, we kind of cover it up.
For example, in my case, it was more important for me at that time to try not to have fights with my boyfriend than to expressing my anger and standing up for my rights.. Even though I wasn’t really aware, in the end I could tell. It became clear to me after writing a lot about what I felt, but talking to someone also helps. I’ve seen it’s not THAT unconscious.
I hope you get better soon, it’s really annoying to feel like that.
I think you’re right, Georgina. We bury our real feelings because they aren’t conducive to the goals we’ve placed or how we’ve decided we’re going to feel, or we ought to feel. You gave a perfect example. I wonder how many people in relationships have felt similarly.
That’s very well put. I think I will try writing my feelings. I feel angst under the surface, though I can guess what it may be, it would probably help to put words to it. I really appreciate you taking the time to answer me!
I was also wondering how long that reflux and sore throat lasted, before you talked to the psychologist. Had you tried anything else, or was it simply and uniquely the talking that helped? Did you feel some kind of physical relief you could describe?
I tried to relax today, my telling myself that I was safe, repeatedly. After a few minutes, I could literally feel tension ‘melting’ out of my muscles and I suddenly became warm and comfortable, a feeling I have probably never, or very rarely felt. I can’t way yet if doing this today had an effect on the relux, the drugs make it hard to tell. I am thinking about stopping them after 1 month.
Thoroughly enjoyed the article Julia, I love the old timey picture of the lady with the stuff in her head, I love Cher in Moonstruck and I love the Star Trek references! Everything you talked about really makes a lot of sense. For me personally, sudden onset of blinding migraines correlating with the onset of my crappy relationship… And the sudden disappearance of those migraines when the relationship ended two years later? Hmm Wonder why …. ;-)
Maybe that relationship was actually a parasite, and it really was all in your head? Do you have odd scars on your scalp? No. . .ok, sorry, I just watched Dr. Who on DVR and I have strangeness on the brain.
Elizabeth is my real life friend, and I met the guy in question. More slug than parasite, I’d say…:)
Brilliant article. Love it. I’ve had this loads. Going to a job I hate, I don’t only get sore throat and colds, but a stay in bed fever. In a relationship I want out of, I am actually in physical pain on the way to see her.
Once you realise the true source of the pain, it’s interesting to see that you can really fix if you deal with the root cause.
What happens when the root cause is something you can’t avoid?
It happens. Then you’re stuffed.
More seriously, you deal.
More, more seriously, you draw on the philosophical/spiritual resources that you have to help you to deal and find a path through it.
If you don’t have any of those then you’re super stuffed.
So true. Last night my arms and shoulders were SO TENSE. Unreally tense. Then I figured out why. Then I expressed it.Then they weren’t tense anymore.
“It’s all in your head!” despite not being able to walk, you must be depressed, here have some Effexor. That’s all I really want to do as it is not in my interests to get involved. The insurance companies pressured the government to redefine how people are allowed to be affected and treated so that they don’t have to pay out. Welcome to National Socialist Wales, a state where the insurance lobby made a lot of political donations to the party in power in a country with socialised medicine.
People really underestimate the power of the mind. I’m having some crappy morning sickness, and when my boyfriend and I argue I get instantly nauseous and often throw up. My sister died suddenly at age 7, and my mom developed colitis after. We accept that when we are nervous we often get a stomach ache, but people don’t seem to realize your brain can have effects throughout the whole body as well.
You’re so right. I’m sorry about your sister. I’ve been on a kick lately where I’ve been exploring really old graveyards, and I noticed that invariably, if a couple had a lot of children who died young (we’re talking 18th and 19th century), they too would die younger than their peers, by decades. Things wear on you. My mom died suddenly at 41, and it was very very hard on her father. He died less than a year later.
Julia, I’m reading the book Mind Over Medicine. Have you read it? I’m only on the third chapter, but so far its pretty awesome. We have tons of recorded spontaneous remission of disease as well as the nocebo effect.
It may turn out that just about everything is all in our heads. :-)
This is more true than many seem to realize.
There is a book I’m reading called The Last Best Cure. It talks about our brains being our cure and the key to what ails us. There is a link to Adverse Childhood Experiences and people with autoimmune diseases and chronic issues. It’s very interesting and the research connecting what happens to us in childhood and how it affects us as adults is truly amazing. Anyone with any chronic issues whose doctors have nothing left to help you with should read this. Eye-opening to say the least.
