Psychoneuroimmunology (PNI): nutrition with a twist
PNI is my favourite scientific platform on which to rely when it comes to clinical nutrition as it enhances therapy with significant advantages. Firstly, PNI focuses on an evolutionary background to ensure there is ample evidence confirming interventions are well established and firmly associated with positive outcomes in human physiology. The use of evolutionary medicine as a base for interventions means the therapeutic advice is based on thousands of years of evidence of how humans interact with their environment and respond to external stimuli. It leaves no room for experimentation with novelties and trendy diets. Secondly, instead of taking diet out of context and over-emphasizing nutritional influences, an approach which may become unrealistic, PNI keeps the therapy in perspective and considers many other aspects of a person’s life as integral to the process. This means every client is seen as individual within a context defined by their history, present circumstances, preferences and behaviour. The therapy becomes personal and interventions are finely tuned to individual needs. Thirdly, PNI focuses on behaviour and personality in order to make possible the links between external influences and individual coping strategies for survival. This means a lot more than diet is taken in consideration and clinical discussions extend far beyond the realm of food. In this effort to physiologically connect mind and body for a better understanding of the person as a whole, PNI opens therapeutic possibilities to widen the positive outcomes and impact on multiple aspects of an individual’s life.
The Mind-Body Connection
Where is the mind? Is it in the brain? Or is it elsewhere? Whether it resides in multiple organs or in a particular place, the important point is that there is no separation and what goes on in the mind affects the body in the same way as what goes on in the body affects the mind.
Personality in Health and Disease
Have you ever wondered whether your personality makes you more susceptible to certain diseases? Could there be such a link?
Our grannies might have sensed this connection and maybe even alluded to it in some way or another but today there is research on which we can rely in order to follow our gut feeling that tells us there is more to our bodies than isolated physiological needs. Mental and emotional health is important for our physical well being and you can’t have one without the other.
A Systems-Biology Approach
Instead of looking through a key-hole, we aim to zoom out and focus on the whole picture. The problem is not the thyroid, the heart, the pancreas, the intestines, the brain or the liver. The problem is systemic whilst symptoms may start to manifest through individual organs. You can look at individual organs and try to tackle the symptoms in isolation but to understand the real underlying causes you must consider:
- What the body is trying to achieve with a change in organ function
- Why that change has become necessary (what kind of adaptation does it offer in return)
- What factors (external and internal ones) promote the conditions to trigger the changes in body function
- How can you manipulate the environmental input to alter the changes in body function
- What are the available tools you currently have to tackle the problem
- How can you implement a plan of action simple to execute in practical terms
- What is the cost/benefit for you
This is what is called a ‘systems-biology approach’ and it should be translated into simple and yet effective strategies to apply in real everyday life. My job is to translate the science into lay terms with practical application value. The therapy should therefore be ‘ecological’ to you (i.e. it should make sense and fit with what you need to thrive and achieve optimum health within your own environment).
For all these reasons, I say you need more than a simple diet plan.