Mind and Body Medicine



Orandum est, ut sit mens sana in corpore sano

A new year is always a good occasion to start again on the right foot. During this very troubled period that generates much stress and anxiety, we can fully take advantage of what is known about the links between mind and body. Science proves that we have more than we think to escape the negative consequences on health of our modern societies. How can we do that? By returning to the simple things for which we have been designed and by removing from our daily life the main toxics for the mind and the body.

Building on the most recent clinical studies in the field, I can make a simple prescription:

-        First, take care of your body, and your mind will say thank you!

o   Eliminate from your dietary intakes, all the proven toxics like refined sugar, alcohol, manufactured food and of course, get rid of tobacco, the N°1 killer;

o   Fast on a regular basis, for example by reducing your calories intake up to 750 a day, for a period of 5 days. Follow this fasting regime four times a year to reduce your risk of heart disease and cancer as well as to boost your immune system, lose weight and look younger too, according to Prof Valter Longo, Professor in Gerontology and Biological Science at the USC, and Director of its Longevity Institute http://www.telegraph.co.uk/wellbeing/diet/why-weve-all-been-doing-the-fast-diet-wrong/;

o   Exercise regularly, 3 times a week, combining endurance and strength activities;

o   Enjoy nature. Several studies show that exercise –even walking- in outdoor natural environments provides all-around health benefits, including stress reduction and improvement in mood and self-esteem. http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/07/22/how-nature-changes-the-brain/



-        Second, take care of your soul, and your body will say thank you!

o   Stop feeding your mind with worrying news. Stop listening or watching 24-hour news networks and prefer the music of your choice that brings peace and comfort. If you want to stay informed, prefer reading newsmagazines or newspapers.

o   Meditate. Meditation brings the brainwave pattern into Alpha state, which promotes inner peace and healing. The mind becomes fresh, delicate and beautiful. With regular practice of meditation, you can enjoy emotional steadiness and personal transformation. It is also proven that meditation enhances empathy. To experience these benefits, regular practice is necessary. Only few minutes every day are necessary. Once imbibed into the daily routine, meditation becomes the best part of your day!

o   Read the Bible every day, to know more about God and His plan for your life. Plunging into these holy teachings will renew your understanding of what’s happening. It will release you from fear and worry and strengthen your faith.

o   You can combine meditation and Bible reading through practicing the Lectio Divina, an ancestral practice that goes back to the Desert Fathers.

Read more about how faith and spirituality can determine your health in my new book, The Faith Link.



The subject hit the headlines in The Washington Post last August 14th issue : If you want happiness, get religion ! The newspaper was reporting the results of the SHARE Study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology by researchers at the London School of Economics and Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands.

Religious participation and depression in Europe Studies from United Kingdom and Europe during the past 5 years have reported mixed results concerning on the relationship between religious involvement and depression. The present study is one of the largest and longest prospective studies of religious participation and depressive symptoms from continental Europe. Researchers from the department of public health at Erasmus MC, University Medical Center in the Netherlands, report the results from a 4-year study of 9,068 persons aged 50 or older participating in the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE). Ten countries participated from Northern Europe (Sweden and Denmark), Southern Europe (Italy and Spain), and Western Europe (Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands). Participants were asked if they engaged in:

(1) voluntary or charity work,

2) educational or training courses,

3) sports, social club, or other kinds of club activities,

4) participation in religious organizations,

(5) participation in political or community organizations

Response options ranged from ‘almost daily’ to ‘less often than monthly.

Depressive symptoms were assessed with the 12-item EURO-D that asked about the usually symptoms associated with depressive disorder. Analyses controlled for education, region, marital status, household size, employment status, financial status, self-rated health, long-term health problems, activities of daily living, and physician-diagnosed illnesses. Fixed-effects models were used to assess whether changes in social participation predicted changes in depressive symptoms during a 4-year follow-up from 2006/2007 to 2010/2011.

Results: Only participation in religious activities (which had a prevalence of only about 10%) predicted a decrease in depressive symptoms over time (B=-0.190, 95% CI= -0.365 to -0.016).