Great recommendations, Cody and Erica. I’ll check them both out. I believe that so much of who we are is a matter of conditioning, mental and physical. If you sit in front of a computer all day, your body will get really good at being inactive. If you grow up in a scary, uncertain environment, you’ll be really good at staying alert. Too alert, which leads to autoimmune diseases and chronic issues, like you mentioned. Hormones are basically drugs and if you essentially dose yourself with too much epinephrine or too little oxytocin, for example, you’re gonna have issues.
Hmm, I wonder if that could cause OCD. The two people I know with really violent fathers are both OCD. I am sure that’s the root cause but wasn’t sure why. Maybe it’s hyper-alertness to things.
I am a huge believer in the mind-body connection. And stress is the root cause of so many health problems, which is, of course, all mind-related.
That kind of reminds me of the fact that many with PTSD respond favorably to meditation where other treatments are not nearly as effective and often carry terrible side effects (such as weight gain.)
PTSD is fascinating. I think all of us who had sort of scary formative years suffer from it on some scale or other. High cortisol, low oxytocin…you’re basically programmed to respond to disaster, which runs the systems down after awhile. No doubt meditation can be helpful, anything to stop that constant low grade state of fight or flight. I’ve seen people do well with hypnosis, too. I really think that you can consciously decide to let go of the pain that brought you to that state, but it takes work.
I think one of the most egregious offenses being committed by the VA is putting all these soldiers coming back from war on SSRIs and benzos and sleeping pills, painkillers, etc. It’s so clear that what they need is real therapy to let go of all the trauma and pain, and giving meds that blunt their emotions can actually prevent them from really connecting with their feelings and working through them. Intensive therapy is more costly in the short-term, of course, but I cannot imagine what will become of their lives if they just bandage over the pain instead of dealing with it. And people wonder why the suicide rate has become so high in this population.
My Dad was in the military and recently retired. He has fibro, he’s hypothyroid and a whole bunch of other stuff.
Before he could retire from the Army, he had to stay at one of their hospitals to be drugged up and evaluated. He already had a small disability from the military. Their goal was to put him on LOTS of drugs short term, so they could “fix” him, evaluate him and give less disability. He was there for weeks. After he was done with it all, he was a wreck from all the prescription meds (and stress).
This happened a few years ago. He and my Mom have been slowly weaning him off as many meds as possible. The more meds he gets off of, the better he feels.
On another note…a few weeks ago, my Mom and I met a disabled vet who had been in the Desert and had experienced some horrific things. He’s on SSRIs and told us how hard his life has been with PTSD, Fibro, and so much more. He was the nicest guy ever and I felt so sad to see him having to wade through so many challenges. :( The U.S. military treats their people like poop.
I am sure I have seen people in my family not deal with childhood stuff and end up with dementia. Also grudges. I reckon holding a grudge for decades can lead to dementia. Just going on what ive seen in my own family. Jealousy is a big one for me. I struggle with that and I know it can lead to bitterness and probably illness.
On an aside, I need to ask a question and I don;t know where else to ask it. Does sugar deplete us of B vitamins?:?? I am reading Depression Free Naturally and it says that if you suffer from mood disturbances that you shouldn’t eat sugar. What does everyone make of this?? What would Matt say about this??? thanks
Ignore that nonsense. I followed the advice in that book and it did nothing for my depression. In fact, it made it worse.
Simple sugar will actually improve your mood. Of course it is best to have most of your simple sugar from fruit and milk because those foods provide nutrients that the body needs. Some of the B vitamins and minerals like potassium are necessary to help the body process sugar and processed sugar does not contain any micro-nutrients. Because of this, many anti-sugar people claim that sugar “robs” the body of nutrients and should be avoided.
Well, breathing “robs” the body of nutrients. Sexual activity “robs” the body of nutrients. Showering “robs” the body of nutrients. Even watching television uses up nutrients. So should we stop doing these things because they use up nutrients without providing any?
Sugar provides clean energy. Sugar is a macro-nutrient. Every single thing that enters our mouth does not have to be a micro-nutrient dense super food. We need very small amounts of micro-nutrients in order to be healthy. I know lots of people who don’t get anywhere near the RDA of micro nutrients ( they eat very few “healthy” foods) and they are healthier than the health nuts (like me, formerly) who follow the advice of people like Larson who recommend low sugar diets and tons of vitamin supplements.
