In 1986 Bernie Siegel, MD, wrote a groundbreaking book that elicited much skepticism among his peers. Love, Medicine and Miracles presented a unique theory of patient care that contradicted Western medicine’s time-honored approach. The Western model advocated evidence-based medicine—treatments based on controlled, scientific studies. Dr. Siegel, who was an internationally recognized expert in the field of cancer treatment when he wrote his first bestseller, turned that theory on its head by proposing that “unconditional love is the most powerful stimulant of the immune system.”
“The truth is, love heals,” he wrote. “Miracles happen to exceptional patients every day–patients who have the courage to love, those who have the courage to work with their doctors to participate in and influence their own recovery.” This was revolutionary thinking. His next two books, Peace, Love and Healing in 1989, and How to Live Between Office Visits in 1993, broke new ground in the field of healing.
We used to think the mind and the body were two distinct entities and should be treated separately, but now we know that physical health and emotional health are intimately intertwined. Numerous scientific studies have examined the link between our emotional and physical wellbeing, and time and again, they have showed a close connection between mind and body. Our emotions often affect the way we feel physically. But until recently, scientists didn’t understand just how powerful that effect could be.
The mind-body connection isn’t some abstract idea; it’s the way humans are hardwired. The hormones and neurotransmitters associated with our emotions also affect our blood pressure, heart rate, sleep patterns, and even our appetites. Stress can make us sick. Lifestyle changes can help prevent chronic disease. And, according to Siegal, love, medicine, and miracles can make us well. That’s quite an idea, isn’t it?
Dr. Siegel’s conclusions went beyond the body’s need for exercise, real food, and good sleep habits. He was suggesting something much more subtle: attitude, resolve, and relationships. Those were not prescriptions he found in medical books. He found them by talking to his patients as he made his hospital rounds.
As we age, there are many things we can do to maintain good health and vitality. We have heard about and read about and even been lectured about them many times. But when physicians tell us what we need to stay healthy, they rarely mention such things as attitude, friendships, or love. Bernie Siegel was clearly ahead of his time.