Lynda W. Freeman
Chapter 1, "Physiologic Pathways of Mind-Body Communication," explores how what we think and perceive and how we interpret events can alter physiology and biochemistry, affecting health outcomes. In this chapter we answer the question, "By what pathways do these effects occur?"
To understand how stress and emotion can affect health outcomes, it is important to have a clear and complete understanding of the mind-body bi-directional pathways. There are clearly delineated lines of evidence for mind-body communication. These lines of evidence provide information that explains how individuals can take action to modulate the effects of stress on their health. Health management requires an understanding of the potential negative effects of stress and conditioning on health outcomes. It also requires an understanding of what can be done to alleviate some of these negative effects. Chapter 1 defines a simple model of stress management, based on the research explored in this chapter. Sharing the outcomes of this model with patients who must cope with stress may prove beneficial to their health. Application of this model for your own stress management may also be of value.
The mind and body communicate via interactions that occur among the nervous system, the endocrine system, and the immune system. These systems communicate by using two distinctive pathways: the sympathetic-adrenal-medullary axis and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal cortex axis. These pathways use informational substances as messengers. These substances consist of neurotransmitters, neuropeptides, hormones, and immunomodulators. Our interpretation of events and our emotional reactions can affect which informational substances are produced and released at any given moment. These chemical messengers ore capable of modulating immune-cell behavior and physiology and thus can affect health outcomes.
Research outcomes have clearly identified a link between emotion and physiologic reactivity and immune competence. Our interpretation of events and our emotional responses to those events are the mechanisms by which the mind affects physiology and biochemistry and, consequently, health outcomes.
Some relatively simple interventions or activities can support or improve immune function, mood state, and health in general. These activities include music and laughter and interventions in the form of group support, counseling, and writing or speaking about traumatic events. Personality style con also have a potential effect on health, with optimistic and pessimistic personality styles becoming topics of study.