I add sugar to my milk and fruit juice and I put honey on bread. There are more than enough nutrients in fruit juice and milk to process a few extra teaspoons of sugar. If you are eating enough healthy foods, don’t deprive yourself of sugar in whatever form you like it. Deprivation will definitely not help your depression.
A few weeks ago, I stopped adding extra sugar to my food and I am again having miserable night sweets which I had gotten rid of by eating sugar. Sugar lowers cortisol and is good for the adrenal glands. According to Ray Peat, night sweats are caused by high cortisol which can be lowered by sugar. Also, since I lowered my sugar intake, I have been feeling down and unmotivated. Trying to get lots of sugar from fruit or juice alone can be difficult because whole fruit is more difficult to digest and takes up room in the stomach, and milk and juice can provide too much liquid. So adding white sugar to my diet works for me.
By the way, Joan Larson has a book on defeating alcoholism naturally which I purchased for a friend. It did not help her and it made her feel worse.
You’re probably feeling down and unmotivated because you’re lacking the dopamine “stimulation” effect from sugar. It’s very common, I feel the same when I cut sugar. The answer is to get your stimulation from elsewhere – preferably from the world around you. If you google dopamine and sugar you’ll find some studies that talk about this connection.
Dopamine may be part of it.
I agree that stimulation from the world around me is important, but it cannot replace the energy that sugar provides. Just because sugar makes me feel good does not mean I have some type of addiction. Should I eat starches and fats that make me feel bad and then turn to stimulation from the world around me in order to counteract it? Having adequate energy actually motivates me to seek more enjoyment from the world around me.
I feel down without sugar because my body thrives on it much more than fat or starches. That is just my biology. I was so depressed and fatigued on Paleo and macrobiotic and starchy vegan diets. And I think that there are many people who do well on simple sugars, but for some reason, most people, including Matt, think that everyone must have starches in order to feel good and be healthy. Even people who feel bad eating starches are afraid to limit them or give them up. I just don’t get the benefits from lots of starch and saturated fat that Matt claims they provide. I am simply more energetic when I eat simple sugars than when I eat starches and fats.
But also, without added sugar, I often don’t get enough calories because I limit starches. I do well on well ripened fruit, but that is hard to find where i live. Most of the fruit I have access to are sour and still have a high starch content. I eat mostly fruit juice, milk, cheese and eggs with a little meat and liver a few times a month. The added sugar helps me to get enough calories without having to drink lots of liquid.
Also, I do a lot of intellectual work and sugar helps me to concentrate and be sharp. Starches and fats negatively affect my mind.
!st season Star Trek episode – ‘The Devil in the Dark’ – purported to be William Shatner’s favorite. Yes, I have the box set.
Great article, I agree. I suffer from similar ailments. My husband, who lets everything roll off, doesn’t seem to have any issues. He’s asleep in 2 minutes flat, while I toss and turn half the night. Of course the lack of sleep just adds to the problem.
LIZ! YOU ARE THE WINNER! Of my great esteem and appreciation…
Yes it is Shatner’s favorite! Not only in substance, but because his dad had died during filming, and he felt so supported by Leonard Nimoy during the production of it, emotionally and physically. It’s one of my favorites, too. I like the Horta.
There’s nothing worse than suffering from lack of sleep next to someone who conks out as soon as their head hits the pillow. You have my sympathies:)
And now for even greater sympathies, I shall include that he is also snoring, quite loudly, within those first 2 minutes :) Thank God for guest rooms.
I did not know his father passed during the filming of that episode. Thanks for the info. It is also my kids’ favorite (ages 11 and 13 – passing on my love for the original Star Trek :) ) They love the Horta, too.
The classics are the best! I grew up being forced into watching them and I still love ’em! Glad to hear you’re passing the torch on to your kids. The youngsters need to know Trek outside of this newfangled J.J Abrams stuff…
I find that sometimes it comes down to me worrying that I will forget the problem and thusly suffer because of it. If I write it down in my journal and then do a meditation I find sleep much easier because I know I won’t forget. Its not that I’m saying you are forgetful, its just that fear can keep a person agitated and awake needlessly.
Great post, Julia! I would challenge folks to take it one level deeper – your Mind is in every cell of your body, not only in your brain. When you jump scale out from the central nervous system then things like “psychosomatic illness”, spontaneous remission, placebo, etc. really makes sense and no longer seems like science fiction. Then there is the whole ecology of microflora that inhabit us and their agenda…
This article is so spot on. I’ve finally realised I’ve done about as much as I can with the physical stuff, and what is left really is how I feel about myself, about my life, about life in general. I’m finding it hard to deal with because it’s a bit more complicated than eat the food. And it’s hard work. And it’s painful. I don’t wanna cry!
