The placebo effect is a target of ridicule but studies show it has become increasingly effective in recent years, particularly in the United States, where drugs for pain, depression, anxiety sometimes barely outmatch placebos.
Fortunately, researchers have decided to study how and why the placebo effect works.
By embracing the mystery of the placebo effect, you can harness its powers to enhance your health protocol or better cope with your ailment.
What is the placebo effect?
Researchers give one group of subjects a new drug or procedure and a different group a sham, then compare the results. Neither group knows which treatment they received. In some studies, the placebo treatment works as well or even better than the real treatment.
1: Use belief to enhance placebo effect
A person’s beliefs and expectations play a profound role in how their body will respond to something. When subjects are told their pain will drop before receiving a placebo, it does. Likewise, when they are told they will experience more pain, they do, even though pain delivery was not increased.
Scans during these experiments show brain activity corresponds with the expected outcome, even though neither pain relief nor increased pain was delivered.
Scientists have also learned that positive expectations release endorphins and dopamine, the “reward” brain chemical. Endorphins dampen inflammation and both endorphins and dopamine help relieve pain.
Spend some time every day reaffirming why you’re on your health journey and the positive things you expect to gain from it. Visualize feeling and functioning better.
2: Receive care and attention to enhance placebo
Increased attention, concern, and care are also believed to be why the placebo effect has become much stronger in recent years. When people take part in these studies, they receive an increased level of interaction and care that positively impacts their health.
Seek out supportive care and nurturing during your health journey. This can be from a practitioner you work with, through body work appointments, or in the company of a support group or class. Include plenty of in-person social time as it is better for you than online socializing.
3: Develop a positivity and gratitude practice
Negativity is stressful and inflammatory. Doctors report that patients who are angry, don’t believe their treatment will work, or who are not supported by their friends and family in their healing journey may not experience optimal results.
However, the person who expects the best from their protocol, learns about their new diet and supplements, and enjoys working with their practitioner experiences less stress and inflammation and better results.
Take some time each day to think positive thoughts about your health journey and what it involves. Keep a daily or weekly gratitude journal and make sure to note your progress. These tips really do help your health!
Remember, it’s the placebo effect and not superstition
Although we’ve all heard miracle healing stories, it’s best not to pin your hopes on one. The placebo effect alone is estimated to work between 18 to 80 percent of the time, which is a wide spread to bank on.
Functional medicine is about creating new lifelong habits as much as it is about restoring function. By injecting the best the placebo effect has to offer into your daily diet and protocol, you are laying the groundwork for a lifetime of more positive outcomes.