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Is the pain all in her head?

Q. My sister has battled chronic pain for years. When she joined a clinical trial for a new pain reliever, her pain virtually disappeared. It turned out she was given a useless sugar pill —a placebo. So was the pain all in her head?

A. Great question! Actually, that useless sugar pill wasn’t so useless; it demonstrated, and we are enthusiastic believers in, the power of the mind and spirit to transform lives and improve health. The placebo effect is proof that you have the mental power to alter your biochemistry (we now have the tools to measure a placebo’s effect and see that it is not self-delusion, it’s science). Brain scans show that when a placebo eases pain (and it often does), your brain activity changes: You’re altering the biological process of pain response. One of our favorite examples is a group of people with irritable bowel syndrome who were told they were taking a placebo. After three weeks, 59 percent of them saw improvements in their symptoms that were as good as if they’d been taking powerful IBS medication. Seems being aware that placebos can trigger a positive mind/body response is enough to make them effective. No deception required. So don’t make fun of your sister’s experience with the placebo; instead, congratulate her on harnessing her inner powers of better health!

If you want to use your mind to improve your health, you don’t need a sugar pill. Certain mind/body activities can ease a variety of symptoms and help you heal your body. Consciously cultivate optimism. Explore the good side of events and people around you. And reaffirm your own positive traits, actions and aspirations. Switch your focus from symptoms associated with any condition you may have. Instead, start doing things that you know can reduce inflammation and make you feel better: meditate, get plenty of physical activity, volunteer to help others and eliminate the Five Food Felons from your diet (saturated and trans fat, added sugars and syrups and all grains that aren’t 100 percent whole).

Q. My kids, 4 and 6, and I have been following your advice on nutrition and weight. We banished the Five Food Felons --well, mostly --and we take a walk every night after dinner. My kids seem healthier, and I’ve dropped 12 pounds. What else should we do to stay healthy?

A. That’s really something to brag about. Thanks for letting us know. We’re glad to say your success is in line with the latest report that childhood and adult obesity rates are declining or leveling off. In Dr. Mike’s home state of Ohio, the adult rate has remained 30 percent (still really high!) for the past three years, after rising steadily before that. And for kids ages 2 to 4, the rates have come down in 19 states. Georgia, Missouri, Florida and South Dakota each had at least a 1 percent drop. But nationally one in six preschoolers is still overweight or obese. And these kids are likely to be obese adults with all the health problems that causes. That’s why we hope you’ll spread the word in your neighborhood about the success of your family’s new lifestyle! And here are two tips to add to your “healthy house” routine.

Reduce TV time. Two hours a day max for kids 6 and up. No TV for any child younger than 2. From 2 to 6, keep it to a minimum. It allows for more time being physically active. We recommend that you and your kids get 60 to 85 minutes of basic play and exercise, PLUS 20 minutes of vigorous (sweaty) activity daily.

Involve the kids in shopping for and preparing food. (For great recipe ideas, see “YOU On a Diet” revised, or “YOU: The Owner’s Manual for Teens”). Once they get with the program, they’ll be the ones to insist you stick with it!

Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D., is chief wellness officer and chair of the Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Email your health and wellness questions to Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen at youdocsdaily@ sharecare.com.

King Features Syndicate



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