NEWSTART Element #8: Trust in Divine Help

A detailed, scientific explanation of Nutrition by Neil Nedley, M.D., taken from his book Proof Positive

After presenting the all-important spiritual element of rest (“vitamin R4”), this section may seem redundant. However, this final element of the NEWSTART eight bears repeating. Throughout this book, I have demonstrated how research is showing that spirituality and trust in divine power have a role in dealing with many common diseases. We looked at the role of faith in heart disease, the relationships of spirituality to the AIDS epidemic, and the link between religion and cancer. Later in the chapter the stress-religion-arthritis connection will be covered.

One fascinating study looked at the religious experience of those Americans who reached the golden age of 100. Among the centenarians, the researchers found that religiosity significantly enhanced physical health. Although there are still many unanswered questions, the benefits of trust in God are due to more than simply attending religious services.152 Furthermore, the far-reaching benefits of faith seem to transcend age and racial boundaries. A recent study of black Americans found that those who engaged in organized religious activities had improved health and life satisfaction.153 Even those who engaged in religious pursuits outside of an organizational structure experienced this boost in satisfaction. Indeed, one of the most consistent findings—across racial groups—is that spirituality profoundly improves quality of life. The profound benefits in the quality of life brought about by exercising faith are described by a Duke University researcher in Figure 20: Faith in God Favors Good Health.154

Another amazing aspect of spirituality is that it not only helps believers but it also benefits non-believers in their community. Research has demonstrated that communities gain health benefits when they have higher numbers of adherents to faiths that emphasize implicit obedience to God and his standards of conduct.155 One theory for why non-believers benefit is that social norms favor conformity to the healthier lifestyle embraced by their more religious neighbors.

Another compelling explanation as to why trust in divine power is so important in a comprehensive health program is borrowed from an illustration by Zeno Charles-Marcel, M.D., Medical Director of the Lifestyle Center of America in Sulphur, Oklahoma. The basis for an individual’s particular health status is depicted in Figure 21: The Basis for your Personal Health Status.

After a patient undergoes a complete “history and physical” evaluation, including appropriate laboratory and/or other pertinent tests, I have a clear picture of the patient’s health status. That health status, which is often felt by the patient in daily living as his or her “quality of life,” is just the visible tip of the iceberg. Underneath are reasons that increase in importance as we go deeper in the illustration. Health status is directly dependent on that particular individual’s health habits, as I have demonstrated distinctly and frequently in this book, beginning in the first chapter.

For instance, consider the dietary habit of eating red meat. The more red meat an individual consumes, the higher the cholesterol, blood pressure, heart disease risk, cancer risk, renal failure risk, etc. tends to be. But why is a certain individual a heavy meat eater? We have to go deeper to find the answer. If a person grew up eating meat and potatoes, guess what he tends to eat now? If he grew up consuming caffeine beverages, guess what beverages he prefers now? The particular culture that individual grew up in largely determines the habits he has now. Fortunately, the illustration does not end there. There is always that “one person” who grew up eating meat and potatoes and had parents that smoke and drank who does not smoke, does not drink, and is a vegetarian. Why did that person become “counter-culture” and choose different habits? That individual let his own personal choices and values take precedence over his culture. Ultimately, every person’s own personal choices become a deeper reason than culture for his set of habits. The kinds of choices a person makes and values he possesses are directly related to his sense of overall meaning and purpose in life; this is where the spiritual life and trust in divine power have a direct bearing.

Thus, trusting in a higher power bestows certain health benefits. That same trust has a direct connection to the overall meaning and purpose of one’s life, which then affects the personal values and choices, which then affects the culture one chooses to adopt, which directly influences the particular set of health habits, which at last directly affects the health. The original health benefits come full circle and are reinforced and multiplied.

Clearly, throughout my personal life and my work as a physician, I have seen the importance of integrating the spiritual element into a total approach to healing. The medical research shared throughout this book, and again mentioned in this section, underscores this important agency of trust in divine power as both a remedy and a basic tenet of prevention.

Now that we have seen an overview of each element in NEWSTART, let us illustrate how these elements can be applied to some specific diseases that have not been dealt with elsewhere in this book. I begin with the example of rheumatoid arthritis, a common disease.

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