Helping The Body Heal Itself

Hippocrates the father of medicine believed that the body had tools and means to heal itself and a doctor should simply aid these processes, and not interfere with them. Every cell in the body is constantly working to maintain homeostasis or a normal balanced state of function. Illness is an expression of imbalance between the body and the environment. Treatment of an illness should not only make the illness go away, but re-establish a state of balance.

Helping The Body Heal Itself

There are several nondrug strategies to help the self-healing process


Asking ourselves a daily question about ourselves and what we really want our lives to be like reminds us to look at things more positively and stay focussed on what really matters. Prioritize what matters at the moment and do not worry about undone things in the past, or what may be needed in the future. What matters is that you focus your energy on the present to overcome your illness. Everything else can wait.

Eg: What do I really want from my life? How can I be more compassionate towards myself and others today? What can I give to others?

Loving oneself

Loving oneself is not selfishness. If we want love we have to give love, but how can we give any if we don't have any. Love and accept yourself as you are. No one is perfect. When we love ourselves, we accept any hurt we have undergone (illness), and cherish, and nurture ourselves to overcome it thus promoting our own healing. When we have pleasant thoughts the levels of oxytocin (the comfort chemical) and serotonin (the happiness chemical) levels go up and boost our immunity. So tell yourself you are worthy of love and attention and you deserve it. Most patients think of illness as a punishment for some past karma, and blame themselves, others, circumstances, etc and get bogged down with self-pity, self-hate and dependency. Even if we allow the premise it is karma, we can look at it as an opportunity to clear bad karma now itself without having to carry it over. So even the sickest person can find something to appreciate about themselves. The most powerful statement one can tell oneself is "I have phenomenal coping skills and am doing my best to get over this temporary difficulty"


Your self-talk is very important in determining the way your life will be. If you sabotage yourself all the time saying you are not good enough, you are sick, you are weak, you are poor, you are unloved etc that is how your life will be. Affirmations are a useful tool because the words you say about your health and your body matter. If instead you say I can beat this, I can do this, I can cope with this and get over it, this is only temporary and I can get over this, that is exactly what happens and self-healing is a choice.


Listening to, reading, discussing, writing from somewhere, seeing a video of something inspirational at least once a day can help us get back in track and look at ourselves with empathy and insight. Instead of googling about the illness, googling inspirational resources can be more useful. Sharing it with others is still better because it leads to repetition and analysis of the concepts and hence sinks deeper into our memory


This is perhaps the most important tool in self-healing. Instead of dwelling on all that is wrong with us (our illness, our pain, etc.,) when we appreciate what is okay with us in the depths of even a serious illness, we heal better. For example, if a patient has had a stroke and is paralysed on the left half of the body - they could be grateful they did not lose speech, or they are able to do a good deal because their right hand is okay, etc instead of only focussing on the paralysed limbs.

Count your blessings - everyone can find a lot to be grateful for, we just have to look for it in everything and everywhere. The fact that we can afford treatment, have a good doctor caring for us, loving family and friends to support us, are able to walk, talk, see, hear, etc., (even if some part of our body is not working well) are all things we need to bring to our attention and express gratitude for. Write a gratitude journal every day and put down 3-10 things you are grateful for, the more the better.


When patients fall ill they are very anxious about what they can or cannot eat during their illness. Unfortunately many doctors think this query is a bit of a nuisance and often are not sure how to guide the patient, except when the disorder requires diet as part of the treatment like diabetes, kidney disease, gastrointestinal disease etc.

Nutritious appropriate food during an illness, helps recovery, provides needed return of energy, and helps restore inner balance. Instead of looking at dietary restrictions as a burden, we can look at this as an opportunity to develop a lifetime commitment to eating right.


Many illnesses disrupt sleep and the doctor often addresses this issue with suitable advice and medication if necessary. When the mind is disturbed and negative, sleeping becomes more difficult. A calm attitude and accepting and dealing with the illness helps overcome this. Pain and inflammation in the body can get better if the bodily environment is free from anxiety and agitation.

Deal with circumstances

When illness brings pain, disability and restrictions in our lives, remember that no matter how much others love us, they cannot suffer for us - we have to go through it ourselves. The sooner we accept this, have the courage to face it and deal with it with all the resources at our command, the sooner and better we will recover. So don't lose heart - have the confidence and courage that you can actively contribute to your own healing and you can learn from this and grow and heal.


The body was made to move and movement is necessary for it to remain well. Even a bed ridden patient needs to have movement for recovery. There is a lot one can do even if there are limitations. Many exercises can be done sitting in a chair, lying in bed, with the help of someone, and sometimes just attending to one's own daily tasks. Take every opportunity to move every joint in the body. If fit enough, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, yoga, graded home exercises can all be done. Exercise produces endorphins in the brain, which helps reduce pain and improve mood.

Get a grip of your mind

The thoughts we think have a powerful effect on what happens to us. As mentioned earlier think positive, happy thoughts. This is not easy especially if you have been diagnosed with an "incurable" illness. Time and again we doctors have been proved wrong by patients who have transformed their lives and got better by working on their mindset. So everyone can try it - there is nothing to lose and the possibility of a lot to gain. This also gives us hope of a light at the end of the tunnel. One of the tools for this is meditation. Even if you have never meditated before, there are several guided meditations available on the internet which you can use. Even lying or sitting quietly for 10-15 minutes focussing only on your breathing can be therapeutic.

You are your greatest ally in healing yourself and all the above tools and strategies will assist and enhance whatever treatment your doctor is giving you. Most importantly, it gives you a sense of power that you are actively contributing as well, and keeps your attention not on the illness but on making it better. Take responsibility for your healing. Let go of rejection, resentment, guilt, blame and focus of love and calmness. What you do today is all that matters, not the past or the future. If you have a terminal illness, focus on how you want to be remembered and be nice to yourself and others. Make a bucket list and try and do whatever is possible. Many people who have done this have extended their lives way beyond what their doctors predicted.


Article by Dr.Prithika Chary
Senior Consultant Neurologist, Neurosurgeon & Epileptologist
NLP Master Practitioner, Soft Skills Trainer and Motivational Speaker


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