Medicine is tripping over itself trying to prove every drug and protocol by very well done, air tight, scientific testing, referred to as “evidence-based.” But it’s not so easy to really test what you think you are testing. Oh no. Look at what happened with the huge Women’s Health Initiative trial, set up by the government and multiple institutions to get evidence-based data on hormones and aging women. Many experts reanalyzing the data labeled it as a statistical fiasco.
And after this fiasco, one of the icons of reproductive/gynecologic medicine, Dr. Leon Speroff, the physician and author who wrote the major textbook that gynecologists are weaned on in med school (Clinical Gynecology, Endocrinology and Infertility) said, “We can’t look to single studies, no matter their evidence, to direct how we treat humans. And we must not,” he warned and implored, “throw out the huge wealth of clinical know-how and observation and acumen that develops just by treating and seeing what happens over the years in a physician’s practice.”
Evidence-based science is not the whole banana in medicine. Medicine is also an art. And that art is a combination of the intuitive, observational, non-scientific parts of the doctor/patient relationship. We could call it spiritual, if we were so inclined.
Even though many experts want so much to appear like talking heads that are balanced on sound, impeccable science, the truth is that science is always morphing.
Yet there is an art to health care. And spirituality. Something not able to be defined and boxed and proven by science (though there are intriguing articles out there; I mention a bunch in Healthy Digestion, the Natural Way). A new study out of the University of Missouri Department of Health Psychology reveals that spirituality, a belief that makes one feel connected with the rest of the universe, is a very specific personality trait that enhances health as much as exercise boosts health. It doesn’t matter which mental paradigm, which religion, which set of holy books, gets the person to embrace this “oneness.”
People from 5 religious backgrounds (Buddhists, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, and Protestants) were studied. The more “spiritual” the persons identified themselves as, the better their mental health; they even recovered faster and more completely from numerous medical conditions, ranging from cancer to spinal cord injuries.
A sense of spirituality, whichever way you get it, protects your health.
What was the number one trait of spirituality that linked the highest to best health? Forgiveness. Not holding on to grudges, blame, regret. I imagine that this holds true for oneself as well as for others. In fact, we can’t really have forgiveness of others if we can’t forgive ourselves. So it starts with us.
The authors even discussed that a “heightened spiritual personality” has a greater sense of peace. The more peaceful individuals we have, the more global peace may be possible. “Relationships among Spirituality, Religious Practices, Personality Factors, and Health for Five Different Faiths,” Journal of Religion and Health 2012
So the art of the practitioners, and their ability to create a true one-on-one with the patient, along with the ability of the patients to have a perspective and lifestyle that foster a sense of belonging and safety, are a part of healing. This connection is now being seen as critical to health and longevity. This is not hocus-pocus or airy-fairy.
Dr. Jerilyn Prior is a Professor of Endocrinology and Metabolism at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. She directs the BC Centre of the Canadian Multicentre Osteoporosis Study, and is the founder and Scientific Director of the Centre for Menstrual Cycle and Ovulation Research. Dr. Prior says that a sense of safety inside ourselves trumps exercise, vitamin D, and even calcium for protecting bones. Feeling at home inside our bodies has more influence on bone dynamics, according to her, than quality food nutrition. This is emotional/mental nutrition. But for many of us, a feeling of safety inside ourselves is accomplished by a sense of being one with everything outside ourselves, which comes often from some kind of spiritual perspective.
Dr. Prior says, “Many of us are discontented — discontented with our relationships, discontented with our jobs, discontented with how our body looks, just in a state of unease, or dis-ease — which in the long run is bad for bones.”
Feeling connected to a doctor that feels connected to us, feeling connected and at ease inside our bodies and lives, and having a spiritual perspective that makes one feel part of this huge universe, are all essentials for achieving and maintaining health.