Have you ever thought of your body as a machine and the doctor as its mechanic? It’s a common metaphor, but one that can get us into a lot of trouble. Machines can’t heal themselves, but our bodies have superb capacities to do so, if we help them. It turns out that there is more to health than just physiology. Going beyond the machine metaphor can help us learn more about self-healing.

Attitude may not be everything, but it makes a huge difference. Find out about the scientific evidence that shows hope can alter the course of an illness or a treatment. Our expectations about a therapy can shape our experience, a phenomenon known as the placebo effect.

What Is the Placebo Effect?

The placebo effect is frequently misunderstood. People sometimes take it to mean that when a placebo makes you feel better, it’s “all in your head.” To them, the placebo effect seems very soft and squishy, unsupported by genuine evidence. On the contrary, improvement from placebo treatments can be shown to be real. Moreover, our expectations also contribute to the effectiveness of pharmaceuticals as well. What should we know about the placebo effect, and how can we put it to good use? What do rigorous scientific studies tell us about the placebo effect?

Stress and the Relaxation Response:

Most of us experience stress in the course of a day or a week, whether we find stress at work or at home. How does stress affect our health? What do you define as stress?

One way to manage stress is to invoke the relaxation response. How does that work? Studies demonstrate that the relaxation response can change blood sugar, blood pressure, immune system activity and digestion. What are the implications of this research? Our guest describes how we can optimize our bodies’ abilities for self-healing.

We also spoke with Dr. Howick about informed consent and physician empathy. You can listen here:

This Week’s Guest:

Dr. Jeremy Howick is the author of Doctor You, Introducing the Hard Science of Self-Healing,  a book based on his own experience and research (which includes over 75 academic publications).

He is also Director of the Oxford Empathy Program  at the University of Oxford. He was recently awarded the British Medical Association Dawkins and Strutt award to pursue research on the health benefits of empathic care. His website is

Listen to the Podcast:

The podcast of this program will be available the Monday after the broadcast date. The show can be streamed online from this site and podcasts can be downloaded for free. CDs may be purchased at any time after broadcast for $9.99.

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Air Date:July 28, 2018

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  1. Chaela

    Bizarre that a fairly good looking middle aged male author is being judged — for the most part, negatively — for his face and beard. Love a healthy, handsome empathic male.

  2. Jen

    I think that the mind is a powerful thing, and we receive the kind of energy we put out. Negative thinking/energy is never going to be beneficial for anyone. But with positive energy and holistic healing anything is possible. Healing begins from the inside out, and our mind body and souls need to find balance.

  3. mar
    buffalo ny

    I don’t think this applies to wounds that are difficult to heal even with good wound care. Of course, taking care of the body re: food, supplements and exercise is always applicable.

  4. Katey
    East Anglia

    I am very sure that belief in a healing system works wonders. I believe in medicine and Christian supernatural healing. In both cases the mind and spirit are at work. I have been healed many times through prayer (not always) but I always believe that I can be healed one way or another. Perhaps an example of this is the cortisone injections I have in my arthritic knee. They always work for me, though it’s getting bad. However they don’t work for everyone. Maybe this is an example of what you are talking about.

  5. Gina
    Madison, WI

    Haha, I thought the same thing, but you must admit, he’s very handsome!
    Guess I don’t care what a dr. looks like, as long as they listen and advise.

  6. Lisa
    Bloomsburg PA

    Self-healing isn’t for everyone. Many people are doubters and don’t have the open mindedness needed to heal themselves. I’m not an expert in either traditional or alternative medicines. I know that, for me, visual imagery and self-talk helps me cure myself of minor illnesses. The mind is a powerful tool. Eastern philosophies taught this for centuries. Western no-nonsense thinking doesn’t allow us to release the full potential of our minds. Yes, we still need doctors and medicines. But the way we THINK about how those treatments may or may not work can have a big impact on how thoroughly and quickly we are cured.

  7. Liliane
    West End,NC

    It sounds good but what about a person who had an open heart surgery in 2012 and 3 days later was approached by a cardiologist who recommended a defibrilator-pacemaker device be imput. On the 3rd day after heart how can you make a decision? I made the mistake to trust and now unfortunately I do regret it because I had a lot of shocks which were finally treated by an ablation of the Arhythmia. No more shocks but I am left with a anxiety-panic attacks.

    The surgeon did excellent work but was not involved in the decision of inserting a device. Too many times I have the feeling that the sick individual is used as a trial. How well we shall see. Psychologically, this is a great suffering. Do I make sense?
    I am much obliged.

