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Editorial Issue 25

by Sandra Goodman PhD(more info)

listed in editorial, originally published in issue 25 - February 1998

It seems the notion that having a positive attitude toward the therapy you are currently receiving will enhance its therapeutic effect has become a perceived truism. That is, being enthusiastic, believing that this particular therapeutic approach will work, will actually help to alleviate or correct your health problem. Whether this involves embarking upon an exclusion diet to discover allergies, acupuncture to relieve migraines, or meditation for stress reduction, the common wisdom states that embracing your treatment approach fully will help to bring about a positive outcome.

This notion seems not to be correct, as I recently reflected during a few quiet moments relaxing in my bath.

Some of my most intractable health problems throughout various times in my life have been overcome without any positive beliefs on my part at all. In fact, far from feeling optimistic, in some instances my thoughts ranged from vaguely neutral – "well, what harm can brown rice and vegetables do" to positively skeptical – "this tiny sugar pill can't really do anything". In some instances, when I was very young, I didn't even know what was happening to me or what treatment was being performed. Yet I can report that without any belief whatsoever: 1) adopting a macrobiotic diet and taking vitamin supplements reversed years of terrible pelvic pain which had been unsuccessfully treated using conventional medical drugs; 2) a single homoeopathic remedy stopped mid-cycle bleeding which had become progressively worse over months and had previously been medically investigated; and 3)antibiotics and an operation to remove part of my infected mastoid bone prevented me from dying from meningitis some 40 years ago.

Similarly, there have been occasions when I have had consultations with patients suffering from fairly intractable problems – eczema or fungal infections, have advised them to avoid certain foods and take certain nutritional supplements, but privately was skeptical of a positive outcome. Much to my surprise, some of these clients returned a week or two later, having discovered that strawberries were causing the eczema, or that zinc helped their fungal infection.

Conversely, there have been countless times when I have been absolutely certain that various therapies – acupuncture, homoeopathy, diet, cranial osteopathy – would work for my recurring bouts of allergis rhinitis, which have previously made my voice croaky. Most of these have been of little avail. I had all my amalgam dental fillings removed several years ago – again not out of conviction for this problem – and since then this problem has gradually diminished.

So being optimistic doesn't necessarily help and being skeptical doesn't necessarily impede healing.

Where does this leave the all-pervasive mind-body-spirit debate which is all the rage? Certainly it is well documented that the mind and emotions have profound effects upon many aspects of the body – upon the immune, circulatory, respiratory and neuroendocrine systems.

The statistics are there for all to examine that a major trauma – death of a loved one, divorce, loss of a job – is associated with increased risks of major health consequences. That so-called "negative" emotions – anger, fear – may have severe health repercussions. But some of these so-called "negative" emotions – denial, anger – when expressed and channelled – may play a role in increased survival from cancer.

Hence it is probably not wise to blame or beat up on ourselves regarding our thoughts and feelings, thinking that if we think or feel a certain way, it will get in the way of getting well. Neither, however, does it harm us to try to stay on an even keel.

Perhaps the wisest thing we can do at present is to observe these seemingly contradictory anomalies and admit that we just don't understand everything there is about the body and mind. And don't get too suckered into the positive thinking obsession – perhaps sometimes our thoughts get in the way of healing.


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About Sandra Goodman PhD

Sandra Goodman PhD, Co-founder and Editor of Positive Health, trained as a Molecular Biology scientist in Agricultural Biotechnology in Canada and the US, focusing upon health issues since the 1980s in the UK. Author of 4 books, including Nutrition and Cancer: State-of-the-Art, Vitamin C – The Master Nutrient, Germanium: The Health and Life Enhancer and numerous articles, Dr Goodman was the lead author of the Consensus Document Nutritional and LifeStyle Guidelines for People with Cancer and compiled the Cancer and Nutrition Database for the Bristol Cancer Help Centre in 1993. Dr Goodman is passionate about making available to all people, particularly those with cancer, clinical expertise in Nutrition and Complementary Therapies. Dr Goodman was recently featured as Doctor of the Fortnight in ThinkWellness360.

Dr Goodman and long-term partner Mike Howell seek individuals with vision, resources, and organization to continue and expand the Positive Health PH Online legacy beyond the first 30 years, with facilities for training, to fund alternative cancer research, and promote holistic organizations internationally. Read about Dr Goodman and purchase Nutrition and Cancer: State-of-the-Art.  She may be contacted privately for Research, Lectures and Editorial services via:   and

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