Why is healing important

Self-healing: How to activate the "inner doctor"

The physician Tobias Esch explains what great self-healing powers every person has and how he can strengthen them - and why stress is a dangerous opponent

interview: Maria Kirady and Claus Peter Simon

GEO WISSEN: Professor Esch, what is meant by self-healing? The term sounds a little esoteric to some people.

Prof. Dr. Tobias Esch: Self-healing is the body's ability to overcome illnesses and become healthy again. There is nothing esoteric about that. Think of a wound that will close on its own. This is a typical form of self-healing, but there are circumstances that hinder such wound healing - for example invading germs or stress that affects the function of the immune system. Other factors, however, accelerate it, such as immobilizing the injury or getting a good night's sleep. We are constantly commuting between illness and health. An illness occurs when the body's self-healing powers are overwhelmed, for example by constant stress, strong toxins - or tumors: In such cases, the self-healing ability is no longer sufficient to get healthy again.

Should I trust my self-healing powers when I get sick and only go to the doctor if they are not enough?

No, that's a wrong idea. Healing is based on three factors: The first is what the doctor does with the patient, from diagnosis to X-rays to surgery. The second includes everything that the patient receives from the doctor, whether it is medication, therapy or aids. And finally, the third is the patient's self-healing power.

How can a medical professional incorporate these into his treatment?

He should see what hinders a patient's “inner doctor” - and what promotes him. The doctor must have a holistic view of the living conditions of the person concerned, support and encourage him.

Does that apply regardless of the severity of an illness?

Yes, the self-healing factor is important in any case - whether it is a flu-like infection or to support the recovery process after a serious cancer operation, for example through exercise.

What exactly does the term “inner doctor” mean?

It aims at the close intertwining of mind and body and particularly takes into account the way in which mental factors influence health. Good medicine therefore focuses on the patient and his or her resources: Your concern is to arouse the belief in those affected that they can do a lot of good for their health.

How does that work in practice?

We know, for example, that someone who does sport not only strengthens his body, but also activates the so-called reward system in his brain: It releases messenger substances that reduce anxiety and stress, but also lower blood pressure and slow down inflammatory processes. The person concerned starts the body’s own pharmacy. As a patient, I can do a lot for myself with a simple measure such as exercise and I am not solely dependent on medicine. There are a total of four means with which the self-healing powers can be strengthened. In addition to sufficient exercise, there are: a healthy diet, stress-reducing behavior and regular relaxation.

Prof. Dr. Tobias Esch ...

... is a general practitioner and heads the Institute for Integrative Health Care at the University of Witten / Herdecke: Patients can be treated there according to the rules of complementary medicine.

How do these factors have a positive effect on a disease?

It has long been known that more than 80 percent of all type 2 diabetes diseases are lifestyle related. The disease often leads to a significantly reduced life expectancy; The quality of life also declines, with dramatic comorbidities up to blindness or amputation of limbs. As long as the side effects of diabetes are not yet very pronounced, I as a patient can take countermeasures very effectively. This means that if I eat healthy, do sports, avoid stress and learn to relax, I can usually significantly alleviate the symptoms of the disease - and in some cases even a cure is possible. This also applies to other major civilization ailments such as cardiovascular diseases, many painful conditions, gastrointestinal disorders or obesity.

It is immediately obvious that exercise and a healthy diet are helpful. But to what extent are relaxation and stress reduction important for self-healing powers?

Excessive stress is probably the greatest saboteur of self-healing - it must be prevented. You have to know that stress is evolutionarily a reaction to a life-threatening situation: I pull my shoulders up to protect my neck, which leads to tension. I activate the core muscles to protect the organs, so I can only breathe shallowly and quickly. I clench my teeth to protect the teeth. The blood thickens so I won't bleed to death if I was wounded. Digestion comes to a standstill. And the stress hormone cortisol gives me strength to fight or flee, but suppresses the immune system. Usually the body calms down again after an acute phase of stress. In most cases these days, however, we are dealing with psychosocial stress, in the office or in the family. This is often not limited to individual situations, but quickly becomes a constant burden. The body is then in a state of emergency for a long time, and complete regeneration hardly takes place. And many people are not even aware of it.

Learn more? You can read the detailed interview in "GEO WISSEN Health - The Healing Power of the Body". In it, Tobias Esch talks about the importance of mindfulness and reveals what he does himself to make his everyday life healthy.