It IS hard work. Facing yourself for real is no fun. But the only way out is through! Let it all out, girl! Cry! YOU CAN DO IT!
This is a great post, Julia! My mother (who a friend refers to as “the gypsy woman”) was really into alternative healing for a while and taught me at an early age to identify what’s wrong with my body and how it correlates to any emotional or mental disturbances. We have a friend who is a shaman that we see occasionally to round out the process… we’ll go to the doctor and get a diagnosis or some help when they have our best interests at heart, but it never stops there. Also, Carolyn Myss’s book Anatomy of the Spirit is an anecdotal guide to how the chakras, Kabbalah, and sacraments correspond to different parts of the body and its illnesses/healing. Sounds like woo-woo, but Myss is a great researcher and it’s a nice supplement to what’s going on here in terms of health.
It’s a core belief in homeopathy as well. Sometimes there will be a physical cause (like a bacterial disease), but more often there is an emotional imbalance that needs to be fixed, such as a childhood trauma, or a grief along the way that you’ve never bounced back from fully.
One way to reconcile the woo-woo element is: we know that trauma impacts our immune system. Is it really a stretch to imagine that specific ailments might be precipitated by specific traumas and how we respond to them? And that there might be some predictive capacity there?
Yeah man. I think it’s an obvious connection. But I’m kinda weird on homeopathy specifically, because I’m not keen on the ideer of remedies that have no actual substance to them. They just contain like, the spiritual imprint of the original substance that’s been diluted 200 times. How do you reconcile that, Real Amy? I was so pissed when I learned what homeopathy really is.
There’s no known mechanism for accupuncture either, but that is accepted now in the mainstream. Not everything works as the Western medicine model does (if you call that working). That doesn’t mean it’s not real. Just because we can’t detect the substance doesn’t mean it isn’t there either. There is research being done on the mechanism, but it’s not known. It’s thought to work somewhat on the nano-level.
Whatever the reason, it is real. When it works, you know it. Things get reversed really quickly. Such as, lifelong constipation clearing up overnight. Ovarian cysts disappearing. Female menstrual cycles regulating. Brain fog clearing. Over a rather short period of time, a change in mood disorders. If it’s the right remedy, that is. The wrong remedy will do nothing. Maybe I wouldn’t believe it if I hadn’t experienced it personally, but I have.
I can see the logic of acupuncture. Energy meridians, disturbances and blockages causing disruption in energy flow, pressure applied to relieve blockages. At the very least, little pin pricks could stimulate endorphin release. Homeopathy has never worked for me, and when I read up on what it actually is, I felt I understood why. Do you know that that Oscillococcinum stuff that’s sold as an expensive flu remedy is actually derived from duck heart and liver, from the very old belief and non-substantiated belief that flu was caused by bacteria also found in Long Island duck liver? And then the sugar pill it’s applied to is diluted something crazy like 200 times so that no duck liver is actually present on the pill? When asked if the product was safe, the CEO of Boiron (manufacturer of Oscillococcinum) said “Of course it’s safe, there’s nothing in it.” YET homeopathy remains popular here and super popular in France where this duck liver quackery is actually prescribed by physicians, so I hear!
Personally, the idea that the mere “imprint” of some long washed away substance like squid ink or duck liver could cure any real ailments strikes me as probably untrue. But, Arnica, a toxic substance at full strength is usually diluted about 30 times in homeopathic preparations. It seems to be safe and that it could have some efficacy in relieving bumps, bruises and arthritic pain.
I think there are probably some remedies that are more useful than others. But again, I don’t know. It could work for some. It’s great that it works for you. I’d never tell someone their healing wasn’t real and that their remedy was bogus. Just doesn’t look like much from where I’m seein’ it.
But then again, I just saw on PBS that all strains of the flu (though a virus) do in fact originate in bird GI tracts, so who knows. Maybe there’s something to it. People swear by the stuff.
Understand where you are coming from completely, Julia. And then people say it has worked for them like nothing else and… Hmmm… Who knows, maybe it is about the water. Have you seen Gerald Pollock’s findings regarding structured water? There’s a lot of hoopla (& no doubt quackery) now around “structured water”, but it remains… water *does* do some strange things, structurally, in response to environmental influences. Is it capable of growing a kind of opposing structure as a defense against contained solutes? Can this structure provide an antidote of sorts to the solute, even once there is effectively no solute left?…
Of course, I have no reason to believe this is the mechanism of homeopathy, just throwing it out as something that could happen behind the scenes that just wouldn’t occur to us. I am as much a fan of logic as the next guy, but sometimes the reason something seems impossible is just because we don’t understand enough about the mechanisms yet.
