Body, mind, and spirit are all interconnected. If you are stressed or angry and feel it in your physical body, you may already know that. However, how emotional health plays a role in physical health, how the environment harms physical health, and spiritual health affects physical health, etc., is not well-known. Do you know our healthcare is based on dualism? I explain what that is and why the concept of dualism is a HUGE flaw in our healthcare!
With modern medicine, there is a huge focus on the physical aspects of a person’s health issue. Very little importance is given to the rest of a person’s health: mental, emotional, spiritual, and environmental aspects of health. Even in alternative medicine, many treatments focus on just physical health or just mental health. However, some physicians take into account all of the above, but it is very rare. Many focus on what they specialize in.
This might not feel relevant to you, but it is SUPER important for not only preventative health but also a future illness that may arise.
Dualism (Separation of Mind & Body)
Here is some history with regards to this…
In ancient times there was no separation of mind, body, soul, and self. All these things, plus the environment were taken into consideration when addressing a person’s health problems. In the 1600s, Rene Descartes (philosopher, mathematician, and scientist) believed in protecting the spirit from science. So he created the separation of mind from body. Apparently, he believed the mind and body were truly two separate things, and it wasn’t possible for them to exist in unity. This concept is called mind and body dualism. Dualism is still how medicine works today!
The philosophical dualism concepts are so strongly ingrained in both patients and practitioners alike, that many people will disregard even the most realistic viewpoint on non-biological explanations for illnesses. Keep this in mind as I talk about how illness is rarely just physical!
When Illness is Physical & When it is WAY MORE
What I mean by physical problems is health issues the foods you eat, smoking, a genetic abnormality, or obesity. Although, why you make poor food choices, smoke, or are overweight might tie into unhealthy behaviors due to mental/emotional pain. It could be emotional pain from childhood, or coping with current emotional stressors. For example, a smoker starts smoking to fit in with friends or family who are smokers. It could be an emotional addiction from peer pressure mixed with self-esteem issues. An obese person could be sad and lonely and be using food as a coping mechanism. Often a person is taught how to eat healthily without anyone addressing the deep-seated root causes.
This is not always the case though, as Americans, we eat really unhealthy diets in general. Read my real foods blog under “Clean Eating” for more information.
Can a mental health issue cause a physical illness? YES!
I’ve touched on this a bit with my previous blog, explaining how the stress hormone cortisol weakens the immune system. However, when the body is continuously in a state of stress over a long period of time, you can have way more problems than a weak immune system.
Stress can lead to:
- Depression. Stress throws several brain neurotransmitter systems — such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine — out of balance, negatively affecting mood, appetite, sleep, and libido (Agnvall, 2014).
- Weight gain
- Slower healing
- Heart Disease
- Crohn’s disease, Heartburn, IBS, indigestion, ulcerative colitis, and chronic inflammation in general
- Stress can factor into cancer and just about any autoimmune disease
The prevalence of stress in primary care is high; 60–80% of visits may have a stress-related component (NCBI, 2013). Additionally, we know people who suffer from physical health issues (cancer, diseases, ongoing illness) often suffer from mental struggles, as well. Doctors won’t always address the mental health aspects, but it is important you make an effort to. It is super important to manage your stress levels and work on positive thinking and gratefulness. But actually, other emotions can cause physical health issues, as well, including anger, sadness, anxiety, and so on.
Emotions are Associated with Internal Organs
According to traditional Chinese Medicine, each emotion is associated with an internal organ. If an emotion is too intense, it impacts that organ’s ability to function properly and vice versa – if an organ is struggling it can cause an emotion to be imbalanced. A study was done on this where: anger was related to the liver, happiness to the heart, thoughtfulness to the heart and spleen, sadness to the heart and lungs, fear to the kidneys, heart, liver, and gallbladder, surprise to the heart and the gallbladder, and anxiety to the heart and the lungs (NCBI, 2017). Specific patterns between the emotions and corresponding bodily organ systems were identified (NCBI, 2017).