  8. Charles B.

    Interesting show that relates to other Radio shows as on:

    Positivist psychology, mentioned as a “positive” in this talk,

    Kelly & Jane McGonigal’s talks. Kelly McGonigal especially mentioned the pathophysiology of turning stress into a positive versus negative predictive factor, perhaps because of vasoregulation vs. vasodysregulation outcomes.

    Mention made of the “placebo effect” as additive to recovery that correlates, in part, with belief in the value of alternative and complementary therapy that themselves usually incorporate a “positivist” psychological set of projections from the provider to the patient.

    Motivational interviewing where the positives of a bad habit are discussed by the patient as being possible without engaging in the bad habit

    It also interfaces based on my experience with:

    the biopsychosocial model of observation, evaluation, intervention and outcome enhancement

    the pathophysiology of microvascular dysfunction and neurovascular pathways for recovery of lost function

    the phenomenon of “amygdala kindling” that interfaces emotional experience with psychological triggers of arteriolar inflammation, either local or with systemic connotations

    the ability of stories read to early on in life and later built upon later on in life to formulate “literate” solutions to preventing chronic disabling disease

  9. Jerry

    You did not give us the date of the pod cast of Dr Howick.

    • Mike

      Release date 7/27/2018 Show 1130: Exploring the Hard Science of Self-Healing

  10. Helen

    If we can heal ourselves why do we need doctors? It’s not that simple. People do not understand medical world what transpires in the doctors mind nor does he have any idea what is going on in the patient’s mind. What happened to doctor patient connection and relationship. We can’t heal if we don’t understand or get help from the doctor. We don’t all go to medical school. I believe there’s not enough time for doctors to know their paitents a 15-minute visit if you’re lucky gets you in and out of the door, it shouldn’t be as to how many patients we seen in a day it should be how many patients we have helped and listened to in a day.

  11. PM
    Washington state

    As a child, my parents were somewhat interested in Christian Science so I had to go to Sunday School there, and never went to a doctor except when I broke my arm. My mom died in 1953 at age 48 of a sudden heart attack, and I remember that just before my dad took her to the hospital she called a C.S. “practitioner” but she died the next day anyhow. (The staff at the hospital said the pains up her arms and across her back were just “neuritis”.) Altho I’m now an Atheist, I do believe that there’s a strong mind-body connection and self-healing is really possible, but you have to understand how. I’ll definitely check Dr Howick’s website, and probably get his book. Thank you!

  12. Mary Jane

    The doctor’s trendy unshaken look detracts from his credibility.

    • James

      I agree with Mary Jane’s comment. He looks both unshaven and unshaken! And very aware of his own good looks. But, we can’t dismiss him on that account. Homeostatis is the natural state of the body, and there’s a good chance that his book has something valuable to offer. Unfortunately there seems to be a formula for self help books, especially American ones, of using engaging anecdotes and lots of words to ‘sell’ the book, but not really give much in the way of hard, useful information. I won’t buy the book until I can browse it. That may mean never, as I don’t know if it will hit the bookshops in the UK.

    • Jesse

      You are right about his shabby looks. But I think you mean unshaven, not unshaken? He looks like a street person who needs a bath. His look is not trust-worthy in my opinion.

    • Jesse

      I am trying to add reply that I agree with Mary Jane that the self-healing doctor’s shabby looks don’t instill confidence. I think a doctor should look professional, not look like he needs a shave and a bath. Meditation and visualization are great for many people who learn how to do it and will take the time. This doctor might consider taking the time to shave.

  13. Joel
    Spokane WA

    I am a huge advocate of self healing. I am 68 years old. Since my childhood, I have not been on prescription medications and have not been to a doctor since my teens with the exception of a car accident. The key is exercise, diet and having a positive attitude. The only health concern I have is hypertension, however, that is kept under control with cardiovascular exercise and tracked with a home monitor.
    As a nation we have surrendered our health care to doctors, rather than taking personal responsibility. In my opinion, doctors have not earned the level of reverence we assign to them.

  14. Dietrich
    Hereford UK

    I am very pro alternative treatment but haven’t been helped by the numerous experts in them I’ve seen. I also read about self healing, visualisation, have done a course on mindfulness, but haven’t been successful in improving my asthma, CPOD which is taking away my mobility and quality of life.

    I believe the body can heal itself and know cells are replaced constantly so is there a practice I could try to improve my lungs and rebuild please?

    Many thanks

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