(Or, it could be a load of crapola. But I wouldn’t say that out of hand, especially out of respect for others who say it genuinely helped them!).
Yeah, I had a positive experience using homeopathy on a dog I lived with who had some serious allergy issues. Poor pup, she looked like a raccoon rubbing her face and eyes purple and raw on account of their itchiness. A vet prescribed a homeopathic treatment and the itching stopped within a day or two when all the Benadryl and oatmeal baths and vinegar and etc. failed to sustainably quell the irritation.
No idea what the mechanism is either, and it doesn’t seem to make sense in the standard model of chemical interactions and all that. But as Amy says, failure to understand the mechanism is no proof of inefficacy. We can be right for the wrong reasons, just as we can be wrong for the right reasons.
True. The idea that “like cures like” and that small amounts of something that could make a person sick could stimulate them to be well, that makes sense to me. It’s sort of like a vaccine in that way. But some of the modern preparations are SO diluted that nothing of the substance is even there, and according the the dude who fathered modern homeopathy in the 1700’s, the more diluted it is, the more potent! In my judgement, that requires too much of a leap of faith to believe. But I can only judge things based on what I know, and what I know ain’t much.
And there are precedents in conventional medicine for that principle, like vaccines or Ritalin, I think, which is a stimulant, but used to manage hyperactivity.
That is one of the harder concepts for me to wrap my head around as well, that successive dilution somehow concentrates the substance’s essence and enhances its potency. And yet practicing homeopaths observe that effect. Who knows?
The thing with stimulants is that they cause you to hyper focus, which is about the closest thing to “calm” a hyperactive person can pull off. I’m pretty sure I’d be diagnosed with ADHD, and I used to self-medicate with daytime cold medicine when I’d have to do something that required intent focus without fidgeting, like modeling for art classes. But for “normal” people, day time cold medicine gets ’em all wired. I used to drink coffee to help me sleep, too.
But I agree on the vaccine thing. It’s the same concept. There’s a homeopathic flu “vaccine” that a local chiropractor’s office sells, it has the same stuff on it that the real vaccine has and it’s diluted like, 9 times. People who take it never do seem to get the flu.
Actually, everyone hyper focuses on ritalin, not just supposed ADD people (I say supposed because testing is very subjective). If you give it to rats, they become “good” focused little rats doing repetitive tasks all day. There’s a reason lots of people take ADD drugs to do their work! It keeps everyone from sleeping well, even people diagnosed with ADD. And blunts appetite in everyone, too. Probably some are less affected, just like with coffee, but it’s a whole lot stronger than coffee!
Yeah, but something about being that focused makes actual ADHD types almost sleepy they’re so in the “zone.” I’ve seen non-ADHD people on Adderall who act like they had just done a few rails of coke. Going nuts cleaning and shit. There’s no way I’d be doing that. I’d be in like, meditative mode over in the corner. And stimulants do in fact make me sleepy. I had a good friend who was a major coke head and a probably the poster child for ADD, and he used it to “unwind.” HA!
Apparently, it’s got a lot to do with dopamine uptake. And there are interesting connections between ADHD and Fibromyalgia that make me think Fibromyalgia is a dopamine thing.
I was diagnosed with ADD as a teenager. I am extremely sensitive to stimulants like coffee. It may well have been a crap diagnosis, but just saying.
I personally don’t think ADD/ADHD is a real live disorder. I think it’s simply a different modus operandi that doesn’t quite jive with the expectations of society. “Hunters in a farmers world”, an idea coined by Thom Hartmann sounds about right to me.
I also think that anyone who is bored with their environment, yet intelligent and energetic, could be classified as having this “disorder.” Throwing stimulants at it can make anyone feel more energized and confident, and can create an artificial feeling of reward for the brain to bathe in while doing crap like tedious homework and living what once was a depressing life. And then maybe they keep you up all night. But it is commonly accepted that true “sufferers” of ADD/ADHD have a curious reverse reaction to stimulants. It may be that part of the anxious, energized state they’re usually in has something to do with being so bored and unable to focus, that having a stimulant in them allowing them to focus is enough to calm ’em down. I know stimulants have the exact same effect on me as sitting down and watching a really interesting documentary that fully absorbs me.
