THE PLACEBO EFFECT ELUCIDATED: THE BOOK REVIEW OF “THE BIOLOGY OF BELIEF” BY BRUCE H. LIPTON

We have been indoctrinated. There is no doubt about it. The big corporations have by design interfered in our education, our culture and our lives. Using their huge clout and power of wealth, they have changed or should I say moulded human society for their benefit. For decades, the Pharmaceutical industry has hidden scientific data that seemed contradictory to their agenda. By hiding the truth, they managed to manipulate the governments, medical doctors and the public at large.

Whatever is not commercially lucrative for the Pharmaceutical industry is declared as pseudoscience by prominent scientists and doctors on the payroll of the Pharmaceutical industry. Truth is that the placebo effect is not a very lucrative business, it does not increase sales and profits. Therefore, not much research has been done on this important subject. According to the Oxford Dictionary placebo effect is:

“A beneficial effect produced by a placebo drug or treatment, which cannot be attributed to the properties of the placebo itself, and must therefore be due to the patient’s belief in that treatment.”

In simple terms, it means that when belief in the treatment is so strong that the body starts to heal itself even when the medicine taken is just corn powder in capsules. Now, you can see why there is a lack of funding for scientific research on this topic. One person that has looked into this phenomenon is cell biologist Dr Bruce H. Lipton. Discussing the topic of cells in the body, he writes in his book, The Biology of Belief (2005), that “even though humans are made up of trillions of cells, there is not one “new” function in our bodies that is not already expressed in the single cell.”

In the first few chapters, the reader is introduced to the biology of cells and how amazing and intelligent each cell is. I was awestruck while reading. I mean it is quite fascinating how complex yet powerful our bodies were created, even at the molecular level. I must say I found the book to be captivating. I relearned that, “like humans, single cells analyse thousands of stimuli from the microenvironment they inhabit. Through the analysis of this data, cells select appropriate behavioural responses to ensure their survival.” What an amazing piece of information! Yes, this is basic biology, but it is enthralling.

I can understand why Dr Lipton wanted to educate the reader about the basics of cell biology. There would be no placebo effect unless each cell in the body reacted accordingly when stimulated by the environment. These cells are extraordinarily powerful in their ability. The “single cells are also capable of learning through these environmental experiences and are able to create cellular memories”, explains Dr Lipton.

While learning about cell biology, I was eager to know how the body generates energy. What is the source of the energy? Dr Lipton says, “it is the changing of the proteins’ electromagnetic charges that is responsible for their behaviour-generating movement.” But, at the same time, he too bemoans as I had done earlier that the “conventional researchers have completely ignored the role that energy plays in health and disease.” It is far more convenient for pharmaceuticals to ignore anything that is not lucrative.

Something, that is lucrative, is the side effects of any drugs. A long list of information about the possible reactions is included with each drugs package. The reason for this is, “when a drug is introduced into the body to treat a malfunction in one protein, that drug inevitably interacts with at least one and possibly many other proteins,” resulting sometimes in unwanted side-effects for the patients. It has become obvious since Covid that pharmaceuticals and corruption go hand in hand.

The Healing Mind
The famous French philosopher René Descartes (1596 – 1650), failed to see the connection between the mind and the body. Thus, he rejected the notion that the mind influences the physical characteristics of the body. Descartes argued that only matter can affect matter; doubting, how an immaterial mind can be “connected” to a material body. However, the term ‘mind over matter’ was not something new in the 17th century, it had been expressed by Virgil in Aeneid (c. 19 b.c.). The ancient sages had a sound understanding of the power of the mind.

The understanding and solutions we seek are to be found in harnessing the power of the mind. Dr Lipton believes, “the power of your mind can be more effective than the drugs you have been programmed to believe you need.” I think he makes a strong point. I accept that the mind can heal the body. However, it is a double-edged sword. Yes, the mind is powerful enough to heal the body. But, the potential power can also be a force of destruction. Whereas the positive words and beliefs hold the healing powers, the negative thoughts and beliefs can damage the body. The opposite of Placebo is Nocebo.

No scientist has mentioned this but, in my opinion, placebo and nocebo effects are actively working all the time inside the body without our knowledge. If our beliefs control biology, as Dr Lipton claims, then it is logical to assume that beliefs of some kind and to some degree are present constantly.

After reading the book, one is left wondering about the miracle that is the human body and human mind. Anybody with or without any background in medicine or biology can easily read and understand this wonderful book. Dr Lipton has done a brilliant job as a student of science and of cell biology in putting a case forward for further investigation of the placebo effect. Undoubtedly, the placebo effect is vital for the health of humanity and we need to exploit these potential healing powers.

Lastly, I want to leave you with that brilliant quote from the book that I enjoyed reading very much: “You can live a life of fear or live a life of love. You have the choice! But I can tell you that if you choose to see a world full of love, your body will respond by growing in health. If you choose to believe that you live in a dark world full of fear, your body’s health will be compromised as you physiologically close yourself down in a protection response.”

I want to share here with the readers a personal story. A few years ago, my dear mother, when she was alive (she passed away last year, may Allah grant her a place in Jannah al Firdous), went to see the GP. After the full check-ups, and after listening to my mother, the GP convinced my mother that she has prescribed her the most expensive and the best medicine available. These few words were so powerful that my mother felt a considerable reduction in her ailments. I believe this was a case of the mind healing the body.

As I have said many times in RTM, hope is a powerful tool, hope not only uplifts moods but also revitalises every part of our mind and body. Positivity helps in restoring the mind. As Dr Lipton says, “learning how to harness your mind to promote growth is the secret of life.”

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By Khalid

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