Muscle Sport Magazine

The Hospital of the Mind

By Leigh Penman – Psychoneuro-Immunology is the term given to explain the minds capacity to overcome disease by directly influencing the immune system. If you imagine your body as a hospital, then your immune system is a resident doctor, assisted by a team of nurses, pharmacists and security guards who patrol each and every corner of the body day and night, preventing any unwelcome visitors (e.g. viruses) from gaining access to its inner sanctum.

The brain, the immune system and our hormones are known to communicate with each other, and every cell can receive brain and hormonal messages. This interchange of information is the explanation for the fact that certain thoughts or sad experiences can reduce the number of lymphocytes (immune cells), in the same way that positive thoughts and happy experiences can increase immunological activity.

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If the immune system is unhappy it ceases to function properly and, in the case of cancer, it eventually becomes paralyzed and completely unable to destroy foreign cells. The high rate of illness amongst those who have lost a spouse, whether through death, separation or divorce, demonstrates that feelings of abandonment and depression directly affect the immune system. This negative effect can continue for up to a year after the event.

Fear is also destructive for the recuperative system, as is anger. However, once we realize that we are responsible for our own lives and can influence every part of our bodies with our minds, the sense of inner strength we gain can replace those negative emotions with enthusiasm, excitement, positive thoughts and happiness.

The immune system and hormones pick up on this new attitude and happiness and health prevail all round.The reason that some people experience a ‘miraculous’ recovery from terminal cancer is often because of a shift in attitude from negative to positive. Once these people consciously take charge, everything changes for the better and their health improves. Stress is also a powerful inhibitor of healthy immune function. When we are stressed the release of cortisol depresses the immune system, but when we are happy immune function increases.

We may not be consciously aware of it, but we are constantly threatened by ‘foreign invaders’ who seek to compromise our health. Even a simple trip to the supermarket could see your body waging war against a multitude of viral warriors as they leap across the isles to claim new human hosts. If this makes you think twice about going on that planned shopping trip, take heart, you haven’t died from a trip to the supermarket yet (though you may have occasionally felt faint on being presented with your bill at the check out!).

No, the reason you have never stopped to arm yourself appropriately before setting foot outside the safety of your home is because deep within the core of your being you have a very powerful army indeed, permanently detecting invaders, informing the brain and the rest of the body of their presence, and calling for the mobilization of the resources to destroy them.

The defense system functions as an intercellular sixth-sense, which is capable of recognizing the illness and restoring good health. But how can we take advantage of this self healing capacity? Well, all types of visualization involves messages passing from the brain to relevant parts of the body, and even stress releasing techniques encourage the immune system to increase activity.

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Everyone has experienced the positive effects that sleep, relaxation and holidays can have on health. Likewise, when we are under stress we are more likely to fall victim to colds, flu and viral invasion. Relaxation techniques and meditation increase the body’s resistance to stress so that higher levels are tolerated without harming the immune or glandular systems. State of body is just as important as state of mind in this case.

Another key ingredient to reducing stress (and subsequently increasing immune function) is intelligent use of specific nutritional supplements. Amongst the vast array of supplemental nutrients available the best, in terms of general relaxation and stress relief, are :

* 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan):proven to reduce stress, improve mood and assist in sleep. Suggested dose: 50 – 100mg daily.

* L-Theanine: Assists mental relaxation. Suggested dose: 200-1000mg daily.

* Melatonin : Sleep aid, improves immune function, antioxidant properties. Suggested dose: 1- 5 mg at bedtime.

* SAME (S-adenosyl-L-methionine): Improves mood. Also assists liver function. Suggested use : 400mg daily.

* St. John’s Wort : Improves mood. Reduces depression. Suggested use : 300 – 1000mg daily.

* Valerian Root : Reduces stress and anxiety and aids sleep. Suggested dose : 150-300mg daily.

As always, check with your physician before embarking on any supplement plan as some supplements may conflict with existing conditions or medications you may be taken.

So there you have it, a brief look at the way your mind and mood affect your state of health and well being. There is no doubt that this is a fascinating subject whose potential for use will no doubt expand as our knowledge of the subject increases.

Leigh Penman, in addition to be a staff writer at MuscleSport Mag, has been writing for bodybuilding magazines, websites and nutritional supplement companies since 1985. Whilst residing in the UK, she earned the reputation of being one of the top female writers in bodybuilding-related media. Her credits included being a contributing editor on all the magazines in production as well as filling the shoes of Ladies Editor and Showbiz Editor on two publications (the later being on Arnold’s sanctioned magazine, ‘Bodypower’). During this time she also competed successfully on four occasions (placing in the top four in all contests).

Relocating to New York in the late 1990s she focused her writing attention to crystal healing techniques and metaphysics – however, she still maintained a five day workout schedule during this time and gained her personal training certificate.

Having also studied pharmacology in relation to sports performance, her writing began taking her in that direction until the present day which sees her embarking on a return to the magazine world, as well as extending her web-related work in the bodybuilding and fitness field.

Leigh has been working out for close to thirty years so she is clearly a writer who ‘walks her talk.’
She can be contacted personally at or you can also check her out at New York’s favorite metaphysical store

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