That’s exactly what the stimulants are designed to do. Make people very focused on tedious tasks. They do it to everyone, not just ADD people. If you take a high dose, you will get hyper (they are amphetamines). And yes, if you are naturally more hyper, they may seem to calm you down at the low doses – because they help you to focus for once. They do this same thing to rats, though, which are obviously not ADHD. And even ADHD kids who are seemingly calmed by them still have low appetite, trouble sleeping.
What I am saying is, even though doctors like to claim that ADHD kids have a different response, the evidence does not actually reflect this.
In my case I was acting out because I had a horrible family life, and I did have a ton of energy and got bored easily. I’m sure ritalin would have changed some of that. I don’t think that means it would have been a good thing to take.
Here is an interesting piece on it:
Ah. Who’s to say that rats don’t have ADHD? That’s kinda interesting. Put a rat in normal society. Make them sit still and focus on a bunch of crap they don’t care about. Make them be quiet and follow the rules and not go by their instincts. Sounds like a recipe for an epidemic of rat ADHD!
I read the piece you linked to, and I don’t think the science is totally in on it. I read something recently by some neurologist who said that ADHD folks actually have some kind of reverse dopamine uptake process going on in their brains, and that amphetamines aren’t effective because they prevent reuptake, but because they reverse the flow of uptake in the synapses. Or something like that. If I find it, I’ll post it.
And sure, stimulants make everyone hyperfocus. But what that means to a person and how it effects their sober state of mind will vary depending on their baseline mood. I’m tellin’ you, I would do nude art modeling for college classes- not the most relaxing, easy thing to do. If I took Sudafed or Dayquil (before they changed the ingredients) I would literally fall asleep mid-pose, with a bunch of people staring at me. Drooling on myself. And daytime cold meds, if taken not right before bed, would ensure I slept well. Wild. There are a lot of people out there who feel similarly. But that’s not to say a lot of kids who are prescribed this stuff don’t lose sleep over it. That just tells me that if there is indeed a different mechanism going on in the brains of people with ADHD, then there are a lot of kids who are being misdiagnosed. And it’s no secret that ADHD is an overdiagnosed “disease.”
Oh hell no, I don’t think taking Ritalin is the cure. I think modifying your life to fit you better is the cure. Btu sometimes drugs can help.
Another thing, driving is my absolute favorite thing to do because I can actually think while I do it. Sitting in a quiet house makes me insane, but if I go driving and can look at things in motion and focus on manuevering through traffic, my head opens up and I can focus on anything at length. I wish I could just dictate to some voice recorder thing to write these posts while driving, because sitting still in front of a computer in the house long enough to get one of ’em done just about splits my brain open. But I think a lot of people can relate to that, to varying degrees. I think ADD is probably just an extreme state of something very natural.
Actually no, drugs do not help in anything other than the immediate short-term. Wishful thinking among many, but has never played out in the research.
Well I hope you’re not “actually no-ing” me because I said nothing about drugs helping out long term. I said that that drugs are not a cure but sometimes they can help. They can help mitigate symptoms, they can help you get through difficulties, they, like all substances such as herbs and food, have a temporary effect on how the mechanics work. Like for instance, drugs helped me be able to sit still and not give into my fidgetiness while holding half hour long naked poses. And benzodiazapines have helped me to not have a full blown panic attack. And antibiotics have helped me to not have a bladder infection spread to my kidneys. That’s not a statement for or against the use of drugs, that’s just a statement of fact. But I would never and have never advocated for the use of drugs to “solve” mental health “problems.” I’ve felt that way since I was old enough to have an opinion on the matter. But in a controlled, targeted way, drugs can be useful.
Take whatever drugs you want. It’s a free country, I honestly don’t care. Just trying to clear up misnomers a lot of people have about ADD stimulants. My brother got damaged by them because he was too young to say no like I did, so I have a strong opinion on them. Seen a lot of damage from pharmaceuticals in my family, and from psychotropics in particular.
I’m not asking for clearance to take drugs. I’m agreeing with you that they are not cures. I also agree that they can have far reaching consequences when viewed as the answer for mental health issues. All I’m pointing out to you, and anyone else who is reading this, is that drugs are powerful substances and when respected properly, have a time and a place. Just like Kava Kava, Chips Ahoy and a cold beer. And just because you have anecdotal experiences showing that stimulants keep people up all night, that does not disprove the widely understood reality that a lot of folks with these ADHD type personalities do not experience that. They experience the reverse.