In fact, participation in political or community organizations predicted an increase in depressive symptoms (B=0.222, 95% CI=0.018 to 0.428).

Researchers concluded that “Participation in religious organizations may offer mental health benefits beyond those offered by other forms of social participation.”

Croezen S, Avendano M, Burdorf A, van Lenthe FJ (2015). Social participation and depression in old age: A fixed- effects analysis in 10 European countries. American Journal of Epidemiology 182 (2):168-176.


"My son, do not forget my teaching,
But let your heart keep my commandments;
For length of days and years of life
And peace they will add to you.
Do not let kindness and truth leave you;
Bind them around your neck,
Write them on the tablet of your heart.
So you will find favor and good repute
In the sight of God and man.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.
Do not be wise in your own eyes;
Fear the Lord and turn away from evil.
It will be healing to your body a
nd refreshment to your bones"

Proverbs 3:1-8 (NASB)

This well-known passage of the book of Proverbs, in the Old Testament, talks about the effects of our relation with the Word of God. It clearly says that if we keep His commandments in our hearts, subordonating our own understanding to the Lord, it guarantees us a long and peaceful life. More, it says that fearing  God, that is, respecting Him, obeying Him, submitting to His discipline and worshipping Him, assures us physical healing and strength ! It is interesting to note that the book of Proverbs has been composed around the IVth century BC, far, far before the scientific demonstration of the benefits one can draw from a true and wilfull submission of his ou her heart and soul to God, through prayer and meditation.
See also Proverbs 4:20.



 To examine the relationship between intrinsic religiosity and hypertension, researchers at Loma Linda University analyzed cross-sectional data on 9,581 middle-aged and older North American Seventh-Day Adventists (SDA). The mean age of the sample was 61 years; two-thirds were White; two-thirds were female; and 43% had an undergraduate or graduate degree education. One-third of the sample (35%) reported a diagnosis of hypertension. In terms of health behaviors, 56% were vegetarian, 33% were involved in a regular exercise program, and 94% did not currently use alcohol. Church attendance was “often” in 91% of participants. Intrinsic religiosity was assessed using the 3-item subscale of the Duke University Religion Index (DUREL), with response options ranging on a 7-point Likert scale from “not true” (1) to “very true”(7). Hypertension was self-reported. Researchers sought to validate this self-reported diagnosis in a subsample of 495 participants who had their blood pressure (BP) physcially measured; systolic BP was significantly higher in those who self-reported hypertension than in those who did not (p<0.0005); likewise, diastolic BP was significantly higher in those reporting hypertension compared to those who did not (p<0.0005). Perceived stress, neuroticism, depression, and spiritual meaning were examined as possible mediators. Logistic regression was used to analyze the data. Results: Level of intrinsic religiosity was inversely related to hypertension (B=-0.13, SE 0.03, OR=0.88, 95% CI 0.83-0.92, p<0.0001). Only older age, Black race, lower BMI, and eating a vegetarian diet were as strongly related to hypertension as was intrinsic religiosity. Even after controlling for perceived stress, neuroticism, depression, and spiritual meaning, the inverse relationship between hypertension and intrinsic religiosity persisted (B=-0.09, OR=0.92, p<0.01). Investigators concluded, “This finding is particularly important because it suggests that religiosity and not just lifestyle is related to lower risk of hypertension, a leading cause of death in the USA.”

Charlemagne-Badal SJ, Lee JW (2015). Intrinsic religiosity and hypertension among older North American SeventhDay Adventists. Journal of Religion and Health, pp 1-14, 2 septembre 2015.


Comment: Reported here was a robust association independent of diet and other health behaviors and only minimally mediated by perceived stress, neuroticism, depression, and spiritual meaning. In participants whose BP was actually measured, the average systolic BP of those with self-reported hypertension was only 133.8 and the average diastolic BP was only 75.3 (however, many were taking medication to control their hypertension). Although the present study is cross-sectional and does not allow causal inferences, the inverse association between religiosity and hypertension may be one reason why SDA’s (a very religious group) live on average 4 years longer than Americans in general.

Source :  CROSSROADS... Newsletter of the Center for Spirituality, Theology & Health, Volume 5 Issue 6 December 2015.