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The Biochemistry Of Emotion
by Dr. Karen Wolfe

There is an exciting field of science that has been underutilized and will change the way we use the traditional Cartesian (the mind and body as separate) model of health and the way we understand the mind/body connection. Research has shown there are numerous connections between the central nervous system and our immune system that are a testament to the role of the mind/body connection in health and disease.

"Mind does not dominate the body, it becomes body. Body and mind are one. I see the flow of information throughout the whole organism as evidence that the body is the actual outward manifestation in physical space of the mind. Every second a massive information exchange is occurring in your body. The neuropeptides and receptors that are the biochemicals of emotions are the messengers carrying information to link the major systems of the body into one unit that we can call the bodymind.

From Molecules of Emotion by Candace B. Pert, Ph.D.

There are two science disciplines that explain HOW and WHY Mind/Body Medicine is so effective. These relatively new fields of science are:
  • Psychoneuroimmunology(PNI):
    The term is easy to understand once dissected. Psycho refers to the mind and emotional processes and mood states; neuro, to the brain, neurological and neuroendocrine wiring and secretions; and immunology, to the body’s cellular defence against invaders. In the PNI approach, the three systems are studied as a whole and explain the relationship between the complex psychological and behavioural factors that influence the onset and course of stress-related diseases.
  • Neuropharmacology And Biomolecular Medicine
    Researchers are discovering that neurological, endocrine, immunological and gastrointestinal cells share biochemical and membrane-associated properties that allow them to "talk" to each other. The study of molecules and receptors.
Research has definitively shown correlations between high levels of stress and health problems such as cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, headaches, back pain, ulcers, anxiety, insomnia, chronic fatigue syndrome, depression, increased accident rates, alcohol and drug abuse, suicide and autoimmune disorders (such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis). This is the first of many articles that will challenge traditional beliefs about how the body and mind interact in health and disease.

The Biochemistry Of Emotion
Candace Pert, a research professor at Georgetown Medical Center in Washington is best known for her key role in discovering the brain’s opiate receptors in the early 1970’s. In 1977 she published her book, "Molecules of Emotion : Why You Feel the Way You Feel" that explains her theory that neuropeptides and their receptors are the biochemicals of emotions, carrying information in a vast network linking the material world of molecules with the nonmaterial world of the psyche. Her research on mind/body cellular communication is consistent with the concepts of energy explained by many alternative therapies.

Pert clearly explains how ligands, or "information molecules" (substances which specifically bind to selective receptors initiating sometimes dramatic intracellular biochemical changes) communicate across systems that were traditionally considered separate. The "new neurology" demonstrates ligand communication between neurological, immune, endocrine and gastrointestinal systems.

We often hear about traditional neurotransmitters (ligands), such as dopamine, serotonin and GABA, but these comprise only a tiny percent of nervous system communication. The peptides (carriers of emotion and other information), make up 95% of all ligands and regulate nearly all life processes. We are moving away from the concept of an "electrical brain" to a new paradigm of a "chemical brain" where peptides travel long distances throughout the body and cause changes in cells whose receptors they hang onto.

Specific Implications For Mind/Body Health
  • PNI postulates a communicating system for endocrine (hormonal) and gastrointestinal function. Cholecytokinin (CCK), a duodenal hormone, stimulates gall bladder contraction and secretion of pancreatic enzymes. It has been discovered that cells in a part of the brain called the hypothalamus have receptors for CCK that, when occupied, produce the mind/body state of appetite satiety.

  • The mind/body (psychophysiological) aspects of the stress response can also be explained using the PNI framework. In states of prolonged stress or acute alarm, steroids such as cortisone are released in the body. T lymphocytes of the immune system have receptors for these stress hormones and these receptors become saturated, altering T-cell functions such as their ability to divide and secrete. This will reduce immune function.

  • Hypnosis has been successfully used to eliminate common warts.
What Is Mind/Body Medicine?
Mind/Body medicine is any method in which we use our mind to promote health and recover from illness. That means our thoughts (of which we are reported to have 60,000 a day!) significantly affect our physical health, and all of our emotions (hostility, anger, love, fear and hate) significantly affect our physical health.

Therefore, healing your mind will have a positive effect on your body. Dr Wolfe’s new book titled "Awaken Your Healer Within : Lessons for Mind/Body Health" covers the many practical aspects of Mind/body Medicine in action.

Copyright Dr. Karen Wolfe. All Rights Reserved.

Karen Wolfe is a national and international speaker, author and coach. She is the author of:
  • Medicine From the Inside Out - 7 Keys to Unlock Your Natural Healing Wisdom
  • Menopause - Renewal in Midlife,
  • From Stress to Strength
  • Successful Aging
  • A Wise Woman’s Approach to Healing and Cancer
  • Awaken Your Healer Within
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