I respect that you’ve had a personal experience that informs your opinion on the subject, and it’s obvious that you have a lot of emotion tied to it. But I don’t think I’m disputing what you’re saying. Sure, stimulants don’t make everyone diagnosed with ADD sleepy, sure they’re not a cure and sure, pharmaceuticals have the power to harm more than they heal. So does Kava Kava, Chips Ahoy and cold, wonderful beer. But used in the right settings and without the idea that they are substances to be taken daily for life, they can be tremendously useful. Even enjoyable!
In the case of ADD, I think actual real life stimulation a better way to cope, like how I go for drives. Or doodling, listening to music, whatever. I think the ADD personality requires excitement and it should be able to go get it. Learning the art of sitting still is important, too. But it has to be because you want to, not because others want you to.
Alright. I am not sharing anecdotal experiences however, I am sharing what scientific research has shown. My anecdotal experiences are a whole other story. Its just what pushed me to look into the science further.
But there’s a lot of evidence that shows people do feel sleepy and sedated on stimulants. It clearly varies from person to person. You said stimulants keep everyone from sleeping. Just not true. That’s all. Just because you’ve got a study showing that it isn’t that way, doesn’t mean it can’t be or isn’t. Show me the study proving the positive effects of homeopathy you are convinced of.
Julia, YOU show me this research. So far, all you’ve done is share how things affect you. I didn’t say everyone has sleeping issues on stimulants. They don’t. But the rates of side effects like trouble sleeping and low appetite are the same for ADD and non-ADD kids.
I’m not saying they don’t affect you this way, but it doesn’t mean that can be generalized to the larger population of ADD-sufferers. I dated someone legit ADHD, and you would have known it if you met him. He did not take meds, but he certainly got more hyper from coffee. It’s more likely that you get sleepy from coffee because of adrenal issues than ADD.
The point is the drugs have the same effect on ADD and non-ADD people (which can vary by the individual). This IS what the science shows, as the expert in the NYT article outlined.
I cannot show a study about homeopathy showing all the things that happened to me. It’s individual and no such study has done. I can post studies showing efficacy, like the following for starters:
I know, it’s totally crazy-sounding. But it works. So who cares if it sounds crazy. Sometimes technology precedes understanding.
The thing is, there is not “nothing” in the homeopathy. It’s just not the substance as it exists in larger quantities, and we can’t detect it. It is probably energy-related somehow, if not the nano-particle idea, but no one knows.
The really tricky thing is, the remedy for the “same” problem (such as arthritis) can be totally different for different people. It’s very individual. And if you take the wrong remedy, it will do nothing, and you will say homeopathy didn’t work for you. Get the right remedy, and things really happen. This is why a really good homeopath is necessary.
I’ll take your word for it. You’ve obviously had good luck with it.
Caroline Myss is really interesting, I have read her stuff. I’m thinking of doing a post on her ideas on “woundology” that she describes in her book “Why People Don’t Heal And How They Can.”
Maybe of interest too for your further research on this subject:
Thank you for your article!
I completely agree with this. Any form of stress in the body, putting it in a tense state, hyper-aware, of fear I am positive can affect the way your body functions. I surely am one of those people who constantly have a repressed angst. I have dealth with larger issues over the past years but some degree of angst and fear always remains, even though I am happy. I am often happy, but generally feel bittersweet, if that makes sense. I was wondering if anyone here has stories of advice on how you managed to deal with something that was bothering you. I could put a label on that angst by thinking of some feelings or events in my life that could have affected me, but what then? What’s in the past is in the past, and I don’t want to focus on it, but would love to find peace of mind.
I have a few insights on this…
1. I had a job I hated so much…my manager was of all things the old neighborhood bully growing up. While he was no longer a physcial bully he was a mental one and made my life hell for a year before I found a new job. I would pull into the lot and feel so sick…like getting punched in the stomach. Sometimes I couldn’t physically move to get out of the car. It’s no coincidence that I also gained a lot of weight during that year. On days he was out or sick it was like hitting the lottery.
