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Editor's Correspondence
April 24, 2000

Mind-Body Misunderstandings

Author Affiliations

Copyright 2000 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved. Applicable FARS/DFARS Restrictions Apply to Government Use.2000

Arch Intern Med. 2000;160(8):1204. doi:

Thank you for making the body of the debate between Weil and Relman available. Relman's statements that "alternative medicine makes no distinction between objective phenomena and subjective experience," thus allowing "practitioners of alternative medicine to believe in the power of mind and thought to change physical matter and heal organic diseases" is hard to fathom.1 First, it assumes that alternative medicine is an organized, cohesive system, which it is not; and second, it ignores thousands of studies in the literature on behavioral medicine, hypnosis, and biofeedback that have repeatedly demonstrated that mind-body interventions are effective in diverse clinical settings. These include acute and chronic pain, perisurgical anxiety, intraoperative bleeding, postoperative ileus, allergic rhinitis, migraine headache, asthma, irritable bowel syndrome, essential hypertension, Raynaud phenomenon, nausea caused by chemotherapy, and more. He further states that this "basically contradicts the laws of physics in the modern scientific view of nature."1 In fact, the mechanisms of such effects are quite plausible and largely known, involving the modulation of autonomic nervous system function, blood flow, and the secretion of hormones and physiologically active peptides.

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