While the expression “It’s all in your head” may refer to one’s mental state, it does not diminish or negate the very real physical symptoms that arise from psychological or emotional distress. Many people are aware of the mind/body connection that was first put forth in Dr. John Sarno’s tome Healing Back Pain: The Mind Body Connection.
Dr. Sarno postulated that many musculoskeletal conditions are more related to psychological and emotional stress than actual physical injury. Sarno’s most notable (and controversial) achievement is the development, diagnosis and treatment of Tension Myositis Syndrome (TMS), which is not recognized by mainstream medical science. According to Sarno, TMS is a psychosomatic illness causing chronic back, neck, and limb pain which is not relieved by standard medical treatments. He includes other ailments, such as GI problems, dermatological disorders and repetitive-strain injuries as TMS related. That said, there is little dispute that stress is detrimental to one’s well being.
I got to thinking about the mind/body connection in a whole different light when I read an interesting blurb in USA Today on April 5th. (I think USA is the perfect commuter newspaper-written on a 6th grade level with color pictures and everything you Need To Know from headlines to sports, finance and Hollywood gossip in 25 minutes. And yes, I’m still commuting from my “temporary“ digs in Yonkers because I can’t get the green light from management to remodel my new home on the Upper West Side; but that’s a whole other topic – “Oh, my aching neck!”)
How about that for digressing?
So back to this small article In USA Today reported by Mary Brophy Marcus, Virus that causes cold sores linked to Alzheimer’s. Basically the article cites a study observing how Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 (HSV1) grows inside cells. Healing Back Pain: The Mind Body Connection is a common virus that infects mucous membranes and causes cold sores. The researchers also observed how the virus burst out of the cells and enter nerve cells. “In theory, the virus could then travel to the brain and affect dementia plaques.
HSV1 is probably not a cause but a co-factor. Experts advise treating a cold sore quickly to minimize the time the virus is active.” Dentists and physicians can prescribe appropriate anti-viral medication that decreases viral activity and hastens healing. This may just be an example of the “body/mind connection” where a physical malady can affect the health of the mind.
Another example of this is Atherosclerotic Disease (clogging or hardening of the arteries), which can decrease blood flow to the brain and affect neural function. In more advanced states, this condition can lead to stroke or heart attack. FYI, periodontal (gum) disease has been implicated in the progression of atherosclerotic disease.
In the final analysis, we are not just what we eat: we are what we think. And to protect our bodies, we must protect our minds and vice versa.