2. Last year I had this issue where it hurt like a mofo to pee. Like bad pain. Of course, everyone thinks you have an STD…as did my doctor even though I told him it was not possible. So over a week I was tested for everything…STD”s, prostate issues, everything. Nothing every time. I was on a few antibiotics as well. Also, no kidney stones or anything. Finally they give me a cystosopy(?)…which is every guys nightmare…they numbe the penis from the inside then insert a probe into your penis and puncture the bladder. I was not looking forward to it…my wife called me a wimp…HAHA. ANYWAY, long story short durng the procedure they found nothing wrong. Once the doctor said that and I could see it myself, the pain went away never to return. I have NO IDEA why I mentally created this issue but I did for some reason and once I had proof I was fine the pain stopped immediately.
The power of the mind… :)
Meant to say…Chief has an older article about stress…worth a read with this article!
Were you “pissed off” at anyone in particular during your time with urinary pain? Our symptoms can have powerful symbolism… think about it!
HA…not that I can recall. Good one. :)
“they numbe the penis from the inside then insert a probe into your penis and puncture the bladder.”
I’m still “Turtle-ing” after read that :O
Of course the doctor was a total smokeshow to boot. :) Yeah they basically hold your penis and inject a gel from the top to the bottom…doesn’t hurt but feel so odd since you are use things going out and not in. The actual procedure is painless except when tney puncture the bladder…that stings for a few seconds. If anyone cares to know the inside of a bladder looks like the surface of the moon. :)
There’s a great book on this subject by Dr. Gabor Mate called “When the body says no.”
He’s a great author and doctor and I highly recommend his work.
Before I was married, I worked as a school bus driver. My job wasn’t very stressful at all. I worked part time, got paid a decent amount of money, went to school in between taking kids to school and picking them up and had fun hiking in the mountains during down time.
Even though it wasn’t stressful, when I started to feel tired and run down, I’d call in “sick” (I justified it by calling it my “mental health” days) and take the day off. Then, I’d sleep in and spend the rest of the day doing whatever I wanted. It always made me feel better and have more energy.
I think there IS a strong connection between the mind and the body. I am living proof. My body reacts adversely to maladies in my life. And I have years of BS to recover from (as well as current stuff)…sigh. :(
Just the other day, I worked too hard in the front yard, then took the kids to a few busy stores (on a Saturday) and they were naughty. The next day, I got socked with a HUGE migraine, accompanied by nausea and throwing up.
Psychiatry is an excellent stop-gap to deal with the psychological patterns that we don’t yet understand the physiological underpinnings of. Unfortunately doctors find its untestable hypothesising far more convenient at getting rid of patients than actual medicine, thus it has gotten a little out of hand. I remain hopeful that science will straighten things out in due course. Metabolism ftw.
this is a really great article Julia, i want to forward this to my family, what a great topic.
a few years ago i had a job i hated in an office full of the bitchiest girls in Chelsea (england), i was an emotional wreck inside and dreaded going to work in the morning. in the end walked out on the job while screaming at two of the girls, it was the last straw, but miraculously i was cured of this crippling pain in my legs that i had been suffering from for 6 months! i couldn’t walk for more than 6 months without a stick and in extreme agony, literally crawling from my dad’s car to the house. but after x-rays and tests doctors couldn’t find anything wrong with me and it became so bad i was considering a future in a wheelchair, i was booked in for therapy with a physiotherapist to try and fix this phantom malady. the office girls thought i was faking it of course and would say sarcastic comments about it. anyway, the pain literally vanished overnight when i walked out of that job, my family could not believe it, i could even run if i wanted to, and i’ve never (touch wood) had that pain since. i lost a very generous salary (and i’m still unemployed) but i gained my health and sanity back.
Loving all your posts Julia! I started with the one you wrote about adrenal fatigue because that’s what I’m going through and have been slowing reading all your posts here. I first became really aware of the mind/body connection from life coach Abigail Steidley, who recovered from her own chronic pain syndrome using the mind/body approach.
Honestly, I believe my adrenal issues stem from some of my earlier thoughts and beliefs. I come from a family of hard workers. I have always prided myself in working hard, but in my last job I took it to a whole new level. I was working 60-80 hours/week to please my bosses and try to win their approval. I was unbelievably stressed all the time. I dreaded waking up in the morning, but also couldn’t sleep. The warning signs were there in a whole host of physical issues, but I ignored them. My inner voice kept saying, “I don’t want to do this anymore,” but I ignored that too believing I HAD to work that hard. After two years of that I was finally laid off (thank god!). But I am left trying to recover from all the harm I did in not listening to my body in the first place.
It’s a hard lesson, but I am so excited to see you and others talking about it. Thank you!