This is a very real concept! I have read about it, and I have heard of people suffering from physical issues addressed by healing the mind/brain typically due to trauma. More people suffer from trauma than you would think. It causes many hard to diagnose physical health issues. Many are unaware of it. Sometimes physical health issues need to be addressed physically and mentally, and sometimes just mentally.
I’m not saying emotion is always the cause of a physical health problem. Drinking a lot of alcohol can lead to a liver problem, smoking a lot can lead to a lung problem, and so on.
Many people end up with physical health issues that are addressed with medicine, food, supplements, or other therapies. But, the deeper mental/emotional issues get ignored. A lot of healthcare practitioners don’t understand the connection, and some people are unaware they even struggle with mental/emotional problems. Sometimes problems only show up in the unconscious mind and may trigger a certain situation (PTSD).
Unhealthy Relationships Can Lead to Illness
Also, an unhealthy relationship can lead to a physical, chronic illness. If a relationship is toxic (negative, harmful mentally, emotionally, or physically), it can slowly eat away at you over time. A toxic relationship can cause all the numerous health issues I mentioned related to stress, and even mess up the brain (cause trauma). If you have unhealthy relationships be aware of this so it doesn’t harm you later on in life.
Can a physical health issue cause a mental illness? YES!
Anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues could have something to do with a person’s diet, their lack of exercise, poor posture, etc.. Food provides information to the body, exercise releases endorphins that give you positive feeling in the body making you happier. If you are not taking good care of your body, and go to a therapist that just deals with mental health to address your depression or anxiety you might not find healing.
Can a spiritual issue cause a physical illness? YES!
A health issue could result from: feeling you lack purpose in the world, feeling no meaning in your life, or being bored with life. Also, a health issue could result from having a controlling religious experience, fear-driven religious experience, or another spiritual issue. Most people need to feel like their life has meaning, they have a purpose, or just have a belief in life after death. A study was done on this, but the results were not clear as to whether a mental health struggle leads to a spiritual struggle, or a spiritual struggle leads to a mental health struggle. This makes sense, the two are definitely interconnected. You can struggle with fear and anxiety due to a religious struggle or have anxiety that causes a spiritual struggle.
Spiritual Health (Having Purpose) Helps with Healing
If someone suffers for years with a mental or physical health battle, and then finally heals, but hasn’t found a purpose, learned, or gained something from it, even just meaning, they may still struggle. I felt really empty inside as I was healing from my pain struggles…I kept saying “why me?” and “what purpose can this give me?” So, I prayed for some meaning and purpose, and within no time I was approached by a nonprofit helping chronic pain sufferers. I was able to apply things I’ve learned to create content to help chronic pain strugglers. This gave meaning to my suffering. It fills some spiritual needs, and this blog does, as well.
Some ways to improve spiritual health include church/reading the bible, volunteer work, meditation, travel, yoga, or mentoring. In addition, if you struggle with a purpose or need to find meaning in your life, it might be beneficial to find a life coach.
Religion Helps People Recover from Illness
Some studies show people who are spiritual tend to cope better with pain. They feel less pain, are more positive, and better handle the stresses of an illness. Results of a pain questionnaire distributed by the American Pain Society to hospitalized patients showed that personal prayer was the most commonly used non-drug method of controlling pain: 76% of the patients made use of it (Puchalski, 2001). Many cancer patients have found spirituality helps with coping. Some have even become more spiritual after diagnosis. Additionally, people recovering from surgeries have also improved faster physically with less anxiety. A Gallop poll asked people about concerns related to dying, and most people were concerned about spiritual comfort and companionship as opposed to financial, social concerns, etc.
If it weren’t for my religion, I probably would still be in a lot of pain and be extremely depressed. My religion was the only thing giving me a sense of hope. Listening to K-LOVE on the radio and praying kept me hopeful.
Beliefs Help with Pain
In general, the fact that “placebos” can sometimes make people feel less pain or heal better, just shows how powerful our beliefs are. In 1955, Beecher showed that between 16% and 60% of patients—an average of 35%—benefited from receiving a placebo for pain, cough, drug-induced mood change, headaches, seasickness, or the common cold when told that the placebo was a drug for their condition (Puchalski, 2001).
Can environmental factors be the cause of a physical illness? YES!
Have you gone to your primary medical doctor for allergy problems? Did they ask you… if your allergies were triggered more outside of your home or insider your home? whether you have pets? whether dust was a trigger? if you replace the filters in your home regularly? if you’ve done a mold test throughout your home? No to the above?
Well, a good natural alternative practitioner would.
Medicine should be investigative to stop the problem from occurring instead of putting a bandage fix on it.
I’ve met a couple of people who have extreme chemical sensitivities. They are actually allergic to regular household cleaners, chemicals in carpeting, furniture, and more.
Your Home Can Be The Worst Form of Pollution
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the air in your house can be five times more polluted than the air you breathe outside. If you light candles with strong fragrances, use perfumes often, spray air fresheners or have plug-in air fresheners your space is polluted. Living with a smoker your space is extremely polluted. Building materials, cooking appliances, and chemical cleaners are also horrible air pollutants. You need to make more natural choices, which I will talk about more in a future blog series.
If you live near a factory or a farm field that sprays pesticides regularly, your home space is also extremely polluted. These things harm your health over time! You might notice anything in your day-to-day life. Symptoms could be minor like allergies, headaches, low energy, IBS, but over time the problems can become significantly worse.
When we lived in an apartment the neighbors below us had some black mold problems. It destroyed their health. It was so bad my husband stepped foot in their home for 5-10 minutes and was sick for a week. One of my closest friends had mold in her home and it led to countless health issues. Her whole world turned upside down. Among many other health struggles, she is now extremely gluten intolerant (meaning even a little bit causes horrible pains).
Deepak Chopra, M.D Shares the Scientific Explanation of the Mind-Body Connection
Many people get physical help from a problem (whether through modern medicine or alternative medicine), but the rest of their health goes unaddressed. Some stay sick, some become sick again, some find other ways to cope with their emotional/spiritual pain. It is a HUGE problem in the health world!
Take care of your mind, body, and spiritual health. Pay attention to whether a physical health problem might be caused by a mental, emotional, spiritual, relationship, or environmental issue. You are the best advocate for your own health. Take control over your health, and listen to your gut instincts. Not many doctors will consider whether a physical health issue is caused by a mental health issue, spiritual, or even environmental.
What do you think about the connection between body mind and soul? Leave a comment!
View ALL my Flaws in Healthcare Blogs:
NCBI/When Physicians Counsel About Stress: Results of a National Study. (2013, January 14). Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4286362/
Mehta PhD., Neeta. (2011) NCBI/Mind-body Dualism: A critique from a Health Perspective. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3115289/
Petri Jr., Richard P.; Delgado, Roxana E.; McConnell, Kimberly. (2015, Oct 22). Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. Publishers/Historical and Cultural Perspectives on Integrative Medicine. Retrieved from: https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/full/10.1089/acu.2015.1120
Agnvall, Elizabeth. (2014, November). AARP/Stress! Don’t Let It Make You Sick. Retrieved from: https://www.aarp.org/health/healthy-living/info-2014/stress-and-disease.html
NCBI/Understanding Mind-Body Interaction from the Perspective of East Asian Medicine. (2017, August 22). Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5585554/
Dolan, Eric W. (2018, January 14). PSYPOST/Spiritual struggles linked to mental and physical health problems. Retrieved from: https://www.psypost.org/2018/01/spiritual-struggles-linked-mental-physical-health-problems-50580
Puchalski MD MS, Christina M. (2001, October 14). NCBI/The role of spirituality in health care. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1305900/
I am a business owner, marketer, innovator, writer, and artist. I have a passion for wellness with a wealth of knowledge surrounding: wellness, flaws in healthcare, root causes for chronic illnesses, and alternative treatments. My expertise includes over 5 years of marketing, research, and developing content for holistic health businesses. Plus, my own personal journey of becoming chronically sick: understanding what went wrong, and finding a way to heal and live a healthier life.